Roy Chubby Brown

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2006, 12:00am

If I'm touring, I'll wake up at 8am, go down to breakfast and, if the hotel has a gym, I'll walk on the machine for half an hour to get my heart pumping, lift a few weights, maybe have a swim and sit in the Jacuzzi.

I'll go back to my room about 11.30am and look through the daily papers to see what's happening. Normally, people just read the headlines, so they miss a lot of the little comical stories inside. If there's a story about the queen [Britain's Elizabeth II] falling over, I'll stare at that bit of paper and think of all the funny things I can about the queen. I'll write it all down, then talk into a cassette recorder and play it back to see how it sounds. It's how I've trained myself over the past 37 years.

Sometimes I carry a little keyboard around with me and I'll write ditties. I have a recording studio at home, so I spend quite a lot of time in there. Over the years, I've probably written more than 150 comedy songs.

If I get one good line a day, that means at the end of the week, I've got seven funny lines. I'm a one-liner rather than a storyteller. Comics these days have changed the whole approach to stand-up comedy. Some of these blokes can tell a joke and make it last six or seven minutes and they're not funny until they get to the punch-line. Everyone's trying to do a Dave Allen [the late Irish comedian, who had a relaxed, intimate style] show and that takes a lot of bottle. With my material, I hit you with one gag and if you don't like it, don't worry, another will be along in three seconds.

I've been known as an offensive comic since I walked on stage in 1972 and said, 'My wife's got two c***s and I'm one of them.' There wasn't another comic in the country who had the bottle to say what I was saying. [Scottish comedian] Billy Connolly saw me in 1981 at the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road, in London, and told me, 'I can't believe what you're talking about.

I'm gobsmacked.'

I'm a northern comic and we find our humour in hardship. We find it in debt, the coal pits and steel works, unfaithfulness, building sites, gambling and drinking. I talk about everyday things and people can relate to it. I was the first comic to put on a poster, 'If you are easily offended, please stay away.' I was talking about things nobody else would dare talk about.

I am the last of a dying breed and there's only a handful of us one-liners left: Doddy's [Ken Dodd] 76, Bernard Manning's 74, Johnny Hammond's 78.

When I started in this business, everyone wanted to get on television because it was a novelty. What TV does is it takes you, uses what you've got then discards you. I had to make a decision in the early 1970s: did I want to be one of 9,000 comedians trying to get on TV or did I want to be one of a handful of comics who could earn a living catering for the few [at live shows]? Several top comics who you never hear of now - Brian Connolly, Bobby Davro, Bradley Walsh - all had TV shows.

About 3pm, I'll have half-an-hour's kip then get back to my scripts. In the late afternoon, I'll go to the theatre, where we'll have a sound check with the piano and I'll go over any new stuff I'm doing with the sound engineer. There's the band, a sound engineer, a tour manager, a driver, a guy who sells the merchandise, a lighting technician and a backdrop engineer. We all live off my immoral earnings.

In the evening, we'll do the show, which lasts for about an hour and 20 minutes. Afterwards, we'll all go to an Indian or Chinese restaurant for a bite to eat and discuss how it went.

The patchwork suit I wear came from the first suit I had, which was made out of beer towels off the bar. In the early days, members of the audience would run up to the stage and throw pints of beer over me. I've been lucky to keep all my teeth.

I only work three or four nights a week now; I had a vocal chord removed three years ago because of cancer. I've never smoked, so it came as a bit of a shock. I had to take a step back from working seven nights a week. I just love the job I do.

The ultimate compliment for a comedian is for the audience to take one of your jokes home with them. In the 60s, I was a drummer with a rock group and one day, we were on our way to a booking when a dog walked right in front of the van and I just happened to say, 'I bet it's an Irish wolfhound, walking backwards wagging its head.' The lads laughed and said I should tell that joke on stage. A few years later, in 1975, I told it on a TV programme called New Faces and the audience loved it. If I had a pound for every time I've heard that joke, I'd be a wealthy man.

I've attracted a younger audience because of British comedy performers League of Gentlemen. They were four lads straight out of drama school when they rang me one day and said they'd written this half-hour comedy sketch for [television] and would like to call the village Royston Vasey [Brown's real name] because they were fans of mine. I was flattered. I play the mayor in the series.

I've had two previous wives and when I met Helen, 10 years ago, I told her I was two people. My other wives left because I was away so much; I guess it was the loneliness. I've done all sorts of jobs, from window cleaning to digging holes in the street to driving a van, but without the comedy, I was struggling. This character I developed has given me a life. You get the accusations that because you're on the road, you must have someone else and I say, 'Yes, I do have someone else. I have Chubby Brown.'

Roy Chubby Brown plays the Lyric Theatre on Saturday. Tickets from HK Ticketing, tel: 3128 8288.