Ex-footballer Bradley scores hit after hit

ONCE a professional footballer with Brentford, Bradley Walsh has long been scoring success after success on stage and screen.

I caught up with the comedian, actor and TV host ahead of his new show – The Wife’s New Shoes Tour – at Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion.

“I was always making my mates laugh so I decided to give it [stand-up] a try on stage,” he remembers.

Walsh’s gift for making the ordinary funny makes him one of those rare breeds of comics who can hold his own in the alternative Comedy Store or on prime-time family shows.

Despite comedians being singled out for criticism in the current complaint culture he doesn’t think it’s harder being funny now than the days when he was a regular on Des O’Connor Tonight.

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“No, I think humour is everywhere. Hopefully the Spa show will be a fun night out and a couple of hours respite from news of the budget,” he laughs.

Walsh’s big break came when he stole the show at The Royal Variety Performance, becoming one of the UK’s most sought-after live and TV comedians.

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A winner of the Comic Heritage Awards’ Top TV Personality Of The Year, he has injected his own brand of anarchy into the National Lottery, game shows such as The Wheel of Fortune, Spin Star, Shoot the Messenger, Sports Addicts and more recently The Chase.

In 2008 Walsh also took up the reality show baton, appearing in the TV talent show Maestro on BBC2.

He also hosted the LWT/five series The Big Stage, the first variety show on British TV which was screened for seven years and spawning a deluge of imitators. He also had great success with his own show on Capital Radio.

In 2006, he released a DVD entitled Bradley Walsh’s Soccer Shockers, documenting some of the worst mistakes in the world of football and that year returned to the pitch in a charity football event named Soccer Aid, helping to raise �2.6million in aid of UNICEF UK.

Of course, Bradley’s just as famous for his straight acting roles, notably his award-winning role as Mike Baldwin’s cocky nephew Danny Baldwin in Coronation Street – for which he won Best Dramatic Performance in the British Soap Awards – and more recently DS Ronnie Brooks in Law & Order UK.

So why did he decide to make the leap from comedy?

“Ray Winston told me that comics have great timing and make good actors. I phoned up my manager and he got me my first acting role [villain Larry Harmless] in the Channel 4 offshoot of the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

“I found it [the transition] enjoyable as every actor I worked with wanted to help.”

Walsh made his big screen debut in the 2001 film, Mike Bassett, England Manager and in 2003 delivered a critically acclaimed powerhouse of a performance as Phil Seagrove in ITV’s Murder Investigation Team; followed by another lead role alongside Amanda Donohoe in Murder Squad.

In 2005 he joined the cast of Corrie as Danny, receiving universal acclaim from the nation’s TV critics.

While in the award-winning soap he was nominated for Best Actor in the National Television Awards, won Best Dramatic Performance in the British Soap Awards and Best Actor Twice at the TV Quick Awards and The Inside Soap Awards.

He’s also played the lead role in the two-part dramatic series Torn on ITV and lead character Woody in ITV’s Night and Day.

So, which is harder – acting or stand-up – and which does he prefer?

“Nothing is hard if you love it,” he smiles. “I really love acting now, but you should never burn bridges.”

Bradley’s pleased, though, with the reaction to his dual careers.

“Maybe people struggled at first to accept me as a dramatic actor, but I’ve had some wonderful comments since so that’s nice.

“It [the acclaim] is very flattering and hopefully I can carry on doing them justice.”

Bradley didn’t watch the long-running American version of Law & Order, instead preferring – in his words – to just live and be his character and do it his way. As for whether it’ll run as long as it’s cross-Atlantic predecessor he adds “you can’t predict the future”.

It’s clear the much in demand joker is taking his role of DS Brooks deadly serious, with no time to put his comedy skills to use entertaining others on set.

“Theres no time for that, we have to get it right so rehearse and rehearse,” he says.

So, looking back his career to date what’ve been the outstanding memories?

“Being the comedy feed on opening night at Milton Keynes theatre in Cinderella in fromt of 1,500 people to my eight-yea- old son, wonderful,” Bradley beams.

He still has one dream unfulfilled, though, and that’s to put his ballad, blues and cabaret singing skills to use.

“I would love a lead role in a West End Musical,” he says.

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