THE hair may have gone and the face might be a little older, but there’s no mistaking Jasper Carrott’s trademark Brummie lilt as he greets me in the hotel bar.
The veteran comedian and entertainer made a flying visit to Yorkshire recently to talk about his new show Jasper Carrott’s Stand Up and Rock, which comes to Wakefield’s Theatre Royal next month. It’s a mixture of comedy and music that Carrott hopes will take audiences on a trip down memory lane. “This is going back to my roots because I used to do this kind of thing donkeys years ago.” he says.
He’s performing alongside his close friend Bev Bevan, drummer with ELO, as well as a group of musicians from the Midlands. “We’d never toured together and we thought we should do it before we die,” he says jokingly. The show started out as Made in Brum and they played 20 dates on home turf to test out the water. “It was a kind of nostalgic trip, we did a lot of songs from the 60s and 70s and it was incredibly successful.”
He feels they tapped into something people wanted. “I think they were getting something that hadn’t been catered for, for quite a long time. They were getting comedy that they weren’t afraid to bring their daughters to and music that they knew, and we realised we’d touched a nerve.”
Having done this they decided to take the show, renamed Jasper Carrott’s Stand Up and Rock, further afield. It appears to be working as tickets for the Wakefield show sold out within four days which led to a couple more dates being added.
Carrott has been a household name for more than 35 years. He started out as a folk singer with his own club The Boggery which he set up in the late 60s in Solihull, where he was both musician and MC. “I used to go down to the local cabaret club and nick one-liners from the comics. I was really raw but I connected with the audience.”
He was a big fan, too, of American comedians like Tom Lehrer, Bob Newhart and Bill Cosby and learned from them. “I did songs and chat and the chat got longer and the songs got shorter and eventually I had a really good stock of material,” he says.
“The great thing about folk clubs was I learned to talk to an audience and not at them, so when I got a shot at TV I knew I could do it.”
His first brush with fame came in 1975 with Funky Moped, a novelty record that became an unlikely chart hit, aided by a hugely popular B-side featuring a risqué monologue parodying The Magic Roundabout.
Three years later he enjoyed success with his TV show An Audience With Jasper Carrott, and became known for his observational style of comedy.
He played at Leeds University in 1977, just before he became a hit on TV. “I was well known but I wasn’t famous, so I was cool. But once I started doing TV I had to stop doing the universities,” he says.
Despite his growing popularity Carrott says he wasn’t part of any clique.
“I always felt I wasn’t part of the Bob Monkhouse crowd but I wasn’t part of the Alternative crowd either. I was somewhere in the middle ploughing my own furrow.”
Since those early days he’s done sell-out arena tours, and starred in numerous TV series including the spoof police drama, The Detectives in the 90s with Robert Powell, and the award-winning Commercial Breakdown which featured weird and wacky TV adverts from around the world.
Polite and engaging, he doesn’t feel the need, unlike some comedians, to reel off a string of gags. He admits, though, that comedy in Britain has changed. “When I started comedy in the late 70s, comedy on TV was basically ten minutes on the Cilla Black Show with a bow tie, so it’s come on a lot.”
These days he’s happy for younger comics to get the limelight, although at the age of 68 he still has the desire to perform. “We have such a terrific time and not just us but the audience, too,” he says. “There’s a real feeling of camaraderie and, for me, a sense of coming home.”
Jasper Carrott’s Stand Up and Rock, Theatre Royal Wakefield, Feb 4 (the shows on Feb 5 & 6 are sold out). For tickets call 01924 211 311.