IT’S a testament to how far society and humour has moved on that Julian Clary is maybe not as shocking as he was once considered.
That said the man armed with the double-barrel shot pun and the brilliantly manipulative manner still knows how to get an on-stage party started.
And having won Celebrity Big Brother this summer he’s acquired a whole gang of young fans for his Position Vacant tour.
“Life throws up unexpected things, such as Big Brother, and I dared myself to do it. As for winning...you’d have never predicted that and what it’s done is bring a whole new audience,” he confirms.
“Teenagers are coming to see me and that’s lovely. It’s a bit like when I did Strictly seven years ago; that brought in the blue rinse brigade.
“They were a bit taken aback when they came to see me live, however. They thought I was just that ‘nice young man’ who did the foxtrot and they got all the filth. But they quite liked it in the end.”
And most people do, it seems. Since Clary first burst on to the scene with his camp, daring delivery and speedy double entendres he’s remained arguably a unique force in comedy. And he’s never been afraid to get the fans involved. The Lyceum on Sunday will see a set designed around the notion that Julian is single and hunting for love. It sounds like a great one for testing geographical stereotypes.
“There’s so much improvisation and audience participation in this show it’s always different and there’s things that work and things that could be improved on.
“In the first half I explain how I come to be single and how I’ve tried to find husbands in other ways. The second half is like an audition where I go into the audience with a cattle prod and select likely candidates and then they’re all herded on stage into a little pen and there are elimination rounds until we get down to the last four.
“Somebody will become my bridesmaid, someone becomes the bishop, someone becomes my husband and we have a wedding ceremony. The winner gets a bottle of Blue Nun.
“At the moment I am taking eight men out of the audience and putting them on stage. You just don’t know what is going to happen, but generally speaking down south people are shyer and quieter.
“What I am noticing is the big difference between having one man or two on stage, as I have done in previous shows. If you get eight they’re not so nervous because they become a little group. They’re much more relaxed and behave differently so it’s interesting.”
So what are the parameters for the type of chaps who are likely to be dragged up on Sunday?
“It depends who is in, who catches my eye and if they look as if they are going to be good value. Because there are so many of them I can control it and eliminate people quite quickly if they are mad or drunk or too mortified to be any fun. I feel like I am in charge of this all the way through.
“And people are very accommodating. I’m finding it slightly hysterical, the whole second half is riotous and a bit anarchic, a lot of people to control and you get a lot of laughs out of what people say and do, nothing to do with me. I’m conducting it, really. So far it’s been very funny for me. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
As for the idea of actually finding a hubby on tour...take that with a pinch of salt.
“If it was a serious search for love I might come a cropper,” laughs the comic. “Actually I have a partner but I thought of the show when I thought we were splitting up: ‘This’ll show him’. But he’s seen the light and he’s still around, so it’s entirely nonsense.”
Nonetheless, Julian is looking forward to giving the chaps of Sheffield a hard time.
“It’s a proper city so there’s a jolly good mix of people. There’s a very healthy gay scene. I do think of macho men but I also think of gangs of women out for a good time. I get not exactly hen nights but mothers and daughters and aunts who all go out together and come to the show and have a few drinks beforehand so it’s escapism for a lot of people and hopefully they’ll find it.”