The question I’d like to ask Julian Clary is how he’s kept it up for so long. Since the eighties - when he started out as The Joan Collins Fan Club with the assistance of Fanny The Wonder Dog - he’s been delivering wonderfully vulgar, savagely caustic, and gleefully gay comedy to any venue and in any medium that will have him. And though he’s plumper round the midriff than he was, he’s clearly comfortable in his ability to deliver withering putdowns and hilarious filth for the entertainment of a packed house.
Clary is obviously a smart guy, and knows just what he’s doing. That same smartness also explains the choice he’s made in recent years to spend less time doing banal tv shows made by minor media Machiavellis. While much of his highly entertaining show revolves around comedic smut that he’s got down to a fine art, I found it came alive with this more personal stuff about moving away from television to write books for children.
Of course, writing those books involves dealing with just the kind of people Clary hates. Marketing professionals in this case, who want to package Julian in a way that makes him child-friendly, which means more of the Val Doonican cardigans and less of the Norman Lamont fisting jokes. Incidentally, the books sound great, about a family of hyenas - The Bolds – who move to Teddington, write jokes for Christmas crackers, and are snooped on by busybody neighbours.
The current tour is called The Joy of Mincing, and another glimpse of the flesh-and-blood JC was provided when he said that all of his shows had ‘mincing’ in the title. It goes way back to his school days, when he was taunted with the word – he can fairly say that he’s made a long and lucrative career from mincing at this point.
There’s maybe a sense that Clary is tired of what he’s doing, but he knows he does it very well, and he’s a fine performer who knows how to work an audience. What I suspect he’s hoping is that the hyena stories work out well enough so he doesn’t have to do much in the way of live shows in a few years, and I can’t blame him – entertaining hundreds on a nightly basis must chafe.
The Joy of Mincing with Julian Clary was at Nottingham Playhouse on Saturday 22 October 2016.