A self-declared ‘national trinket’, Julian Clary has been enjoying a busy 2016, having hit the road
A self-declared ‘national trinket’, Julian Clary has been enjoying a busy 2016, having hit the road with a new nationwide tour. The Joy of Mincing is a celebration of Clary’s 30 years as a camp comedian and will bring him to the Concert Hall, Reading, at the end of October. He is also appearing at the Wycombe Swan, with tickets currently on sale for both dates. EMMA COX met him
JULIAN CLARY first made his name as the Joan Collins Fan Club — accompanied on stage by the ever faithful Fanny the Wonder Dog.
Assisted at first by co-writer Paul Merton, who went on to become one of the team captains on Have I Got News For You, Clary has been flying solo — and under his own name — since the early Nineties.
A comedian, author, and star of radio and TV, the secret of his enduring success is arguably that while he may mince about a bit on stage, he doesn’t mince his words.
Clary’s outspokenness has occasionally got him into trouble. A joke about the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont at the 1993 British Comedy Awards sparked a tabloid campaign to have him banned from television.
His detractors failed miserably, of course, and nearly a quarter of a century on here is Clary, a dapper 57 years of age, happily expounding on The Joy of Mincing.
“I always like to get ‘mincing’ into the title,” he says. We’ve had Lord of the Mince, Natural Born Mincer, and Mincing Machine was my first tour in 1989. I don’t know why — it sets the tone, doesn’t it?
“I suppose mincing, apart from being a means of walking around, is a way of life. The Joy of Mincing is a declaration of the joy of life despite disapproval, perhaps.
“And mincing, which is an old-fashioned word, was probably in its day borne out of standing up in the face of that disapproval.”
Anyone planning to see the show can rest assured that Clary is as reliably rude as ever.
“It’s the one time you can let rip a bit, on stage. I don’t want to be filthy for the sake of it, but I think it’s a comic device. You just exaggerate who you really are on stage. I’m quite fond of moments of vulgarity.”
Clary says next year will mark his 30th anniversary as a performer — during which time he thinks comedy has changed beyond all recognition.
“It used to be an eclectic selection of people in small rooms above pubs, in the Eighties. Our comedy was a reaction against the right-wing men in bowties who were being offered as light entertainment in those days.”
Over the years, like any successful comedian, Clary has attracted his fair share of devoted fans — some of whom have been following him since he started out.
“They bring their children along now,” he says. “I’m very fond of them, you know. You don’t know their names, necessarily, but it’s always a joy to see a familiar face.
“There’s a delightful family from Tunbridge Wells I’ve known since the boy was 13 and now he’s a grown-up. It’s charming. We talk about the old days at the Hackney Empire, or our aches and pains. There’s a connection there, even though we don’t really know each other, because on one level we do.”
Spoilers aside, Clary is happy to talk about what The Joy of Mincing holds in store for audiences.
“Well, there’s a rather long story about how I once saved Joan Collins’s life in a swimming pool in St Tropez. It’s a true story, which I won’t give away now, but it’s a long, meandering tale that fills the first half.
“Then the second half is about MBEs. I’ve noticed a lot of my friends in the business are getting these awards. They’re handing them out like Smarties.
“I think, ‘Ooh, I’d like one of those,’ but it’s never happened so I’m obviously not favoured by the Establishment. I can only blame myself.
“So during the show I give myself one and call it ‘Mincer of the British Empire’. I’m making lots of these MBEs and handing them out to people in the audience. Just the lucky few, you understand: it’s not included in the ticket price.
“I’m always looking for an excuse to talk to the audience. That’s what keeps me going. You can get bored if you’re just reeling off the same old nonsense. I’m always very interested in the audience and their stories — people are very funny, they never fail to amuse.”
Born in Surbiton, Surrey, and brought up in nearby Teddington, Clary now lives in the village of Aldington in Kent, having turned his back on life in London — his home for many years. “Yes. Well, that’s what I’m telling you anyway. I think there’s nothing drearier than a 57-year-old homosexual hanging around Soho in Lycra. Mercifully, one grows out of that. Thank goodness.
“You’d have to pay a lot of money to get me into a nightclub, sniffing and snorting and dragging some trollop home with me. Yuck. I like to keep myself nice these days.”
Asked how he feels about ageing, he says: “It’s not on the top of my list of enjoyable things. Although I am thrilled with my grey hair. I’ve turned from a fluffy chicken into a silver fox.
“It’s very interesting: when you’re young, there are all these things you want to achieve. Then when you get to your fifties you’ve either done them or you haven’t, so the physical deterioration is offset by the things that you can tick off the list.
“In that respect each decade is better than the last. Although I’m sure one reaches a tipping point where that’s not the case any more.”
If someone had told him years ago that he would end up living in the country with dogs, pottering around his garden, would he have believed them? “I probably would, actually. Because as a child I was very into animals and nature. Obviously I got distracted for a few years. With gay urban and all the rest of it. So I’ve come full circle.”
Does he think the public would be surprised by the gap between his showbiz image and his real life?
“Maybe people imagine I’m camp and outrageous all the time and that I wear full make-up and glittery outfits when I’m at home doing the hoovering. In fact I wear just a touch of raspberry lip balm and a drip dry kimono. Just like anyone else.”
n Julian Clary plays the Concert Hall, Reading, on Thursday, October 27. Tickets are £25 (concessions £22). To book, call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com. Tickets for the Wycombe Swan date on Friday, October 14, are £24.50 (concessions £21.50). To book, call 01494 512000 or visit www.wycombeswan.co.uk. For a full list of tour dates, visit www.julianclary.co.uk