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| 19 August 2016 | 1 Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Julian Clary 02

Julian Clary – Britain’s campest comic and self-confessed “national trinket”, not to mention TV star and author – brings his latest show, cheekily entitled The Joy Of Mincing, to Australia for three very special shows next month.

Melbourne – Her Majesty’s Theatre – Wednesday, 7 September
Sydney Opera House – Just For Laughs – Thursday, 8 September
Perth – The Astor Theatre – Monday, 12 September

SHANE PINNEGAR got Julian on the phone to discuss life, mincing, and everything else one can cram into fifteen very engaging minutes.

“I’m intrigued to know what 100% ROCK has got to do with me,” Clary announces bemusedly right off the bat, “but I’m sure you’ll tell me…”

Well, we have a phrase in Australia, “that rocks,” so as much as we do like our rock and roll, if something ‘rocks’, it means it’s great…

“Oh, I see,” he says, relieved. “I thought you were going to ask me questions about heavy metal or something!”

We could do that – another time, perhaps, but let’s focus on your show today, The Joy Of Mincing. Mincing certainly seems to have brought Clary a lot of joy and one heck of a career.

“It does, it’s a funny business, mincing…” Clary muses with a chuckle. “I’ve always put in the title of my shows from the early days – my first ever tour was called Mincing Machine, and there’s been Lord of the Mince, there was Natural Born Mincer, and so on.

“It’s one those words that I kind of like to think you can reclaim it, because I would have been called a mincer at school as a child as an insult. I think you can turn around these words and turn them to your advantage. I think mincing is – although we know what it is, it’s sort of a funny walk – but really it is a declaration of joy in oneself in the face of disapproval.”

Julian Clary 01

It wouldn’t have been too long ago in Australia where people weren’t particularly tolerant of mincing or homosexuality in general. Clary confirms that he has seen a huge shift in attitudes over the years.

“Oh, yes – yes, I have. Because I was born in the ’50s – well, ’59 – and growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, yes, people were ignorant and people were frightened of homosexuality, I think to a degree. It was only because they didn’t understand it and it was just fear of the unknown, whereas now it’s been demystified a lot and people are very accepting and tolerant. Over here in my mother country, of course, we have equal marriage and things, so that’s a definite signal that things are better than they were.”

Thirty years of telling jokes is a very big milestone, obviously, did Clary do anything special to celebrate the anniversary of his stand-up debut?

“No, it was only when I kind of did my sums I realised it’s been thirty years,” he reveals, “and I was surprised more than anything. I remember when I started out thinking, ‘well this is funny, this is a fun thing to do for a couple of years in my twenties,’ but I always assumed I’d have to go and get a proper job eventually. I’m just bemused that I can scratch a living for all this time just being this silly and basically talking about myself.”

How close is the flamboyant stage Julian to the real Julian?

“Oh, I don’t think I’m like that at all!” he exclaims demurely. “Like a lot of comedians, I’m quite introverted most of the time, and I often think funny things rather than say them, just for my own amusement. I think what you do on the stage is you kind of take an aspect of yourself and magnify it, that’s sort of what performing is in a way. No… I mean, I don’t dress up, I don’t wear makeup, I don’t have to be the centre of attention outside of the theatre. I think I’m quite different – I think other people might disagree… I can always switch it on if needs be, but, no, I’m the person sitting quietly in the corner most of the time.”

Julian Clary 03

For some the line between on and off stage isn’t as sharply drawn, and Clary admits that sometimes fans can rush up to him assuming he is the flamboyant stage Julian they see on their screens.

“Yes, they often do, and they often want you to say something funny or be what they think – which I quite understand why they might think that. I’m usually very polite but slightly standoffish. I actually don’t mind on a day-to-day basis, it’s quite reassuring for me to [have] people come up and say something complimentary – that’s quite a nice aspect of my life. I don’t dislike it, I just don’t really play the game.”

Does he find that Australian audiences laugh at the same things as English audiences?

“Yes, only more so!” Clary enthuses. “I find Australian audiences very extrovert as far as one can generalise, and kind of out for a good time. There’s a sort of sense of occasion, I find. You [Australians] often come out in big groups and you’re very good at enjoying yourselves and you’re very good at partying and all the things we know Australians do well.

“Sometimes here in England, an audience can be quite hard work, or there’s a sort of air of depression about them to do with the weather and the sort of national character here. Whereas that doesn’t seem to happen in Australia: you kind of start there at higher up the scale of enjoyment it seems. It’s very healthy and very handy for a comedian.”

Often the most interesting facts can turn up when we’re researching an interview. In this instance I was shocked to discover that in the early ‘90s Clary briefly contemplated suicide after losing several friends and his then-partner to AIDS. Does it shock or scare him to think back to how distraught and depressed he was at that time?

“Yes, I mean it does,” he admits. “I think… I mean you’re unlikely to get through your life without having an episode of great sadness, it seems to me. I don’t think it’s particularly unusual, and I contemplated it [suicide], but you contemplate all sorts of things, don’t you? You contemplate killing people sometimes – I contemplated buying a horse the other day and I quickly decided I didn’t actually need a horse!

“It was only a passing thought, that I then mentioned in my autobiography and now I find myself talking about. It’s such a terrible idea, it’s such an awful solution to a temporary problem, suicide, that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It is true and it is something I went through, as you say, in the early ’90s. It wouldn’t happen now, nothing can upset me that much anymore.”

The fact that that period of his life was practically half a lifetime and a very successful and a rewarding career ago, is an extremely powerful message in itself.

“Yes, well there you are,” concurs Clary. “I get depressed nowadays, but that usually lasts about between ten and twenty minutes, so it’s a question of holding tight and waiting for the black clouds to pass.”

Little known fact – at least by me – is that Clary lives in Noel Coward’s old 15th century manor house in Kent.

“I do, I do, yes,” he cheerily confirms. “It was a very rundown house when I bought it and I’ve kind of spent the last ten years bringing it back to life and it’s been my project actually. I’ve just made a documentary about Noel Coward for Sky Arts, he was just a genius. They took me to his other houses in Jamaica, where he lived, and I was able to sort of fill in the missing parts of the jigsaw.

“Also, I grew up in Teddington, where Noel Coward was born, so there’s sort of connections with Noel Coward right through my life. When a friend of mine told me his house was for sale, I thought this just seemed like, sometimes things happen and you think, ‘oh, this is meant to be. This is God’s way of telling me to buy it.’ Yes, that’s what I did and that’s where I live.”

Julian Clary with Fanny

Some people suggest that the house is haunted.

“Yes – I suggested it’s haunted! I’ve written a novel about that.

“There are four ghosts walking around the house – they’re perfectly friendly, and they’re very quiet nowadays. I think it’s when you first take over a property that they are testing you out and making their presence known. Yes, you’d be surprised… it’s a very old house, and some of the ghosts predate Noel Coward – it would be a surprise if there weren’t any ghosts in a house like that I think.”

Talking to the Prince of double entendres, I couldn’t help but give one a go myself, and, being a fellow dog lover, remember he used to often perform with his pet whippet, Fanny the Wonder Dog. So, Julian – do you still have a Fanny?

“No. If she was still alive that would be in the Guinness Book of Records,” he replies, taking the attempted joke in his stride with barely a smirk. “She died – how long ago, about eighteen years ago – and she was nineteen when she died. No, she has passed over to the great beyond, and my current dog is called Albert, and he is sitting next to me, fast asleep, slightly horrified that I’m up at this time.”

Julian Clary The Joy Of Mincing

Having been a stage comedian, a TV star, a novelist, a children’s author more recently, is Clary content with his life and achievements, or are there still pressing matters on the bucket list that he feels the need to tackle?

“No, I’m very content. I think what one wants now is to keep going,” he declares. “I don’t want to fade into obscurity yet, I want to keep going, really. There’s something about being on stage and making people laugh that becomes a kind of physical need after a number of years. I can’t imagine living without it really.”

Does he feel that he’s got the art of telling smutty double entendres down to a fine art yet?

“Well after thirty years I think you kind of have your double entendre vocabulary quite well-honed. I kind of think in double entendres all the time, even if I don’t express them. Yeah, I think it’s like if you are a weight lifter then you use certain muscles and they get bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger, and similarly with comedy muscles, if you like: if you keep using them over a long period of time then they’re very ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.”

Category: Interviews

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  1. JULIAN CLARY – National Trinket | 24 August 2016

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