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lancashire evening post

Raising a toast to ‘the godfather of theatrical agents’ 150 150 mhamer

Raising a toast to ‘the godfather of theatrical agents’

Former theatrical agent Johnny Martin was there when his acts needed him the most, says famous comedian Jimmy Cricket.

Former theatrical agent Johnny Martin was there when his acts needed him the most, says famous comedian Jimmy Cricket.

Jimmy and two fellow famous entertainers met up a few months ago to celebrate Johnny’s career.

In his latest newspaper column, which appears in both the Lancashire Evening Post and the Blackpool Gazette, Jimmy recalls the meeting.

He says: “On a sunny Sunday afternoon in late October last year, three entertainers – Syd Little (of Little and Large fame), Phil Cool (comedian, impressionist and musician) and Jimmy Cricket (that’s me folks), gathered at the Bukhara Indian Restaurant near Preston, to celebrate the career of former theatrical agent Johnny Martin.

“This was quite an unusual event in the entertainment world.

“Normally, agents stay in the background while their artistes get all the plaudits… in other words they get the commission while their turns get the glory.

Excited tones

“So, what made Johnny – who now resides in Chorley – so special? Well, he was there when his acts needed them most.

“Let’s let Syd tell his story first: “My partner Eddie Large had to retire because of heart problems, so one minute I was one half of one of the most successful comedy double acts in Britian and the next I was on my own.

“Johnny believed I could  go solo and got me a booking entertaining passengers on the QE2.

“He also encouraged me to write a book about my time as part of Little and Large… he helped me promote it well as getting me live work around the country… and he was there for me when I needed somebody to help build my confidence.

“You could say he’s the godfather of theatrical agents.

Short-lived

“My personal anecdote about Johnny was the time he fixed pantomime for me in my hometown.

“I remember the telephone conversation vividly when he told me in excited tones that he’d booked me to do Jack and The Beanstalk at the Grand Opera House in Belfast at the end of that year.

“Unfortunately, my euphoria was short-lived, for a few weeks later he rang again and this time in more sombre tones he told me that a bomb had gone off next door to the theatre and the pantomime may now not go ahead.

“He said he’d keep me posted.

“I can’t tell you how deflated I was readers, when I put the phone down after that conversation.

“However, like all good pantomimes this story does have a happy ending, because within a few weeks, Johnny rang to say that with the help of a few very talented architects and engineers the theatre could be saved, repaired and brought back to its former glory.

Emotional moment

“It wouldn’t be completely ready for that Christmas, so we would have to change in portable cabins, but that was a minor inconvenience.

“The important thing was Jack and The Beanstalk opened and played to record attendances that year.

“And it had a lot to do with the people of Belfast voting with their feet and showing they wouldn’t be beaten by violence.

“Closer to home now for Phil‘s heart-warming story of how when he had developed his unique style of impressions that entailed bringing his characters to life with his descriptive facial expressions.

“It was Johnny who kept bringing producers and promoters into see his live act that eventually led to him having his own television series.

Yes, it was an emotional moment in that restaurant for Johnny and his lovely wife Chris, as we all raised a toast to the man who helped our career when we needed it most.

“In fact, we all enjoyed our lunchtime get-together so much, that we even thought of forming our own showbiz fraternity to meet in the future.

“Syd suggested calling ourselves ‘The Chorley Chaplin’s’, but Johnny himself had the last word.

“He said: ‘Instead of ‘The Four Musketeers’, how about ‘The Four Must Have a Beers!'”.

Buy Jimmy’s autobiography!Jimmy Cricket with his autobiography

Don’t forget that Jimmy’s official autobiography is on sale.

Memoirs Of An Irish Comedian tells the heart-warming story of Jimmy’s illustrious life and 50-year career.

The paperback costs £11.99 and can be bought at online retailer Amazon here. It is also available via eBook and audio.

Signed copies (£15.99 including postage and packing) can be purchased on this website here.

It is also available at Jimmy’s live gigs for £10 where Jimmy will also sign it.

One pound from the sale of every book goes to Mary’s Meals.

The charity supports feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities.

Also read: Jimmy Cricket’s signed autobiographies now available by post!

The day I saved a Christmas TV show by playing an unexpected role 150 150 mhamer

The day I saved a Christmas TV show by playing an unexpected role

Jimmy Cricket tells in his latest newspaper column how he once saved the day on a Christmas TV show - by stepping in as the Fairy Godmother at short notice.

Jimmy Cricket once saved the day on a Christmas TV show – by stepping in as the Fairy Godmother at short notice!

In his last newspaper column of 2023, the famous funnyman recalls how he ended up “complete in fairy frock, full make-up, blonde wig, not to mention my wellies”.

Here is the full article, which appeared in both the Blackpool Gazette and the Lancashire Evening Post newspapers:

The London Weekend Television studio was filled with Christmas decorations capturing the yuletide spirit. All around were fairy lights, tinsel and holly…

Cornucopia of celebrities

However, this show was different – it was being made in the middle of August and it was sizzling outside.

It was the early 80s and I was a guest on the Krankies Christmas show. I did a stand-up spot as a postman and, naturally, I had my own letter from my mammy.

It had lines like “I’m not sending out any Christmas cards this year, son, because of the price of postage… and I’ve sent letters to all my friends telling them that”.

Also on the TV show was a mini-pantomime with a cornucopia of celebrities playing different roles. One of them was Bernie Winters.

Big sad eyes

Older readers will remember that Bernie and his brother Mike were a well-known comedy double act that were very popular on television in the 60s and 70s.

They were called, naturally enough, Mike and Bernie Winters. When the double act disbanded, Bernie got himself another partner – Snorbitz the dog.

Snorbitz was a large St Bernard dog with a lugubrious face and big sad eyes who endeared himself to the audience every time he came on stage with Bernie.

Indeed, I remember being in the line-up after a Royal Variety show once, standing beside Bernie and when Princess Diane came along the queue to shake hands with us; she was disappointed not to see Snorbitz by Bernie’s side.

Back to the Krankies Christmas show.

Hard to believe

Another well-known TV personality was playing the Fairy Godmother in that mini-pantomime, namely impressionist and singer Faith Brown.

Unfortunately, Faith collapsed just a couple of hours before the programme was recorded and was told by a medical examiner that she had to rest and take no more part in the show.

Looking back now, what happened next readers is something I find hard to believe even as I write it, but it’s absolutely true…

Come closer… Ian (Krankie) and Bernie both took me to the side and almost in unison asked me would I step up and play the part of the Fairy Godmother.

Of course, it was a preposterous suggestion and my immediate inclination was to politely decline.

But then I thought about all the actors rehearsing all their lines in the week, leading up to show and how depleted they’d feel.

Whisked into make-up

So, I threw caution to the wind and, in my best “The show must go on” voice, I agreed.

Time was now of the essence.

Jimmy Cricket as the Fairy Godmother in the Krankies Christmas special.

I was whisked into make-up, then wardrobe and that night I stepped out in front of the studio audience waving my wand, complete in fairy frock, full make-up, blonde wig, not to mention my wellies.

I looked like a cross between Harpo Marx and Dolly Parton… but surely you wouldn’t have had time to rehearse your lines, I hear you silently say to yourself.

Well, that hurdle was surmounted by the production team holding cue cards with the words of the couplets written on them.

I rattled them off as if I was looking straight to camera.

Well, we got through and the fairy saved the day.

I got a healthy response from the audience and as I glanced across at Snorbitz I could have sworn he clapped his paws together!

Oh, and like all good pantomimes it has a happy ending because Faith Brown recovered and went on to play (superbly) the lead role of Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s touring version of Sunset Boulevard.

Happy Christmas readers.

Don’t forget that Jimmy’s official autobiography is on sale!

Memoirs Of An Irish Comedian tells the heart-warming story of Jimmy’s illustrious life and 50-year career.

The paperback costs £11.99 and can be bought at online retailer Amazon here. It is also available via eBook and audio.

Signed copies (£15.99 including postage and packing) can be purchased on this website here.

One pound from the sale of every book goes to Mary’s Meals.

The charity supports feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities.

 

Unforgettable childhood moment – for the wrong reason 150 150 mhamer

Unforgettable childhood moment – for the wrong reason

Jimmy Cricket is a regular columnist in the Lancashire Evening Post

Jimmy Cricket relives a part of his childhood that he would probably rather forget in his latest newspaper column.

The famous funnyman tells Lancashire Evening Post readers about the time his two aunties, Elizabeth and Cassie, came over from the United States to visit.

All the family were excited with the arrivals of the aunts and even more so as they had brought presents with them.

The young Jimmy got a baseball and ball.

And he quickly ran out of the door and into the front garden to practise.

Jimmy missed with his first few swings but connected too well with the fourth, sending the ball hurtling through a front window!

“I can still hear and see the glass smashing, followed by a deathly hush,” says Jimmy in his column.

“It was a well-chastened nine-year-old that went to bed early that night.”

This is just one of the countless tales regaled by Jimmy in his autobiography.

Memoirs Of An Irish Comedian officially went on sale in April priced £11.99 as a paperback.

It is also available as an ebook priced £9.99 (unless you have subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, in which case it is free).

Amazon Kindle allows users to read ebooks purchased on Amazon.

Clean comedy

Jimmy has said he is happy to sign copies of his book at his live shows, where they are available for a discounted price of £10.

The autobiography tells the heart-warming story of 50 golden years in showbusiness – told in his own words.

Recognisable for wearing a funny hat and green wellies marked L and R on the wrong feet, Jimmy has been making people laugh as a professional comedian for half a century.

And he proudly keeps his comedy clean – increasingly rare these days –  making him the perfect family entertainer.

The book is available from online retailer Amazon here.

Mary’s Meals

His best-known catchphrases include ‘And there’s more!’ and ‘Come closer!’

He is also famed for reading out Letters from his Mammy, which have provided the material for two published books.

One pound from the sale of every book goes to Mary’s Meals.

The charity supports feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education.

Also read: Mary’s Meals: 20 years serving global communities

From bingo caller to 50 Golden Years in showbiz!

Search for a Star success signalled start of something special 150 150 mhamer

Search for a Star success signalled start of something special

Next @leponline article chatting about the past and the wonderful television showcase 'Search For A Star' which featured newly discovered talent from the cabaret and club scene (where they came to see you perform live for the audition) #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket’s big breakthrough into showbusiness came when he won a TV talent show called Search for a Star.

The Northern Irish comedian says he had previously spent eight gruelling years performing on the North of England club circuit.

“It was a tough, bruising apprenticeship,” Jimmy tells readers of his latest newspaper column in the Lancashire Evening Post.

London Weekend Television’s Search for a Star featured newly discovered talent from the cabaret and club scene.

And winning one of the programme’s heats in 1980 put Jimmy in the national spotlight.

He appreciated the significance of the timing, “breaking into televison in the 1980s when glamorous and dazzling variety shows dominated the schedules”.

Jimmy was later given his own series on Central Television in the mid-1980s called And There’s More.

It included the first TV appearance by the impressionist Rory Bremner.

Watch Jimmy’s first television appearance on Search for a Star here. (Warning: there may be advertisements.)

Read details here of the 1980 Search for a Star heat, which Jimmy won.

World’s poorest communities

In the LEP column, Jimmy also talks about his recently released aut0biography, which is now on sale.

Memoirs Of An Irish Comedian tells the heart-warming story of Jimmy’s illustrious life and career – told in his own words.

The paperback costs £11.99 and is available at online retailer Amazon here.

One pound from the sale of every book goes to Mary’s Meals.

The charity supports feeding projects in some of the world’s poorest communities where hunger and poverty prevent children from gaining an education.

Also read – Autobiography: Buy The Jimmy Cricket Story now!

Remembering Max Miller, the Cheeky Chappie! 150 150 mhamer

Remembering Max Miller, the Cheeky Chappie!

Jimmy Cricket's latest LEP column paid tribute to Cheekie Chappie Max MillerJimmy Cricket devoted his first newspaper column of 2023 to the famous funnyman who was known affectionately as the Cheeky Chappie.

Max Miller, born Thomas Henry Sargent in 1894, was an English comedian often considered the greatest stand-up of his generation.

He became known as the Cheeky Chappie and went on to tell jokes, dance, sing and write songs.

Max starred in 14 feature films and frequently appeared on radio.

Northern Irish comic Jimmy provided the main entertainment at The Max Miller Appreciation Society’s 2022 annual lunch and convention in November.

‘Two very remarkable people’

Michael Aspel OBE, the former TV newsreader and presenter, hosted the event.

Aspel, who turns 90 tomorrow (12 January), is a society patron.

The annual lunch took place at The Old Ship Hotel in Brighton.

Jimmy entertained the guests with his inimitable brand of clean comedy.

Wonderful afternoon for the Max Miller Appreciation Society in Brighton with their members, and for organiser Terry, he’s pictured here with President producer/writer the great #JohnFisher alongside the patron, the great interviewer/host Michael Aspel

In his January column for the Lancashire Evening Post (LEP), Jimmy recalls that he was reunited at the November convention with two “very remarkable people” from the world of television, one being Michael Aspell.

The other was the society’s current president, John Fisher, the author and TV producer.

John wrote and produced, among many other programmes, the series Heroes of Comedy, an episode of which featured Max Miller.

A bronze statue of Max stands in the Pavilion Gardens in Brighton, where he was born and died.

The Max Miller Appreciation Society was established in January 1999 in Brighton to celebrate the Cheeky Chappie.

Over the years, it has recruited more than 1,000 members worldwide.

Past president Roy Hudd OBE helped greatly in furthering the aims and ambitions of the Society, as did the late Sir Ken Dodd (past patron).

Also read on this website: Ex-TV presenter Michael Aspel hosts Max Miller annual lunch

Read the latest news from The Max Miller Appreciation Society here.

Wonderful afternoon for the Max Miller Appreciation Society in Brighton with their members, and for organiser Terry, he’s pictured here with President producer/writer the great #JohnFisher alongside the patron, the great interviewer/host Michael Aspel

 

Frank Carson: Memories of a cracking comedian 150 150 mhamer

Frank Carson: Memories of a cracking comedian

Jimmy Cricket's tribute to the late Frank Carson

The late, great Frank Carson is the subject of Jimmy Cricket’s latest newspaper column.

Like fellow comedian and great friend Jimmy, Frank was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, died aged 85 in 2012.

Comedian Frank Carson

He had battled ill health for some time.

Frank was a regular face on television for many years from the 1970s onwards.

Having risen to prominence in the 60s after winning Opportunity Knocks, he appeared in popular TV series such as The Comedians and Tiswas.

One of his trademark lines was “It’s the way I tell them!”.

Another one was “It’s a Cracker!”.

Jimmy’s column relives Frank’s famous career and their great friendship.

He posted a grab of the newspaper piece on social media.

And he told his friends and followers: “Hi Folks! My tribute via @leponline and @The_Gazette to a much-loved comedian and friend whom we all sadly miss! #keepvarietyalive.”

Also read: Memorial concert to Frank Carson

 

Who was Jimmy’s hero while growing up in Belfast? 150 150 mhamer

Who was Jimmy’s hero while growing up in Belfast?

Hi folks! Here is my July @leponline & @The_Gazette article, where I share my story of while growing up in Belfast, I had dreams of a life on the stage! #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket has revealed who his hero was while he dreamed as a child of a career on stage.

The popular Irish comedian gives the answer in his latest newspaper column.

He says: When I was growing up in Belfast in the fifties, there were lots of heroes to which you could hitch your wagon.

Elvis was turning pop music on its head, John Wayne was giving the baddies their comeuppance on the big silver screen and Lucile Ball was taking physical comedy to new heights with her television sitcom, I Love Lucy.

However, I didn’t have to go far to find my hero.

He was right there in the school I went to – St Patrick’s Secondary School on the Antrim Road.

His name was Tommy Kelly – or Tucker to his friends.

And why was I so besotted with him?

Because, Tommy Tucker Kelly, at the ripe old age of 12, was appearing in pantomime in the Grand Opera Theatre, Belfast.

The panto ran for six weeks.

It boasted lavish sets, dazzling costumers, a seven-piece orchestra in the pit and families came from all over Northern Ireland to see it.

This particular production of Cinderella, in 1957, starred Des O’Connor as Buttons.

Running gag

I saw it three times.

Tommy played the shorter of the two Brokers Men and every time they’d both come on stage, he’d say: I want to sing.”

And his tall, gangly partner would shout: “No!”

This became a running gag, with the audience becoming more and more vocal in their support for Tommy to be allowed to exercise his vocal chords.

Finally, in the second half, the big guy relents and Tommy regales the crowd with a wonderful animated version of He’s Got The Whole World, which brings the house down.

I couldn’t believe he was just another pupil just like me.

Because he wasn’t in my class, I was much too shy to approach him.

I’d gaze forlornly out of the classroom window as he’s be excused lessons and head out of the school gates on his way to do a matinee performance.

Tommy finished up appearing on the famous television pop show of the day – The Six Five Special.

Enormous talent

In 1998, when I went over to play Button in Cinderella at the Grand Opera House, I was curious to find out how Tommy was, and to invite him to the panto.

It turns out he’s become an astute businessman who was now the proud owner of three fish and chip shops.

We became friends and three years later I went back to play in Jack and The Beanstalk. at the same theatre.

I got his eight-year-old daughter Rachel up to sing one night in the finale – the reaction of the audience proved she’d inherited her dad’s enormous talent.

Like all good pantomimes, this has a happy ending because that little girl, Rachel Tucker, is now a star in West End musicals.

You could say she’s a chip off the old block.

Also read: Second visit of 2022 to Blackpool’s Lyndene nears!