Next week Brian Conley is coming to Wimbledon with his new show Still the Greatest Entertainer (In His Price Range). Ahead of his performance, we caught up with him about the show, his life in show-business and his special connection with our theatre.
Comedian, TV presenter, singer and actor Brian Conley is celebrating 45 years in show-business.
Tell us about Still The Greatest Entertainer - In His Price Range?
It's a potpourri of entertainment, it's a fun night, it's a celebration of my career and the fact that I've been performing for the last 45 years. The theme of the show is lots of comedy and of course there's some music, I close the first half of the show with a medley of some of the musicals I've starred in. There are a few specials guests thrown in including Dangerous Brian and Larry the Loafer, and there's also my support act the brilliant Mat Ricardo, 'The Gentleman Juggler', who performs a 15-minute comedy slot in the first half with, of course, juggling! I also talk about some of the things that I've been up to over the past 45 years and weave that in to stories about my career, it's actually quite difficult to explain... and I don't want to give too much more away, but I've been doing it long enough, so trust me we'll have a laugh!
What can audiences expect?
They can expect a laugh, that's what I really want to achieve and what I'm known for. There is some music but its driven and led by comedy right from the moment it starts and I enjoy that. My act is a tapestry which I've added to over the years, so it's well tuned up, it's like a Ferrari - hold on to your seats we're going for one hell of a ride!
Brians new show Still The Greatest Entertainer (In His Price Range)
How is the tour going?
The response so far from the tour has been brilliant, I am genuinely really enjoying it and I'm lucky to be performing at some lovely theatres with wonderful crews who really care and go that extra mile to help us put on a good night.
Do you get the audience involved?
Of course I do! I think that's very important, it makes it special, it makes it individual for that night. It's funny, I know sometimes people avoid buying tickets in the front row because they think 'oh no, what's he going to do to us' but don't worry, no matter where you're sitting I will get you... eventually! It's just about making it different, when you get someone up (on stage) and just have a bit of fun with them you never know where that's going to go or how they will react to it. So yes there is audience participation without a doubt!
What do you enjoy most about touring?
The reaction I get at the beginning of the night, I love that, there's that very slight tinge of nerves before I go on because all you want is for it to go well, then when you walk out there and you get that roaring response, I love that. I want people who have spent their money coming along to walk out of the theatre afterwards and think 'that was a great night'.
You've performed at New Wimbledon Theatre many times in the past. If you had to pick one favourite memory, what would it be?
It would have to be in panto doing Cinderella, it was a great cast with Barbara Windsor, Bonnie Langford, Gyles Bandreth, Ray Alan and Lord Charles. It was also the first panto I was top of the bill and I have some really great memories from it.
Brian on the cover and inside the 1990 Wimbledon Theatre Cinderella Programme.
Rumour has it that you also met your wife while performing in Cinderella back in 1990. Can you tell us the story?
Yes that's true, it was actually through Ray Alan that we met. Ray's wife worked with Anne-Marie and we were introduced by Ray at Wimbledon Theatre. We've now known each other for 26 years and have been married for 21 years!
Who is your inspiration?
Well of course it's Tommy Cooper, I love Tommy Cooper, but there are many, Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films, Eric Morecombe, funny people, performers who are naturally funny, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and actually Robbie Williams, he's a great entertainer, and of course Elvis Presley - all these people were born to do their job!
You're a comedian, television presenter, singer and actor - is there one you prefer?
There's the singing, I love doing that but I love making people laugh, when you're on a roll it's really infectious and I love that uncontrollable laughter, that's what I'm aiming for when I do my show, not polite laughter I want them with their hankies out and not being able to control it, I just love that sort of laughter. Of course I enjoy it all, that I can move from one to the other and I'm not locked in to having to do one thing, but definitely live is where I am at, the excitement, the energy, the magic of it being in that moment!
You're celebrating 45 years of being in the business, what is it that keeps you thriving?
I'm no good at anything else so for me to find something that I love, which is entertaining, and for people to enjoy it is wonderful - it doesn't seem like a job. That's what I always push my to kids to do, to find something that they really love and really want to do and it won't seem like a job. I also think to have survived, that's what I'm most proud of, that I've managed to carve out a career for myself, I've done this all my life and have been able to sustain it, I've been very lucky.
Brian Conley - Still The Greatest Entertainer (In His Price Range) is at New Wimbledon Theatre on Saturday 9 June.