Jasper Carrott speaks ahead of shows in Stafford, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Shropshire
Jasper Carrott's back on the road with his old school pal Bev Bevan. He tells Weekend how he's fallen in love with stand-up comedy again...
After 25 years of stand-up, Jasper Carrott decided he was done with live comedy. Until the Stand Up and Rock Tour with founding ELO drummer Bev Bevan came about, that is.
During his career, spanning more than 40 years, proud Brummie Jasper has starred in numerous TV programmes – most notably The Detectives and Golden Balls – written books and even reached number five in the UK charts in 1975 with Funky Moped, which was produced by ELO's Jeff Lynne. Funky Moped, in fact, sold more than half a million copies and earned Jasper a silver disc award.
He was granted the Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Comedy Awards in 2008.
He first began doing shows at folk clubs across the Midlands, with Brummie Jasper hailing the Black Country as a 'great place to work'.
Well, he must like something about the Midlands because the legendary comedian is performing two dates in Dudley, three dates in Stafford, three shows in Telford and another three in Shrewsbury.
"The reason we're doing so many shows in the Black Country is because of the wonderful audiences," says Jasper, now aged 71.
"When I was starting out in my career, going through the folk clubs, I only worked Birmingham about three or four times. But I loved it in the Black Country.
"There were dozens of these folk clubs across the area back then – in Codsall, Tettenhall, Dudley, Kingswinford . . . I spent half of my life entertaining there and always had such a good time.
"It's just such a great place to work.
"Dudley Town Hall, for example. People say a lot of things about Dudley, but that crowd is always a delight. It's always somewhere I really look forward to performing.
"We've just added an extra night at Stafford. We had planned to do two shows, which I thought would be plenty."
Despite now being very happy in what he does, back in 2000 the star stopped doing stand-up, having found himself feeling unsatisfied following a successful run in South Africa.
But it was the Stand Up And Rock tour back in 2014 which rekindled his love for live comedy. Prior to this, the last time he had performed was in 1998.
"We're doing something like 60 concerts with Stand Up and Rock," adds Jasper. "It started off a few years back with Bev, who I've been mates with for 60 years. We decided to do a few dates together – we've not got much time left between us.
"We had a look and realised there was a whole audience not being catered for; those aged 50 and above. Other than bingo and karaoke, there's not a lot out there.
"They want humour without expletives. They want to sit there, enjoy a show and feel comfortable.
"And, of course, we've got music too – a range of music that people can join in with. It's just a combination that works.
"It's thanks to the Stand Up and Rock Tour that I rediscovered my love for stand-up. I hadn't done it for 13 or 14 years.
"It's just so enjoyable. We just love the work – it's not even work.
"I've been going for a long time and I don't need the money as such, I just do it for the sheer pleasure. I've never worked so well all my life. I'm so relaxed.
"I can't believe how well it's going. People come now and they even bring their kids along – and they love it as well.
"I think people use expletives in comedy to strengthen weak material. We all hear swear words, but it's still done for the shock value.
"People want to see us. The box office speaks for itself.
"One of the main things about this tour, is that we on stage have as good a time as the audience – and I think that comes through.
"The bass player Phil who's on the tour, I've known him for 50 years. And Geoff, from the Rockin' Berries, I've known since the 60s.
"What's so great about this tour is that everybody wants to be there. And not just the musos either, I also mean the sound guys and the lighting crew.
"They'd move Heaven and Earth to be on the show because it's just so much fun."
After discovering his love for the tour, Jasper says he now intends to keep going as long as he can.
"Life is good at the moment. By the time I hit the road I'll be 72," he says.
"Ken Dodd's 87 and he's still doing it. That gives me some hope."
When asked what advice he would give to those looking to get started in a showbiz or comedy career, Jasper emphasises the importance of the old saying 'it's nice to be important, but important to be nice'.
"I learnt early on, that if you learn everybody's names, then everyone's always pleasantly surprised and it creates a nice atmosphere," adds Jasper.
"When I was on The Detectives we had the same crew for six years. And we all loved it – it was such great fun.
"We, the actors, had equal standing with the guys that lifted the equipment.
"It's important to remember the people as you come up – because you may need them on the way down.
"Fame doesn't last.
"Getting there is easy – staying there is the hard part."
In addition to remaining down-to-earth, the comedian has also stayed true to his roots – living today just miles from where he was born.
Originally named Robert Norman Davis, Jasper went Acocks Green Primary School and Moseley School – where he met Bev Bevan, drummer of The Move, ELO and, for a while, Black Sabbath.
"I live in Solihull – 12 miles from where I was born. I've always been quite proud of that. I never wanted to leave Birmingham. All my friends are here," says Jasper.
"I have an unbelievable group of friends. When my wife turned fifty, fifty of us went to Vienna to celebrate.
"If you're a friend of mine for 30 years, then you're a new friend.
"My friends are from all walks of life and we just get together and have a ball.
"I more than likely missed out on certain things not moving to London, but from a personal perspective I won 100-fold."
And he loves where he lives too, he said, and makes the most of the gastro pub-filled city and local theatres. He also plays golf occasionally – though not well, he jokes.
He also spends a lot of time with his large, close family. His daughter Lucy Davis has made her own career of fame too, having starred in Shaun of the Dead, The Office, Sex Lives of the Potato Men and Radio 4's The Archers.
"We go abroad a fair bit too. We enjoy travelling," adds Jasper.
"I've now got six grandchildren and the whole family is very close. Thirteen of us went to Lapland together for Christmas. I have a busy life but it's incredibly enjoyable."
Jasper will be in the Midlands performing his Stand Up and Rock tour on the following dates:
- Oakengates Theatre, Telford March 25, 26 and 27
- Gatehouse Theatre, Stafford April 5, 6 and 7
- Dudley Town Hall April 21 and 22
- Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton June 1
- Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury June 26, 27 and 28
By Kirsten Rawlins
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