IF you were a keen viewer of comedy sketch shows in the 1980s the name Jimmy Cricket stirs up many a comical image.
Remembered for reading humorous letters from his “mammy” while sporting an out-of-shape hat, a dinner jacket matched with a pair of cut-off evening trousers and a trademark pair of wrongly matched wellies clearly marked “L” and “R”, Jimmy was loved by young and old alike for his numerous TV and radio appearances.
The Irish-born comedian’s training ground stretches back to the 1960s when he was a redcoat in Butlins holiday camps organising everything from darts matches to hula-hoop contests.
“Looking back, it’s like what young people do for these performance degrees,” he says. “I suppose the holiday camps were a bit like that because you learned how to project to the back of the theatre and to put stage make up on. It held me in great stead for pantomime and things like that.”
Jimmy may not have been a mainstay of television screens in recent years but he still remains busy on stage regularly fulfilling dates up and down the country with a wide variety of shows. I ask him how he’s maintained his popularity.
“In the 70s you’d play your cabaret clubs, I went down and did South Wales then round Manchester where I live and you get a bit of a name and that opened doors. In a way when I finished on TV I started again…”
Jimmy says fellow pros such as Ken Dodd give him a mention at shows: “Flattery is great as long as you don’t inhale, but at the same time when other pros say nice things about you it is helping the public to think: ‘Oh, lets have a look at Jimmy!’ “Obviously when you’re hotter there’s more people going to come and see you. So your whole thing then is to keep reinventing yourself, coming back to places and it becomes word of mouth.”
Jimmy’s reinvention includes an appearance at this year’s Edinburgh Festival – where his daughter Katie Mulgrew is also appearing – and a following of more than 2,300 fans on Twitter. “I try and do a joke every day or two. I’m building on that when I get to Edinburgh. I’ll obviously have people from Twitter on that so I am opening markets all the time.”
Part of Jimmy’s strength is the support on the road from his wife and his Christian faith, which he will talk about when he appears at Pontypool’s God in the Park festival tonight.
The show will see Jimmy perform a comedy routine before taking part in an interview with Chris Gidney and taking questions from fans. Jimmy says the evening will be a fun affair: “We’ve all got our flaws I’ve had a few worries and problems that I’ve managed to get through with prayer and belief, and if somebody can take a bit of comfort and support and have a giggle on the night we’re all happy.”
Jimmy defines his approach to comedy: “It fits with me because I want to work with the family and don’t want to do anything untoward and that’s always going to be part of my ethos.”
● An Evening with Jimmy Cricket is at 7pm on Thursday, August 16, at Pontypool Park. The event is free though seats are available on a first-come first-served basis. For information about this event, visit sharonchurch.co.uk