Jim Davidson back in Norfolk to mark 40 years of highs, lows and being deliberately provocative

Jim Davidson will be reflecting on his turbulent, sometimes controversial but always successful show

Jim Davidson will be reflecting on his turbulent, sometimes controversial but always successful showbiz career in 40 Years On. - Credit: Archant

The comedian is marking four turbulent decades with a heartfelt and hilarious autobiographical reflection on his showbiz career in King's Lynn and Cromer.

Thre comedian is bringing 40 Years On, a heartfelt and hilarious autobiographical reflection on his

Thre comedian is bringing 40 Years On, a heartfelt and hilarious autobiographical reflection on his career, to King's Lynn and Cromer. Picture: John McLellan - Credit: Archant

Jim Davidson is currently celebrating four decades in show business with a brand new stage show, 40 Years On, which he is bringing to Norfolk.

It is a heartfelt and hilarious autobiographical reflection on his often turbulent career, which has taken him to the heights of Saturday night TV and some tabloid-fuelled lows.

The comedian isn't to everyone taste but the well-loved — albeit rather risqué, entertainer, comic and presenter, does at least take the audience out of its comfort zone which is something many younger comics cannot manage.

Funny, poignant and at times searingly honest, 40 Years On looks back at his triumphs and tragedies, from his breakthrough on New Faces in 1976, through to hosting prime time family oriented TV hits the Generation Game and Big Break to his controversial more adult fare to winning Celebrity Big Brother in 2014.

He plans to take audiences on a trip down memory lane, regaling them with never-before-heard stories, as he reminisces on the highs, lows and controversies of a unique life spent in the public eye.

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• You are touring with, 40 Years On. Tell us about the show?

It's looking back on my 40 years in showbiz. It's different. People say, 'It's classy. It looks like you put some thought into it!' It's even got a soundtrack, like a film!

• What will you be talking about?

I'll be talking about all the characters I've known during my life. The first section is all about the mad uncles and aunties I had when I was growing up in south-east London. No one was rich, but everyone seemed very happy back then.

• What do you love about that area?

Whenever you go back, you love it so much because you don't have to stay there! No, of course, I do love it. I grew up with the people there. They speak the same language as me. I do feel a real connection with the people there.

• Which of your many career highlights do you discuss in the show?

I talk about where it all began when I won New Faces in 1976. Whenever I think of that, I still feel fuzzy inside. I had an amazing sense of euphoria. I knew I had got to the start line. I always thought, 'Give me a chance and I'll succeed.' And that turned out to be true!

• Any other highlights?

Yes, The Generation Game. It was difficult to make because we wanted to make it different from Bruce Forsyth's highly successful version. So I made it very unpredictable and slapstick like Tiswas. Did you know that I was the first Phantom Flan Flinger on Tiswas? That would be a good Trivial Pursuit question, wouldn't it? We filmed the crew on The Generation Game and made it more anarchic. We had a real laugh, and people loved it. Would I do it again? In a shot!

• Are you also proud of your victory in Celebrity Big Brother two years ago?

Absolutely. I think people like to see celebrities out of their comfort zone. I'm normally very laid back, and that's the way I was in the Big Brother House. Also, it felt like the end of a rotten year for me. It closed the book on an awful time.

• It was a terrible time for you, which only ended when the police told you they would take 'no further action' after 12 months of charges hanging over you. How do you view that period now?

It was horrible. The scary bit was not knowing where the police were going. Demons were on the loose in society. I know from my own experience with my charity, Care after Combat, that many an innocent man is in prison – which is what I was worried about! I've been asked by several celebrities since to try to change the law. But I think the law should be changed by people in wigs and gowns, not ageing comedians.

• Can you describe the buzz you get from doing stand-up?

When the show is flying, there's nothing better. It's euphoric. You feel like you've won, because you achieved what you set out to do and given people the best night they've ever had. That's great, but imagine being Pink Floyd. They have 100,000 people cheering them because it's the best thing they've ever seen!

• You have a rapport with your audience don't you?

Yes, I like telling stories, and people like to listen to them. They think, 'He's telling this story just to me.' That's a marvellous feeling.

• Are you ever purposefully provocative in order to annoy the politically correct?

Yes. I deliberately try and upset certain people. All those unfunny lefties rile me. I feel my reputation is unfair, but I would say that, wouldn't I? If I upset someone, I can't say it's their problem. And it's true that whatever I say, it never looks good written down in black and white because you can't see the twinkle in my eye. Everyone needs a bad guy to make them feel better. But you can't change some people. I could cure hunger in Africa, and certain people would still see me as racist.

• Do you think you can alter that image?

Yes, I think that perception can be broken. You can wrong-foot people sometimes by giving a surprise answer. But in the end, all I can do is live my own life and ask myself at the end of each day if I've done my best.

• What does the future hold?

I'm trying to cut down on the touring because I've got a new job. I'm not going to pack up the comedy – after all, I've lasted this long! I also need it as a release. But I've got other priorities now. With Simon Weston, I co-founded this charity in 2014 called Care after Combat. It looks after military veterans who are in the criminal justice system. Working with the charity has got under my skin. I feel very passionate about it.

• Tell us more about the charity.

I've got used to being around veterans. I used to entertain the troops, and my dad was a soldier. 60% of prisoners reoffend, so I thought, let's try and prevent the veterans from doing that. Our aim is to keep people out of prison. At Care after Combat, we are currently looking after 160 veterans. Fifty of them have been released in the last 12 months and none of them have reoffended. We take care of them.

• What you do with them?

A lot of them got into the criminal justice system through a moment of madness. So we are there to give them self-esteem and a mentor. We also give them education, which is vital. Yes, by all means punish people who have committed a crime, but make sure that you can educate them at the same time, so they don't reoffend. It's in everyone's benefit – apart from the people who make burglar alarms, of course. They'll all go skint! So we work to help these guys back onto the path to normality. We can't go waving banners at football matches, because these veterans want to be anonymous. But we can still really help them.

• Have you visited a lot of prisons during the course of your work for the charity?

Yes. Whatever you read in the newspapers, prison is horrible. You're away from your loved ones and locked up for 22 hours a day. Instead of being locked up for 22 hours a day, I think prisoners should be in the classroom for 12 hours a day. It should be like university. I hope that one day employers will ask ex-prisoners, 'Why should I give you the job?' 'Because I did two years in Winchester prison.' 'You're hired. You're our new MD!'

• How did you get to know Simon Weston?

I met him when he was being patched up at Chessington. He's a great guy. He's our charity's chairman. He's instantly recognisable. There's much more to him than you'd think. He suffered terrible physical injuries, but he also underwent huge mental trauma. That's why he's a hero. He got his life back. He's inspirational, and he cares deeply about others. Once you've got him on board, you can't fail. Even I can't ruin it!

• What message do you hope that audiences will take away from '40 Years On'?

I came from nothing, but I managed to make a success of my life. I want to let people know that they should never give up. Something bad will happen, but then something good will happen. I'd like to tell people that there's always something else coming, no matter how bleak life may seem. You have to push on and get through life. Above all, I would like to give people hope.

• Jim Davidson: 40 Years On is at King's Lynn Corn Exchange on January 19-20, 8pm, £23.50, 01553 764864, www.kingslynncornexchange.co.uk

• He will also be at Pavilion Theatre, Cromer Pier, February 17-18, 8pm, £23, 01263 512495, www.cromerpier.co.uk

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