Monday 30 November 2015

Candid Carrott - Jasper Carrott Interview

“I’m having the time of my life and I’ve never worked better,” Jasper Carrott OBE tells me as we discuss his visit to Cardiff’s St David’s Hall tomorrow evening in which he will share the bill with impressionist Alistair McGowan.

“It all came about two years ago when we did the Henley Festival in Berkshire,” recalls Jasper talking about the first time he teamed up with Alistair on stage. “They put us together to do an hours show. He went on for the first half hour and I went on for the second. I was backstage and he was ripping the pants off the audience and I thought “how am I going to follow this?” He finished and the audience went bananas and I did an aside to Alistair and said “Alistair, I asked you warm them up not boil them!” He got me off to a running start with the audience and it was very successful and that’s how we got together. He’s a lovely chap and very talented.”

Birmingham born Jasper started out on the comedy circuit in the early 1970s touring clubs across the UK. He reached the pop charts in 1975 with Funky Moped produced by ELO’s Jeff Lynne, “I think its top of his CV actually” laughs Jasper. The B side featured the comedy dialogue sketch Magic Roundabout which ultimately became the bigger hit. “It sold to discos because deejays would put it on when they were having a break,” says Jasper, “The audience would go “where can we get that? Magic Roundabout is the only hit single with no musical content and yet it was a disco hit – a bizarre single!”

Alistair McGowan & Jasper Carrott
In 1978, An Audience with Jasper Carrott the first of several TV specials placed him at the top of the TV ratings, more success followed over the next decade with TV series Carrott’s Lib, Carrott Confidential, Canned Carrott and the sitcom The Detectives.

“When I did An Audience with Jasper Carrott it was every piece of material I had,” recalls Jasper, “I then had to start from scratch again. I was out on the road and then I did an hours special. Later in '82 we started with Carrott’s Lib and that’s the first time I’d ever written with anybody else, so that was a revelation, been able to write with other people. I always loved introducing new writers and new acts and I’m still doing that now.”

Jasper took a break from stand-up in 2000 but returned to touring two years ago and now happily divides his time between his Stand Up and Rock shows with Bev Bevan of The Move and his appearances alongside Alistair McGowan. I wonder if it’s difficult for him to maintain the pace of new material as he did back in the 1980s.

“I’m actually coming to the end of the material that I’ve written and I’m going to spend the whole of next year writing,” he says, “ It’s very difficult to write now because there are so many comics on the road and they’re all doing similar stuff and I’m trying to be different from them. I’ve got an advantage that I can talk about getting old, I’ve regurgitated some old stuff too. I used to do a routine on the 60s and I’ve brought that back for the present day and that works very well. When I come to Cardiff, people who follow me will get new material and if they do recognise anything, it’ll be a bit obscure but I’ll have changed it. I’m pretty confident it’ll be a brand new show.”

Jasper also holds Wales in high regard and it’s quite clear he can’t wait till he returns “I’m a big fan of Wales and I have a saying that there should be a bit of Wales in everybody’s heart and Max Boyce is one of my best friends in the business. In fact I was in Wales earlier in the year because I was doing a TV show with Len Goodman when you go back to your childhood and I went back to Barry Island because I had a couple of holidays there when I was 13/14 so I went back – terrific!”

I ask Jasper, in closing, if he has ever had a funny incident that has ever happened to him at a gig, he responds with "many" before telling me, first hand, of one of the most comical scenarios.  " I was doing Liverpool Empire and about 5 minutes into it a bloke right from the top balcony in a Scouse accent yelled “Hey! Carrott! We cant hear up here, y know!” I got the sound guy and we moved some cabinets and I started again, then five minutes later he went “Still cant hear, y' know!” Within a few minutes and been in Liverpool he’d formed a union! The only place we could find a seat because it was rammed solid was the stool I was using on stage and he came down from the top, walked on stage and sat on the stool. I performed the show with him sitting next to me for the evening. When I finished he took the bow with me. The audience were laughing at him, I was laughing at him it was a real treat , a fantastic night!"
  • An evening shared with Jasper Carrott and Alistair McGowan takes place at St David's Hall, Cardiff on December 1.
  • For more information on Jasper Carrott visit his official website.
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus on November 27, 2015

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