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London Weekend Television

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.


London Palladium: My live show sketch was cancelled 150 150 mhamer

London Palladium: My live show sketch was cancelled

Hi folks! Here’s a story from my November column @leponline where I got cancelled for a show at the London Palladium, but this star studded show went on,Face with tears of joy Face with tears of joy sometimes thats Showbusiness! #keepvarietyalive

Jimmy Cricket once turned up at the London Palladium to do a sketch – but ended up waiting months to finally do it.

The popular comic had been booked for one of the shows being shown live in front of an audience and on national television.

However, as Jimmy revealed in his monthly column in the Lancashire Evening Post, things didn’t quite go to plan…

Jimmy’s column began: “It was the nineties and London Weekend Television’s Head of Light Entertainment David Bell had brought back the London Palladium to our television screen on Sunday nights.

“Renamed Live from the London Palladium, the show featured an eclectic mix of top American and British artistes.

“David loved variety and had the uncanny knack of transporting the live show experience into our living rooms.

“The show was a big hit with viewers.

“Sadly, no longer with us, we will never see David’s like again.


“I was booked on one of the shows as a surprise guest to come on and do a short sketch with the show’s host, Jimmy Tarbuck.”

However, as Jimmy recalled, one of the other acts overran because of a misunderstanding.

And as Jimmy’s sketch was a surprise one and hence not scheduled, it was his part which fell by the way.

He said he ended up watching the show from the balcony in the audience!

And there was to be a happy ending to the tale…

The show’s apologetic producer Marcus Plantin promised Jimmy a slot on the show in the next series.

Marcus was true to his word.

Jimmy did do a six-minute slot on Live from the London Palladium the following autumn.

Also read on this website: Jimmy ‘thrilled’ to host London Palladium event

David Bell: ‘Legendary maestro of TV variety’ 150 150 mhamer

David Bell: ‘Legendary maestro of TV variety’

The late great David Bell whom my generation of fellow performers had the great pleasure of working with! David was gone too soon!

Jimmy Cricket has been delving into the archives again to fondly remember those with whom he has worked.

With the coronavirus pandemic meaning no shows for the foreseeable future, comic Jimmy has been looking through his old photographs.

And he found the picture above of the late David Bell, who was one of British television’s best light entertainment producers.

Award-winning David died aged 53 in June 1990 at his London home after being ill for several months.

The Scotsman worked for Scottish Television, the BBC and London Weekend Television (LWT) during a very successful career.

He worked with many big names in television, including Benny Hill, Bruce Forsyth, Dame Edna Everage and Elton John.

Hawick-born David was the man behind most of the ITV royal variety shows.

As controller of entertainment at London Weekend Television, he was in charge of many of ITV’s most popular series.
These included The Stanley Baxter Show.

Jimmy tweeted: “Going through archives, and here remembering the legendary maestro of Variety and sketch shows on Television…

“The late great David Bell whom my generation of fellow performers had the great pleasure of working with!

“David was gone too soon!”

Read how the Herald in Scotland reported on David’s death back in 1990

From this website – Golden memories: Performing in front of Princess Diana