Comedian Jasper Carrott talks 'Stand Up & Rock' and reveals a connection to the 'Peaky Blinders' TV series
Legendary Brummie comic Jasper Carrott will be bringing his new show, Stand Up & Rock, to Cambridge on Friday, September 13.
It’s been a while since he’s been on our screens, but comedian/actor/presenter/ writer/Birmingham City fan Jasper Carrott has remained extremely busy over the past 20 years.
A part-owner of Celador – the production company behind Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? – and the proud father of actress Lucy Davis, one of the stars of much-loved BBC sitcom The Office who is currently appearing in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix, Jasper has rediscovered his love of stand-up and will be demonstrating his gift for it on stage as part of Jasper Carrott’s Stand Up & Rock.
As the title suggests, the show is a combination of music and comedy, featuring Jasper and his musical cohorts, the Bev Bevan Band.
As well as being a long-time friend of the comedian, Bev was a founding member of The Move and Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and has one of the finest bands around.
Special guests include 1960s star Geoff Turton from Birmingham beat group, the Rockin’ Berries.
When he spoke to the Cambridge Independent, Jasper had recently returned from holidays to Majorca and Croatia (having visited the latter for the first time).
“Stand Up & Rock, it does what it says on the tin,” notes Jasper, 74.
“I do the stand-up and there’s a band, led by Bev Bevan who was the drummer in the Electric Light Orchestra, and there’s a guy called Geoff Turton, who formed and fronted a band called the Rockin’ Berries in the early 60s.
“He’s still got an incredible voice and he does a nice line in humour, which helps the show because once I’ve stopped doing my bit, he carries the humour on...
"I do half an hour, the band does half an hour, I do another half hour, the band does another half hour, I get involved with the music at the end, and it’s all backed up with excellent musicians and singers – and we have screens at the back which show pictures of the artists that we’re featuring, videos and stuff like that.
“I’m not saying it’s a unique show but I don’t know of another one like it on the road.”
Jasper’s numerous TV comedy hits include Carrott’s Commercial Breakdown, Canned Carrott, and The Detectives – a wonderful sitcom in which he starred alongside Robert Powell.
Jasper also had a UK Top 5 hit in 1975 with the novelty record, Funky Moped.
Will it get an airing in Cambridge?
“I do a medley of Status Quo and I throw Funky Moped in the middle,” he reveals.
“Then I put the guitar down and join in with the finale.
"The music tends to be some from the 60s, but mainly 70s, 80s and early 90s.
"We’ve got an excellent female singer who in fact was poached off me by Robert Plant.
"I know him very well and he’s got a band on the road, which I haven’t seen but I believe they’re very good, and our lead singer, Suzy Dian, sings with them.”
Jasper adds: “So it [Stand Up & Rock] is a very entertaining show with something there for everybody.
"My audience tends to be a bit mature these days, obviously, but it’s great because they all turn up and it’s like a bit of a party, really.
"They’ve been following me for years and it’s great to see them back.”
Interestingly, for such a consistent performer – who at one point was a regular fixture on British television – Jasper fell somewhat out of love with his chosen medium for a time.
“I didn’t do stand-up for a long time, it was probably about 12 years that I stopped touring,” he says.
“I did odd shows here and there, and then started up again about five years ago.
"I’ve re-discovered my love for stand-up and have been doing it ever since.”
Performing again in smaller venues is taking the star back to his roots.
“It’s great to play those venues again,” he says.
“That’s why a lot of the excitement came back, because I remembered what it was like in the early days.
"Because I don’t do TV, I don’t get the hassle that I used to get but I’ve still got the business, which is a perfect world.”
The comedy side of Stand Up & Rock changes a little every night.
“You get into a rhythm and a routine and one piece follows another and it all fits like a jigsaw,” explains Jasper, “and when you get it right it’s terrific - but I do change things a little bit each night...
"I do a lot about getting old, looking back to the past, and then just general stuff that goes on...”
Jasper acknowledges the fact that some of his past material may not work as well today.
“Comedy always changes,” he notes, “and obviously with the onset of political correctness, you have to be very careful what you say – not because I’m worried about the kickbacks, it’s because I think you have to respect your audience.
“In the old days, it used to be cheap shots against mother-in-laws and silly Irishman, and they’ve faded away – and rightly so.
"I’m just very aware of what I’m saying and I think that’s good. I will push the limits, as long as I can answer the people who come up and say, ‘Why did you say that?’
"I have to have an answer. If I haven’t got an answer, I don’t do it.”
Jasper, who cites John Oliver, Stewart Lee, Peter Kay and Michael McIntyre as some of his favourite comics, is delighted that comedy today is a booming industry but has no desire to be back on TV.
“I’ve had my time,” he says, “and one of the things that I do like is the lack of recognition.
“When you do TV a lot, you’re recognised a lot and you have to put your privacy to one side.
“It’s all very nice but at the same time, I don’t miss that recognition and I can walk around most places now without being accosted for selfies – and I don’t really want that back.
“If they offered me a programme like John Oliver’s [Last Week Tonight], maybe I might consider it, but it’s highly unlikely to happen and I’m not pushing for it.”
On his plans for the future, professionally speaking, Jasper says: “I don’t think too much about the future; I’m 74 and I haven’t got that much time left...
"If I’ve got another 15 years of being alert, that takes me to nearly 90.
"I’m going to take over from Ken Dodd! Ken was 90 when he died and he was still performing...
“I don’t know what the future is, I take it as it comes really.
"I don’t push for anything; if it comes to me and I fancy the idea, I’ll do it.
"But I will keep doing stand-up, I’m sure, until such time that I know it’s time to step down.
"But I have to say, over the last five years, I have never worked better than I’m working now – and I’ve never enjoyed it so much as I’m enjoying it now.”
Jasper Carrott’s Stand Up & Rock will be on at the Corn Exchange on Friday, September 13, at 7.30pm.
All tickets include a £3 booking fee.
The Peaky Blinders connection
Popular gangster saga based on a real-life gang, Peaky Blinders is a hard-hitting BBC drama set in Birmingham in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, starring Cillian Murphy and Helen McCrory.
“The guy that wrote The Detectives writes Peaky Blinders – Steven Knight,” notes Jasper.
“In fact I discovered Steven Knight in 1989; he was working with a bloke called Mike Whitehill and we got together and both of them wrote for me for seven years.
"And in fact in 1989, Steve was talking about the Peaky Blinders and how he really wanted to write a series.
"I mean it took him 25 years to get it onto television, but what a success.
“I personally hadn’t heard of the Peaky Blinders in 1989, so I got a full rundown, and I said to him, ‘That is terrific. If you can get that out, it’s got every chance’.
"I thought the only thing against it was it was based in Birmingham and there was always a resentment when things are based in Birmingham in the business, full-stop.
"But he overcame that and it’s an amazing piece of writing.”
What does Jasper make of the actors’ Birmingham accents?
“There are a couple of genuine Brummies and they stand out, if you’re from Birmingham, but there’s a bit of Liverpudlian comes in now and again,” he says.
“I think outside of Birmingham, people don’t really question it too much, but inside Birmingham I think there’s a few wry smiles.
"But hey, it’s put the city on the map like you can’t believe so we don’t worry too much about it.
"But it has got better, I have to say, as the series has gone on.
“Cillian Murphy’s Brummie accent has improved enormously – he’s a good Brummie now.
"We’ll make him an honorary Brummie if he keeps talking like that.”