Family Entertainer and comedian Jimmy Cricket begins the New Year after 2004 was one of the busiest years of his career, which included a successful first appearance in the United States where he spent part of August in Branson, Missouri. He was well received by audiences in the so called 'Vegas of the South' - a town hosting well over a hundred theatres and featuring stars such as Andy Williams, Ray Stevens, The Osmonds! He intends to return to Branson to build on this success over the next couple of years.
Another highlight of 2004 was his return at the year's end to the Garrick Theatre, Lichfield, to appear in their Christmas production of 'Aladdin.' This is very exciting because it is the first time a theatre has asked Jimmy to return for the following pantomime season after the success of last Christmas's production of 'Cinderella.'
Jimmy talked to me about his love of acting in pantomimes:-
"I love playing Buttons and to have the opportunity to so is fantastic. The role involves a whole range of emotions, which allows me to be maniac and sometimes melancholy. He is just a lovable clown and I can't help but love him."
The man himself continues to reminisce about his love of variety:-
"Theatre is in my blood. As a child I used to go with my father to the Grand Opera House in Belfast. We would climb up to the Gods to see headliners such as Lonnie Donnegan, Max Bygraves and Dave Whitfield ply their trade. I remember these bill toppers only did half an hour, so the rest of the two-hour show was made up of the best speciality acts from around the world such as jugglers, acrobats, tap dancers and ventriloquists. These guys must have worked for years to get to the stage they were at. As my pal Roy Hudd used to say 'it was two hours of pure escapism.' "People don't want to work for fame these days, they want instant celebrity."
"My definition of Bid Brother is people with nothing to do watching people who can do nothing!"
Jimmy used to have his own ITV show called And There's More. He also had Jimmy Cricket's Team on BBC Radio two. These shows ran from the mid 80's to the mid 90's. Jimmy elaborates:-
"I loved having my own shows. It was a great time commercially and creatively, but having that sort of fame has its down side. For instance some friends change their perception of you. You haven't changed and you want them just to be themselves, but things aren't the same anymore and that's sad."
"You also have the people who are running the television schedules saying what you can do and can't do. One of the great blessings about working live is that you have complete control over what you can do."
"I would like to do a television special one day for the whole family. It would be all my best bits and some new stuff, built on visual comedy do that it could be shown abroad as well as in this country."
It is believed that many family entertainers are waiting in the wings itching to be back on our screens. Jimmy is certainly not one of them:-
"There are many celebrities who are willing to sell out to appear on the TV. I'm not one of them.
"I have been asked to go on 'Banzai' and the 'Weakest Link.' As much as I appreciate them asking me they are not my scene. I am happiest whacking out the one liners to camera with a live audience to bounce off."
"There is a great deal of comedy talent about - Rowan Atkinson is hilarious, Lee Evans is great. Although when I went to see Lee live I though his language left a lot to be desired. He was funny enough without it."
Comedy was an escape from life for Jimmy. "I academically underachieved at school and comedy was really my only way out. I believe it to be a gift from God. My first real taste of showbiz was through holiday camps. I discovered them through my brother, Brian, who went to one with his girlfriend. He said the Red Coats chat to the campers during the day and sing, dance and tell jokes at night. That sounded just right for me. I soon became one."
Jimmy is religious but does not like to push his beliefs down people's throats:-
"I've worked on shows such as An evening with Jimmy Cricket and A night of a thousand laughs. It was very special to mix my professions with Christianity. But one is not prefect. I make mistakes like everyone else. I think mistakes make you stronger and make you a better person in the long run."
In a night of a thousand laughs, amongst others, Jimmy worked with Don Maclean and also Cannon and Ball.
Jimmy is off on tour again with Don Maclean and Bernie Clifton called the 'Funny guys.' The tour is heading to every holiday resort apart from Scotland and Wales. Get you bucket and spade ready!
Mr James Cricket Esquire gave a very fitting analogy of the modern tendency to ignore old style comedy and replace it with the new:-
"In the old days everyone loved tea. But now coffee is the mainstream. Why can't we have both? Everyone, from time to time, loves a good old fashioned cup o tea."