The Great British Public has a tremendous fondness for smut and innuendo, which goes a long way towards explaining why we still hold the Carry On film franchise so dear to our collective heart. Comedian and self-styled “commodore of camp” Julian Clary is a well-documented exponent of both smut and innuendo. He has also appeared in a Carry On film. No wonder then that his latest tour – Position Vacant, Apply Within – has been packing out provincial theatres across the land.
I last saw Julian Clary live on stage sometime in the mid-90s, when he performed in a large tent that had been pitched (for reasons that now escape me) on Glasgow Green. Fast-forward almost 20 years and the mister – on a bit of a whim, frankly – decides to book us tickets for Julian’s show at the Pavilion Theatre. And that’s where we were last night, enjoying a couple of hours of high jinks and double entendre courtesy of Mr Clary.
Position Vacant, Apply Within provides our host with a simple comedic device: Julian is in need of a new husband and believes that the man of his dreams may be sitting just a few rows beyond the proscenium arch. Cue the arrival on stage of several willing (ish) candidates, all handpicked from the audience by Julian himself. A ruthless series of elimination rounds ensues, culminating in an on-stage wedding for the lucky winner.
Speaking recently on BBC Breakfast, Julian outlined his theory that one in every five members of the general public is barking mad. By inviting seven or eight people to join him on stage, he is therefore sure to strike comedy gold, especially given that the “volunteers” are likely to buy into the idea of safety in numbers and so feel less inhibited once they’re actually up there. Alcohol may also help in this respect, of course, and the prospective husbands are plied with Julian’s tipple of choice (and official sponsor of the tour), Blue Nun.
The mister was very careful to ensure that he booked tickets in the centre of an aisle to avoid any unwelcome attention during this particular section of the show. Even so, his plan started to look decidedly shaky as Julian trawled the entire stalls area for his prospective stooges. The mass male anxiety radiating across the rows of plush velvet seating when the house lights came up to facilitate this search was palpable. Fortunately for the mister, he was passed over on this occasion (and I sensed a huge sigh of relief from beside me). The seven chaps who were selected were all good sports but I knew the eventual winner – the manager of a Blockbusters store in Paisley – was doomed as soon as he let slip that he was there with his Mum.
Other highlights of the evening included some off-the-cuff comments regarding the inevitable late-comers (why, oh why, would you turn up late to see a comedian?!), tales from Julian’s time in the Big Brother House and a Mastermind-style quiz on Glasgow life with Anne from Cumbernauld, who came up with a couple of unintentionally hilarious responses.
Following appearances on such TV staples as Strictly Come Dancing, Who Do You Think You Are? and Celebrity Big Brother, Julian Clary is in serious danger of becoming something of a national treasure (although he modestly prefers “trinket”). He has a great rapport with his audience – who come in all shapes, sizes, ages and sexual orientations – and is a master of the dark art of improvisational comedy. We think Julian would be absolutely brilliant as the host of The Generation Game should the BBC ever decide to resurrect this old-school family favourite.
Until that day finally comes, Julian feels that dividing his time “between touring and writing books with a little bit of panto thrown in is a very pleasant life indeed.” I, for one, will raise a glass of Blue Nun to that!
Position Vacant, Apply Within continues across the UK until Friday 23 November.