‘No-one can laugh constantly for two-and-a-half hours’

Jasper Carrott, with the musicians he is playing alongside in his show
Jasper Carrott, with the musicians he is playing alongside in his show
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Ahead of his Blackpool show later this month Brum funnyman Jasper Carrott tells EMMA HARRIS why he is back on the road – and keeping it clean – after a 16-year hiatus

Jasper Carrott wants people to know they don’t have to worry about anything untoward in his new show.

He will be coming to The Grand Theatre, Blackpool, next month with his musician friends for Stand Up and Rock – which he says “does exactly what it says on the tin”.

And he says it will be the sort of show to which people can “bring children, their mother and not worry there will be anything which will embarrass them”.

The father-of-four says: “It will be saucy postcard stuff – rather appropriate really for Blackpool.

“But I think it’s important for people to know they don’t need to be worried about the language or profanity.

“There will be a few red herrings in there, of course.

“The sort of things which get people sitting towards the end of their seat, where you can see them thinking ‘he’s not going to talk about that, is he?’

“So it’s just teasing the audience really, which is great fun.”

It’s been around nine years since Jasper was last in the resort, but it’s something he is looking forward to.

“I think I was last there in about 2005, when I did a corporate conference, and I imagine it has changed quite a lot since then.

“The first time I went to Blackpool was when I was about 17 and I went for a day trip with a friend of mine and it was fantastic!

“My wife had family in Blackpool so we used to visit and I’ve done shows there, too – never done the piers, but I’ve done The Opera House.

“So I’m looking forward to coming.”

In some ways, while the show is a new concept for the 69-year-old comedian, it is also going back in time. The decision to go back on the road was taken last year when he and his lifelong friend Bev Bevan, drummer with the Electric Light Orchestra, realised they’d never actually played together.

“We thought we’d better get a move on before one of us pegged out”, say Carrott.

They gathered together a few old mates from Birmingham Trevor Burton from the Move, Geoff Turton from the Rockin’ Berries and Joy Strachan-Brain from Quill, plus a couple of other musicians .

“It does what it says on the tin – there is stand-up from me and rock’n’roll from fantastic musicians.

“I do a 20-minute stand-up routine at the beginning, and then introduce the band before coming back on at the end. We did a few trial dates early last year, and were overwhelmed by the reaction.

“It seems we’ve tapped into an audience that’s not really catered for by anyone else. The comedy is without expletives, which a lot of people just do not enjoy, so they all feel comfortable and the music is stuff they all know from the 60s,70s and 80s, played by terrific musicians who have had millions of years of experience between them.

“We also do a background show and we show photographs, pictures and DVDs of a lot of the old pubs and clubs and stuff from the earlier years in the towns and cities we’re visiting.”

“Hopefully, we will have pictures of Blackpool nightclubs and shots from the area.

“There is a company called Kaleidoscope we have been working with, which has a massive archive of film and TV shows from time gone by. Among their archives, are 50,000 video clips of Bob Monkhouse. Absolutely incredible – that’s like a life’s work.

“I’ve been working on new material, to keep it up-to-date.

“The camaraderie is great for me. After years of being solo, being part of an ensemble is really enjoyable.

“It feels there’s less pressure on me and the audience.

“Usually, it’d just be me for two-and-a-half hours. And no one can laugh constantly for that length of time, it’s just not physically possible.

“Because this is two shorter slots, I can be more direct, I can go straight for the jugular. So they might want to bring a tin hat!”

Smaller venues, almost similar to playing the folk scene where he started, is another aspect of the show proving enjoyable for the lifelong Birmingham City fan.

“I lost the fear of comedy. There is fear in comedy, because every audience is different, you’re always having to adjust and that’s really exciting and gets the adrenaline going.

“But I remember, after about 1998, I lost the fear and I started to wonder why I was doing shows.

“When I started the gigs again last year, I wouldn’t say the fear came back, but that enjoyment of performing came back.

“I felt with the large venues, with thousands of people in the audience – having to watch you on a big screen because you were like a dot to them – it was like charging people £25 a ticket to watch TV.

“But when you play to 500 or 600 people, it’s eyeball-to-eyeball. It’s that interaction with the audience, you can see every single face.

“It takes you back to the days of trying to impress people, trying to get a good reaction.

“It’s exciting, and I think the audience can tell that and see your enjoyment.

“So it’s going back 40 or 45 years for me, but it’s great fun and I’m enjoying it.”

Music is, of course, where Jasper started.

He ran and became resident compere at Boggery Folk Club in Birmingham in the mid-70s, and later his novelty record Funky Moped shot to the top of the British charts.

“I wasn’t a very good guitarist or singer, so I did comedy songs. I think to make it in music you have to be a very good musician, a very good singer, a very good songwriter.

“I started off as a promoter or manager for other people. I had an agency, which for a few years was successful – at losing money!

“Then one day, someone suggested to me I should focus on comedy, rather than that.

“I was married at the time and going to have a child, and I remember saying to my wife I didn’t fancy the idea of being 50-years-old and running up and down the country doing folk clubs.

“So I ended up going into comedy and I combined the two things – I performed and I managed myself.

“I had a bit of a luck with a hit single in 1975 and with a bit more good fortune along the way.”

And his career highlights?

“The first TV series I did was called An Audience With Jasper Carrott, not celebrities in the audience, just bog-standard people who liked comedy – and that was very successful. I think that really put me on the map.

“Then on ITV – I was the first person to do this and I think it hasn’t been done since – I did an hour live to air stand-up show. That really pushed me to the fore and was a great experience.

“In the early 80s I did a series called Carrott’s Lib, which had a political element and went on to win a BAFTA.

“They were exciting times and pioneering days, as comedy was not the same then as it is now.”