JULIAN Clary is one of Britain's best-loved entertainers but, believe it or not, he hates watching comedy it doesn't make me laugh, he told the Bulletin.
Clary, who has owned a house in Majorca for the past seven years and who now has family here, was one of the headline speakers at this year's Tertulia festival, talking about his recently published autobiography A Young Man's Passage, which old friend and comedian Paul Merton has described as funny, moving and brilliantly written. Bulletin. I recently read that apart from this being a very interesting and emotional book, someone has claimed that you have actually shown signs of being a serious writer.
Julian Clary. Well, let the truth be known, I want to be a writer, in fact it's what I always wanted to be so I had no problems with writing my autobiography. I've written two silly books before and this is what the publisher were interested in.
B. One of your silly' books was the Joan Collins Fan Club, is all that very much part of your past now? Are you getting more serious about writing and your work in general?
J.C. At 46 you do start to think oh dear, will I still be telling buggery jokes when I'm 50,' but to be honest I think I probably will. At 20 I didn't think I'd be doing this when I was 40. But, yes, I like the idea of being a writer. I like the process of writing.
B. Do you find it therapeutic?
J.C. I find it very creative. It's a different thing from doing comedy. You can write something funny and it lasts, whereas if you tell a joke on stage it's lost as soon as you've said it.
B. I remember you starting out on TV on Friday Night Live, your show was fast, furious, risque, full of energy. Do you think it's now time to relax with your writing? What do you want to write about?
J.C. Murder. In fact I've started my novel. It's a comedy thriller about a serial killer.....
Actually, I don't think my acts were fast and furious. They were languid and lacked any energy. I was stoned all the time.
B. Was writing your autobiography an enjoyable process - what was the end result for you?
J.C. Yes, very much. I was very sorry to get to the end and very sorry to hand it over to the publishers. I felt a bit lost. I had been writing 1'000 words a day for three months and then all the re-writing, which I could have gone on doing for another six months had I been allowed to.
It's very interesting when you look at your own life in some detail. I was very obsessed with detail and getting facts right. I had a lot of old letters and diaries of my life which was very evocative for me. One always assumed that you never remember very much about your childhood, or at least I did, but once you start looking into it, it's all still there.
It was an emotional ride and a lot of it is about the relationship with my parents. It was very interesting to analyse that and see why I liked my parents.
B. What about your parents' reaction to you?
J.C. With regards to the book I was worried about them reading it because there's a lot of sex in it and it's not the kind of thing you write with your parents in mind, auntie and uncle are 94, but those are the facts. They understood. My act's very rude and they've been to see that.
B. Have they been supportive of your career or critical?
J.C. Neither, they've been mystified by it. When I started on the cabaret circuit they didn't come and see me for years, they knew I wore a lot of make-up and black rubber, so I guess they imagined it to all be a bit sinister.
But, obviously my sense of humour comes from them, so we were all right really.
B. Does the family humour come out over Sunday lunch?
J.C. Lots of gay jokes over the Sunday joint (he laughs.) We've always been a funny family, there's a lot of Irish in us so there's lots of family sayings and, as a child, I used to save up funny stories from conversations I would overhear on the bus and tell the story at dinner time.
B. Did you always want to be a performer?
J.C. Yes...from about 13. I wanted to a vet to begin with. Animals or comedy, it was one or the other and I managed to combine the two.
B. Did anyone inspire you?
J.C. No, not really. I always mention my grandfather as being an inspiration. He was the funniest one.
B. So, how did it all start?
J.C. When I left university I wanted to be an actor. I had very lofty ambitions. Me and my friend Linda wrote to the National Theatre to tell them we were available, snap us up'. But they never got back to us. I used to audition for all sorts of things but, because of my voice and my mannerisms, it wasn't happening.
But a friend of mine was doing an act on the alternative circuit and it was perfect for me because all the things which were holding me back as an actor, I made into real assets. And that was very liberating. I also loved the self sufficiency of my life. Writing my own shows, negotiating my own fees, living out of a suitcase with my dog Fanny.
No one thought we would end up on television. But we did.
B. Starting off, you mentioned your mannerisms, voice, your sexuality, back in those days were they a bit of a hindrance?
J.C. It wasn't the Dark Ages. But yes and probably that's why my act was so obsessed with sex and gay sex in particular. I saw it as my job to demystify it.
B. So you were conscious of all that?
J.C. Yes and no. I wasn't on any kind of crusade but, as it was so obvious and so self evident, I thought I had to talk about this and the cabaret circuit audience was a very enlightened, left wing, social worker type crowd. It wasn't like playing some rough workingmen's club in York. It was very gay friendly.
After appearing on Friday Night Live, Channel 4 asked him to do his own show with Paul Merton called Sticky Moments and one thing led to another including a major fall from grace with British television.
B. How did you cope with that. Or did you know it was coming?
J.C. The conclusion I came to in writing my book is that there was a lot going on in my life, I was bereaved, taking sleeping pills and valium and I was in a bit of a state. I think I needed to clear some space and sometimes the universe takes care of things for you. It obviously wasn't what I was thinking at the time, but looking back, it's what I needed to get myself together.
What I did was go to Australia on a five-month tour.
But people are still very wary of me to this day, I'll never take off that infamy, which was a new experience.
B. Apart from your writing and appearing on Come Dancing what are you doing now?
J.C. I've done a show for the BBC called Who Do You Think You Are where they trace your family tree for an hour long documentary due to be broadcast in January. I am also hoping to do their National Lottery show again. I did it last year. That's very daring, it's an hour of live TV at Saturday tea time so I feel as though I have finally been forgiven.
B. The book - why murder?
J.C. I've always been interested in true crime. I read a lot about it.
B. Do you read comedy?
J.C. No, I don't watch it either. Nothing makes me laugh really.