Ipswich: Julian Clary’s looking for a husband

Julian Clary is looking for an Ipswich husband. Pictures: Hannah Maule-Ffinch

Julian Clary is looking for an Ipswich husband. Pictures: Hannah Maule-Ffinch - Credit: Archant

We’re gathered here today to witness the joining of this man and this man in holy matrimony. Entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE helps Julian Clary find a husband.

Julian Clary comes to the Ipwich Regent later this month.

Julian Clary comes to the Ipwich Regent later this month. - Credit: Archant

“I’m thrilled you’re coming to see me, but please make an effort,” pleads Clary. “I don’t want to see anoraks, corduroy trousers or unwashed faces; a little bit of make-up for the ladies and some of the gentleman and a good time will had by all. Who knows I may indeed marry one of you, well for sure marry one of you, before the night is out.”

Still unafraid to push boundaries and flirt unashamedly in the face of conformists, new show Position Vacant: Apply within sees him welcome a selection of eligible bachelors on to the stage to win his hand in marriage.

“I come down into the audience with a cattle prod and select a gentleman to my liking, get them up on to the stage where they are put into a sort of sheep pen. I usually take about eight or 10 and then, through a series of elimination rounds, whittle it down to the man of my dreams who I then marry in a glittering wedding complete with confetti and a bishop.”

Clary says he’s of an age where it’s not wise to be too fussy.

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“You tell me what’s a typical Ipswich man like. As long as he’s wearing trousers and breathing I’ll be fine.”

I mention the Tractor Boys.

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“Athletic sounds encouraging... well I’m in the mood for someone a bit rough then I suppose a football fan would fit the bill.”

Ultimately it depends what mood Clary’s in on the night. He admits to being quite influenced by the audience’s idea of who’d make the ideal husband. But what can his groom-to-be expect from life as the other Mr Clary?

“Well, it’s a non-stop round of premiers, first nights, red carpet events, champagne, canapés and a little light housework.”

He had me up to the housework. I’d read he’d considered Prince Harry for the position but that the hair was a problem?

“Well he can always where a hat can’t he?”

He’s not been known for wearing much lately, but Clary’s still not swayed.

“This is true. I think the royals tend to be a bit past it by the time they’re 25 or however old Harry is. They don’t age very well do they? I think he may have missed his chance with me.”

The tour has been a riot says Clary, adding this is his favourite of all the shows he’s done over the years because it’s so chaotic. Having so many men on stage there’s a sense of danger that anything might happen.

“The men I do have... because I have eight or ten they have a sort of collective support thing going on and they’re a bit more daring, a bit more relaxed than otherwise.

“I’m quite good at picking the right people I find, through some kind of sixth sense and in fact people who are quite shy and worried about the whole situation are often the best ones for me to work with because by the end of it they triumph over their fears and they’ve got something to talk about at dinner parties afterwards.”

Very different to when Clary’s infamous Norman Lamont joke at the 1993 British Comedy Awards sparked a campaign to have him banned from live TV.

“That was in fact 20 years ago now. Things were very different then and people were much more shockable and the right-wing press were a lot more homophobic so things have evolved massively... you can almost say anything on television nowadays, not that I plan to,” he adds. “But people do and no one’s run screaming.”

Position Vacant has become one his most successful shows so far, with 31 performances added.

“It’s nice to be liked and it occurred to me that I like doing it, I didn’t really want the tour to stop and I was aware there were lots of important places like Ipswich where I hadn’t actually shown my face...”

Clary gained a legion of new fans following his Celebrity Big Brother win in 2012 for the sharp-witted and even sharper-tongued comedian. I’m curious why he wanted to go into the house.

“I’ve always wanted to find out how weird it was because I’ve always liked watching it. It’s very hard to imagine yourself in it and how you would respond,” he says.

“Not many people get the chance and I don’t know, I just thought I would take the chance and I knew I was doing a tour just after it so thought that would be good timing. It was against everyone else’s advice... my agent, my family, my friends didn’t think it was a good idea but I did. A lot of it was good fun and I’m glad I had that experience - but I wouldn’t ever do it again.”

It wasn’t his first experience of reality TV, having taken part in Strictly Come Dancing, where he danced with Erin Boag. He also took part in the Strictly Tour, partnered by Lilia Kopylova. Just between us, who was better?

“They’re both, as it happens, world class dancers... it’s a bit like driving a Ferrari and then driving another Ferrari; it was absolutely amazing dancing with them both. Erin’s taller than Lilia and that’s just a fact but now I just adore both of them.”

Still one of the country’s best loved entertainers after three decades, he’s as much known for his TV and radio profile as he is for stand-up. He’s also a Sunday Times best-selling novelist and his third book, Briefs Encountered, received unanimous praise.

“I never imagined I would have a career lasting very long when I started. It was really just something to amuse me for a few years and I think the reason I’m still here is because I’ve diversified into all these different areas,” he says.

“You have to know when people might have had enough of you. So I do disappear occasionally for six months or a year and go and write a book... and you know, I think less is more sometimes.”

Julian Clary Position Vacant: Apply Within comes to the Ipswich Regent on May 22.

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