Published: 06:55, 16 May 2015
If comedians have recently attained rock star status then an early test case of that phenomenal level of popularity was surely Jasper Carrott in the 1980s.
Families gathered from all corners of the house to watch the goggle-eyed Brummie who had first made his name in the 1970s with the novelty pop single, Funky Moped.
In the 1980s his rubber-faced brand of wit and comedy had reached unheralded proportions, with prime time hit shows including An Audience with Jasper Carrott, Carrott’s Commercial Breakdown, Carrott Confidential and Canned Carrott, as well as his spoof show with Robert Powell, The Detectives.
Jasper’s TV airtime inevitably made way for younger talent, and in recent years the happy 70-year-old family man from Solihull had become content to let his live stand-up tours recede into the past.
That was until he and long-standing best mate Bev Bevan – a rock musician, drummer and one of the original members of The Move and ELO – decided to hit the road again for the sheer joy of it, with a show mixing comedy and music called Jasper Carrott’s Stand Up and Rock.
With Kent shows in Dartford, Bromley, Canterbury and Folkestone over the coming month, then a visit to Chatham in September and Margate in November, Jasper explains that incorporating interludes by the Bev Bevan Band makes perfect sense, as music was his first love.
“I think probably the first album I ever had was Duane Eddy; he had a big hit single with Peter Gunn, he was a guitarist,” says Jasper of his early influences. When Buddy Holly and Elvis came along it catered to people, and I was one of them. Folk took over a bit later on.”
In fact Jasper, whose real name is Bob Davis, first took up the mic as a folk club compere but his natural flair for comedy soon had him standing out from the crowd.
From a show for BBC Midlands in the mid 1970s, he had made the leap to a full hour-long, prime time, live-to-air national TV broadcast by 1979, The Unrecorded Jasper Carrott; still the only one of its kind as far as he’s aware, and a high point among many.
“I’d probably done 120 gigs prior so I’d worked the material and I was confident but there were 10 or 11 million viewers so it was very nerve-racking,” he recalls of that live broadcast.
“About five minutes in, there were a couple of girls at the front giggling and I realised my flies were undone. I had a guitar to cover it so had to keep hold of it until the next commercial break.”
There was the added pressure of technicalities to be aware of too: “I had to get the last commercial break in before 10pm so we had a system where a man would sit in the front row and give me how many minutes I had; he gave me just two minutes so I had to edit a six-minute piece of material down to two minutes, but I actually did it!”
Another great achievement was when Carrott’s Commercial Breakdown won a Gold Medal at the New York TV and Film Awards. “In Christmas 1989 it was the second most-watched show,” remembers Jasper, who was awarded an OBE in 2002.
Many stars who live on the razor edge of adrenaline become addicted to the highs of fame, but Jasper, who has been married to wife Hazel since 1973 and whose four children include The Office star Lucy Davis, says his grounded lifestyle did not leave him vulnerable to a constant need to chase fame for fame’s sake.
“Comedy is the only art form that has a measurable response. You can’t say how much you enjoy listening to music but you can measure how good comedy is by the laughter coming back. Laughter is a drug, there’s no about it. The highs can be high and the lows can be low, but you have to be careful that it doesn’t dominate your life. I had a strong marriage and good friends. It’s a real anchor. You don’t lose touch with reality.
He adds: “All my humour was about real life.”
The following of fans who love him for just that no doubt wish he was a more regular presence on TV these days, but they have been turning out in force to see the show across the UK. That bond with his fans is yet another successful long-standing relationship in Jasper’s life.
He says: “I hadn’t toured since 1998 but when I started again two years ago, it all came back. I’ve found the enjoyment again. It is a mature audience, there’s no two ways about it, but people still come out and it’s nice being part of people’s lives.”
After a 60-year friendship, Jasper and Bev Bevan decided to have a bit of fun and tour together. It turned out to be so popular they decided to grow it into a fully-blown show with tour dates across the country.
Though Jasper is the household name, Bev has rock star credentials that most dream of, from The Move through to ELO. “We celebrate 60 years as best friends in September,” says Jasper. “On the first day at grammar school they sat us side by side and it was a close friendship from day one.”
Of the origins of Stand Up and Rock, he says: “We realised we’d never actually toured together. It took off, and completely by surprise we had this wonderful reaction. Neither of us need to do it for the money, we do it for the pure enjoyment.”
Jasper Carrott’s Stand Up and Rock is at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre on Thursday, May 21, on 7.30pm. Tickets cost £26. Visit www.orchardtheatre.co.uk
Bromley’s Churchill Theatre on Sunday, June 7, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost from £26. Visit www.atgtickets.com/bromley
Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre on Wednesday, June 10, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £25. Visit www.marlowetheatre.com
Folkestone’s Leas Cliff Hall on Thursday, June 11, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost from £26. Visit www.atgtickets.com/folkestone
Chatham’s Central Theatre on Saturday, September 12, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £25. Visit www.tickets.medway.gov.uk
Margate Winter Gardens on Thursday, November 26. Tickets cost £25. Visit www.margatewintergardens.co.uk
More by this authorJo Roberts
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