This is the third or fourth time we’ve seen Julian Clary as a stand-up act. The first was way back in the 80s when Mrs Chrisparkle and I (she may even have been Miss Duncansby in those days) tackled the all-hallowed arena that was the Aylesbury Civic Centre, to see Mr C perform under the name of the Joan Collins Fan Club. Whenever his show comes around, we keep coming back, because he keeps on making us laugh – it’s as simple as that. He creates a fantastic rapport with the audience, who love to squirm at his double entendres and wallow in a sense of relief when he gets some other people up on stage and it’s not them.
This time around, it was clear that his material was a little more personal than usual. His monologues are littered with the phrase “and that’s a true story”, the majority of which you know are the precisely the opposite. But there are insights into his personal life which we haven’t seen before – living in Kent, partnered up, spending his time writing his children’s books (yes, I know, where did that come from?) as well as memories from the past.
We were privileged, when we first saw him perform, to be in the presence of Fanny the Wonder Dog. Julian remembers Fanny lovingly, and there’s always comic mileage to be gained associating the two. Fanny was eventually replaced by Valerie, whom, it appears, was a bit of a disappointment in pet performance terms. He gives us a long and funny routine recollecting his first, frosty encounter with The Joan Collins Herself; this was at the 2010 Hippodrome panto which we attended on one of the very many performances on which Miss Collins did not appear; but since then they have become besties. Mr C also recounts an excellent story of his hanging around the stage door at the Hippodrome and unwittingly involving himself in drug dealing. Not the kind of stuff that’s going to sell more children’s books, to be fair. And of course, he sings. Unforgettable, that’s what he is.
After the interval we go down the tried and tested scenario of Julian coercing three chaps from the audience to join him on stage. This time, the excuse is so that they may be invested with their MBEs – Mincers of the British Empire. He is an absolute star when it comes to this kind of interaction, reducing us all to tears with nearly unkind but not quite material about his victims. In order for them to be invested they have of course to be appropriately dressed, so they are sent offstage to be looked after by Julian’s assistant, Lesbian Bertha. Two return in appropriate regalia, not very butch but perfectly decent; the third – Chris the Engineer – is made to come out wearing nothing but a skimpy pair of pink hot pants. An entire audience salute you Chris, you took one for the team and the rest of us are so very, very grateful.
As we were walking back home after the show, a feeling of doubt entered our heads. In this day and age, is it appropriate for someone like Julian Clary to continue with his 1980s ridiculing of effeminate gay men? Just because he is one, and does it very well? It’s interesting to observe that the audience was overwhelmingly straight middle-aged/elderly couples who spend two hours laughing at “gay” things. Is his act now a trifle anachronistic? With his writing books for children, even Mr C himself is spreading his wings and starting to work in another area of the arts. This is just me thinking aloud, I haven’t come to any conclusions! After all, he remains extremely funny and everyone in the audience had a great time – even Chris the Engineer. His tour continues throughout May and he also returns for more in October and November. If you enjoy the typical Clary style, you’ll laugh your socks off.