Why Do People Hate Peter Kay?

Peter Kay is one of Britain’s best-loved comedians. He rose to fame in the early 2000s with his sitcom Phoenix Nights and has since gone on to star in hugely successful TV shows, release a number one music single, sell out major arena tours, and write bestselling autobiographies.

However, in recent years, public opinion towards Peter Kay seems to have soured somewhat. There appears to be a growing number of people who dislike or even hate the comedian. In this article, we’ll explore some of the possible reasons why Peter Kay has gone from national treasure to figure of hate for some.

Reasons Why Peter Kay Is Disliked

His Sudden Disappearance from Public Life

One of the main reasons why Peter Kay has lost some fans in recent years is due to his sudden disappearance from public life. In 2017, he abruptly cancelled his sold-out arena tour due to “unforeseen family circumstances”. Kay offered refunds but did not provide any further details about why he had cancelled the tour.

This led to a huge backlash from fans who had spent a lot of money on tickets and accused Kay of letting them down. He subsequently stayed out of the limelight, making no public appearances or statements for over two years. This fueled resentment among some fans who felt Kay had treated them poorly.

Perception He Has Become Too Commercialized

Another criticism often leveled at Peter Kay is that he has become too commercialized. When he first found fame, he cultivated an image as a down-to-earth, northern English everyman. However, as his popularity grew, Kay was accused of ‘cashing in’ through massive arena tours, DVD releases, and advertising deals.

Some believe the authenticity of his early work has been diluted by his commercial success. The scale of his arena shows, in particular, led to complaints they lacked intimacy and that Kay was just going through the motions. There is a view his priority has become making money rather than producing quality work.

Overexposure Before His Hiatus

During his prime, Peter Kay was hugely ubiquitous on UK television. As well as his own shows, he made frequent guest appearances on panel shows and telethons.

While his accessibility and relatability were part of his appeal, there was a feeling by the late 2000s that Kay was overexposed. Some believed he had diluted his brand by continually popping up on TV.

So when Kay suddenly vanished in 2017, there was a sense among parts of the public that it was not necessarily a bad thing for him to disappear for a while. His overexposure prior to his hiatus had caused fatigue among some fans.

Perceived Decline in Quality of Work

Another reason for dislike towards Peter Kay is a belief among critics and some fans that the quality of his work has declined over the years.

His early TV shows like That Peter Kay Thing and Phoenix Nights were acclaimed for their sharp observational comedy. However, later efforts like John Smith’s Advert Calendar, Britain’s Got the Pop Factor and his sitcom Car Share were seen as relying too much on nostalgia and past glories.

Some believe Kay failed to evolve as a performer and writer, instead sticking too rigidly to a formula that brought him previous success. As tastes changed, his chronicling of nostalgic northern English community life was seen by some as dated and even lazy by the 2010s.

His Close Links with the Tabloid Press

Unlike many comedians, Peter Kay has always enjoyed a cosy relationship with the tabloid press, particularly newspapers like The Sun. He has given them exclusive access to his tours, shows and even his wedding.

However, this has led to disdain from some quarters. Critics argue Kay cultivated relationships with tabloids to increase his own profile even if it meant sacrificing his privacy. Others feel his tabloid-friendly brand of observational comedy lacks edge or bite.

For fans of more controversial comedians, Kay’s closeness to tabloids like The Sun makes him seem too safe, cosy and unchallenging. There is a sense he has compromised his authenticity in exchange for favorable tabloid coverage.

In Defence of Peter Kay

However, despite these criticisms there are still arguments in defence of Peter Kay and his contribution to British comedy:

  • He is still held in very high regard by many people across the UK due to his likable personality and accessible, observational humour.
  • At his best, Kay was outstanding at finding comedy in relatable everyday situations and characters. Phoenix Nights and That Peter Kay Thing were groundbreaking shows.
  • He brought northern, working-class culture into the mainstream and inspired many comedians from similar backgrounds.
  • The production values on his arena tours were superb – he essentially made stand-up gig into stadium-sized entertainment.
  • Kay deserves credit for stepping away at the peak of his fame for the sake of his family rather than ploughing on regardless.
  • Much of the criticism is based on personal taste. While he may not be to everyone’s liking, there is no denying his comedy skills and work ethic.
  • Despite the backlash, there remains huge affection for Peter Kay in his home region of the North West of England. The region still considers him ‘one of their own’.

Why Does Peter Kay Provoke Such Extreme Reactions?

Peter Kay’s extreme reactions, both positive and negative, can perhaps be explained by:

  • His accessible, mainstream comedy attracts a very wide audience. More niche or controversial comedians tend to have smaller but more devoted followings.
  • The media built him up as a national treasure at his peak. The backlash was an inevitable result of such hype.
  • Disappointment at his sudden tour cancellation was proportionate to how beloved he was at his peak.
  • Headlining arena tours meant he was subject to greater scrutiny about motives and authenticity.
  • His disappearing act in 2017 left a vacuum. Such an abrupt, unexplained absence from an ever-present star would always provoke debate.

Overall, Peter Kay’s immense fame and popularity appears to have worked against him in some ways. The wider the appeal, the more intense the eventual backlash seems to have been. Nonetheless, he remains a significant figure in 21st century British comedy.

Will Peter Kay Make a Comeback?

Peter Kay has now been largely absent from the public eye for over 5 years as of 2022. In that time, he has become somewhat forgotten by newer audiences while remaining divisive among older fans.

However, there are now signs that Kay is plotting some form of comeback:

  • He recently announced a new arena tour for 2023 though details remain scarce.
  • There are rumors he has been filming a new TV sitcom set in the 1990s.
  • His classic comedy Phoenix Nights is set to be toured in arena venues, keeping his back catalogue relevant.

But there are still questions around whether the public will embrace a comeback:

  • Has too much damage been done by his long absence?
  • Have audience tastes moved on from his nostalgic, traditional stand-up?
  • Will he change his approach to avoid previous criticisms?
  • Does he still have the desire to perform without compromise after time away from the limelight?

If Peter Kay has his approach right and delivers a show that harnesses the best of his back catalogue, a successful comeback is very possible. However, there are challenges ahead in regaining the lofty heights of his heyday.


Peter Kay undoubtedly divided opinion over the past 10 years. His disappearance from public life and perceived decline in quality have seen his reputation take a hit after previously being Britain’s biggest comedy star.

However, writing him off as past it would be foolish. At his best, Kay has an undeniable gift for comedy that connects with millions. While another arena-selling run at the top may prove difficult, he remains a unique comedy voice.

With a return mooted in 2023, the majority of the British public will surely be willing to give him one more chance to recapture the brilliance of his peak. Peter Kay’s fortunes have fluctuated wildly but a career revival never wise to rule out.

Frequently Asked Questions about Peter Kay Backlash

Why did Peter Kay cancel his 2017 tour?

Peter Kay never gave any specifics about what “unforeseen family circumstances” caused him to cancel his entire 2017-2019 tour involving over 100 dates. He requested privacy so the exact reasons remain unclear. Media speculation ranged from serious illness of a close relative to marital problems.

How much money did Peter Kay refund for the cancelled tour?

It is estimated Peter Kay refunded around £40 million in total to ticket holders for the 100+ cancelled tour dates. The tour was due to run for over a year and sell over 1 million tickets in arenas across the UK and Ireland.

What happened to Peter Kay’s TV show Car Share?

After cancelling his live tour, Peter Kay also faced criticism for not completing a full final series of his popular BBC sitcom Car Share. The sixth episode of season 2 did not air, leaving the show unfinished. Kay later filmed an ending which was released in 2018.

Has Peter Kay fallen out of favour in his hometown of Bolton?

It does not appear Peter Kay’s popularity has waned much in his hometown of Bolton, Greater Manchester. In late 2022, a petition was launched by local MPs calling for Kay to be given the Freedom of the Borough of Bolton. It received thousands of signatures.

How did Peter Kay get on with the tabloid media?

Unlike many comedians, Peter Kay always had good relationships with tabloid newspapers like The Sun. He gave them exclusive access to his tours, weddings and home life. But this led to a dislike of Kay among some fans who saw it as damaging his credibility.

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