IT WON’T come as any surprise to fans of Julian Clary that he still likes to cause a bit of outrage – more than 30 years after he first started baiting audiences in the 1980s. But he says he’s a bit more choosy about his targets nowadays.
“It’s one of life’s pleasures, in my opinion,” he laughed. “It’s one of the reasons people come to see me – they want to see if I’ll go too far. It livens up their otherwise dreary lives I expect. It gets the heart rate going, much like fairground rides or watching a horror movie.”
However, Julian, who turns 60 this month, recalls that this was even more true when he started out in comedy as The Joan Collins Fan Club.
“Yes, because prejudice, ignorance and fear were rife back then,” he explained. “I felt if you talked about the mechanics of gay sex, for example, it would be shocking to them but it would demystify it. They would leave better people than when they arrived.
“That’s changed now. Well, it’s not just me, it’s just, you know, we’ve all grown up. The world’s a better place these days.”
Instead, the Surrey-born comic says that while people may be less easily shocked in 2019, they seem to be far more easily offended.
“It’s funny… the other night I wanted to put something on Twitter. It was about the Duchess of wherever she is, the Duchess of Sussex, being pregnant. My husband said, ‘Yes, but who is the father?’ and I thought, probably years ago I could’ve put that on Twitter and we’d have all chortled. Now, I thought, ‘Well, I just can’t because it’s going to cause outrage.’
“There’s this new word ‘snowflake’, isn’t there? I would blame social media I think, where there’s people who spend all day arguing. Be very careful what you say.
“It’s different, a different sort of controversy. If it was really controversial that I was an ‘out’ gay man on television, then that’s something that I would feel more self-righteous about. Implying that the Duchess of Sussex is putting it about is probably not true at this stage of their marriage! So I can’t really feel self-righteous about that.”
Julian says there’s precious little chance of people actually being offended at his shows. He explained: “I’ve been around the block a few times and if people buy a ticket to see me, chances are they quite like me or they’ve been before. So there is a warmth and affection, but there is a sort of expectation of the boundaries being pushed a bit. So I’m happy to oblige!”
However, no one will necessarily be able to avoid his roving eye and sardonic wit.
“I wander around now, so you’re not safe anywhere,” he said. “I’ve always found people’s lives are more interesting than mine, and so I’m interested in talking to people and improvising, really.
“I did a straight play quite recently, Le Grand Mort, and it was really enjoyable, but I really had to stop myself from talking to the audience. It was in a very small theatre at Trafalgar Studios.
“I wanted to talk about someone’s hair and their handbag and the shoes they were wearing, and you just can’t apparently. I’m told that, when acting in a play, you are expected to say the same words in the same order every night. Who knew?”
So what kind of audience participation can be expected in his latest show, Born To Mince?
“Well, I’ve been reading a lot about gay aversion therapy recently, so I had this idea that we could try heterosexual aversion therapy and get some men out in the audience, wire up their genitals, and show them pictures of Coleen Nolan.
“If there’s any twinge of arousal they’ll get 40 volts through the testicles…it’s what passes for entertainment these days.”
You have been warned.
JULIAN Clary’s Born To Mince tour reaches G Live, Guildford, on Tuesday 28 May.