Jasper Carrott so happy to share a Sunday evening in York with Alistair McGowan

Jasper Carrott and Alistair McGowan: Comedy and impressions for sharing on a Sunday night in York

JASPER Carrott had decided his Stand Up & Rock gig with Brummie schoolmate and ELO drummer Bev Bevan in Barnstaple would be his last show.

June 6 2022. Age 77. Joke cracker Carrott and sticks basher Bevan in Devon. Exit the Queen’s Theatre stage left, the finale for the Lifetime Achievement winner in the 2008 British Comedy Awards. The Funky Moped now defunct.

But what’s this? An Evening Shared With Jasper Carrott & Alistair McGowan, heading to the Grand Opera House, York, on Sunday on their comedy and impressions double bill.

“I gave it up last year to see how I felt – and I missed it terribly,” says comedian, actor and television presenter Jasper, his nickname since the age of nine when growing up in Birmingham.

“I’m having a golden autumn. There’s an audience out there that’s not catered for and I cater for it. I get standing ovations, and these days I like to say it would be 100 per cent…if 100 per cent of the audience could still stand up!”

Carrott, 78, and Evesham-born McGowan, 58, who now lives in Ludlow, Shropshire, first shared a bill as a one-off at the 2017 Reading Festival. “They had a spare spot on the Sunday, and my agent asked if I’d like to do it, My first thought was, ‘Not on my own’,” recalls Jasper (real name Robert Norman Davis, by the way).

“I’d previously worked with Phil Cool for about three years [from 1992] on the Carrott & Cool tour shows, where the comedy nights felt different because of Phil’s impersonations. Anyway, my agent said Alistair would be interested in doing the festival with me, and it went really well.” 

So much so, they went out on tour in 2018, playing York Barbican in their An Evening With Jasper Carrott & Alistair McGowan format on November 19. “That was one of the first shows I did with him.”

How did they settle on who would open the show? “Alistair really wanted to go on first. I think he thought it would be more difficult if he had to build on my energy. We first did it that way at Reading, and it worked, so, each half, Alistair does 20-25 minutes, then I come on and do 30,” says Jasper.

In a long, long career, Jasper has spread his wings to star in the television series The Detectives from 1993 to 1997; play Koko, the executioner, for the D’Oyly Carte Opera in a 96-show run of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado at the Savoy Theatre, London, in 2002, and host 300 episodes of  the ITV daytime game show Golden Balls from 2007 to 2011.

Jasper Carrott, centre, and The Bev Bevan Band line-up for their Stand Up & Rock shows in 2021

Yet raconteur Jasper has always returned to performing stand-up, cracking quickfire gags, spinning yarns and singing ditties to guitar accompaniment solo on stage: the most exposed and exposing form of self-expression on stage. 

“Now then, I’m going to paraphrase Bill Shankly [the legendary Liverpool football manager of the 1960s and ’70s],” says Jasper. “When he signed Kevin Keegan, he walked him on to the Anfield pitch and said, ‘you can run anywhere on this pitch, but you can’t hide’, and that’s the same for me, doing my comedy.”

Ten years away from the stand-up microphone had passed when best friend Bev Bevan said, ‘Let’s do some shows together. That’s when I rediscovered the essence of it, going eyeball to eyeball with an audience. It stirred up all the adrenaline again, which is a very addictive drug.”

Preferring that eyeball-to-eyeball experience to playing 5,000-seaters “where everyone just watches the screens”, Carrott and Bevan did shows together for more than eight years. Now he is back on the road with Alistair McGowan.

“Times have changed in comedy. You can’t talk about anything [because of political correctness], but it’s like you have to have Tourette’s to go on stage to talk. That’s comedy today, long, hard and woke. For ages I’ve been watching a lot of comedians, and with all the young stand-up comics, I don’t really laugh,” he says.

“Storytelling is an art and not many comedians now tell stories, but I do sets with machine-gunfire gags and three or four stories with jokes in them that are hidden, and that’s what I’ve always done.

“That’s because I was a product of the American style of comedy: Tom Lehrer, George Carlin, Bob Newhart, Shelley Berman. I still don’t swear on stage, but I talk about topics that need discussing, however awkward.”

Looking ahead, Jasper says: “Lots of comedians have performed into their 80s: George Burns, the Marx Brothers, Ken Dodd, and I’ll know when it’s time to stop,” he says. “I have no ego about it. I really enjoy it, and one of things now is the nostalgia, where I go on stage and I’m part of the audience’s lives. I feel their warmth.”

A comedian to the last, he ponders his final curtain. “When I get asked, ‘what do you want on your gravestone?’, I always say, ‘I never died in Glasgow’!”

An Evening Shared With Jasper Carrott & Alistair McGowan, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday, 7.30pm. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Jasper Carrott: Comedian, actor and TV presenter

Jasper Carrott on playing Koko, the executioner, in Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado for D’Oyly Carte Opera

“That was an experience and a half! I was a bit shaky at first as I had to learn so much. Someone said, ‘you can know it, but you don’t own it’, and remember sitting down and thinking ‘how do I go about doing this?’.

“I was a pain in the a**e for everyone on the staff, from the actors to the director, really trying to glean the essence of the part, which I then really got hold of.

“Why pick me for Koko? I suppose they looked at it and thought, ‘who can we get to front this?’, when people like Eric Idle had done it before. I said I’d be very interested, and they sent the director out to Spain, where I was playing golf, to play the piano to see if I could sing.”

Surely D’Oyly Carte must have heard Jasper’s 1975 hit single, Funky Moped? “My musical passport!” he says, with laughter in his voice.

Once Jasper received the OK, rather than KO, for playing Koko,  “the rest was a long, hard slog, getting to learn the part…and learning never to do it again! I never realised how much work went into performing opera.”

Jasper Carrott on hosting the ITV game show Golden Balls

“I thought, ‘I’m a raconteur, not a game show host’, but I did the pilot and they liked it. When my agent said how much I’d be paid, I said, ‘is that in lira?’, but no, it wasn’t! I ended up doing 300 episodes.

“I learned so much about human nature in that show, about just how deceitful people are!”

Stewart Lee

Jasper Carrott on fellow comedian Stewart Lee

“Stewart left a couple of books for me at a gig after he’d played there a couple of days earlier, saying I’d inspired him. He’s not always funny but he is very interesting, and he’s probably the link between what I do and the young comedians of today.”

Jasper Carrott on the essence of comedy

“Comedy is the only measurable artform. People laugh or they don’t. You can’t tell me how much you enjoy a Rembrandt painting, but if there aren’t any laughs at a comedy gig, you won’t be performing again.”

More Things To Do in York and beyond at Easter. Hutch’s List No. 15, from The Press

Student Emma Yeoman: Displaying flora and fauna in sculptures and on canvas in the grounds of York St John University, Lord Mayor’s Walk, York, at York Open Studios

ART across the city canvas, acoustic gigs, Easter chocolates, a comedy double bill, a singing milkman and Brazilian rhythms shape Charles Hutchinson’s April days ahead.

York’s art fiesta of the year: York Open Studios, April 15 and 16, April 22 and 23, 10am to 5pm

MORE than 150 artists and makers at 100 locations within the city or a ten-mile radius of York open their doors to visitors over two weekends to give insights into their inspirations, creative processes and skills.

Painting and printmaking, illustration, drawing and mixed media, ceramics, glass and sculpture, jewellery, textiles, photography and installation art all will be represented, with works for sale. For full details, including who is participating in Friday’s 6pm to 9pm preview, go to: yorkopenstudios.co.uk.

Rick Witter and Paul Banks: Playing Shed Seven songs in an acoustic duo setting in Barnsley

Local heroes head south…well, to South Yorkshire: Rick Witter & Paul Banks Acoustic, Birdwell Venue, Birdwell, Barnsley, tonight (8/4/2023), 7.30pm

MR H, alias former Fibbers boss Tim Hornsby, promotes frontman Rick Witter and guitarist Paul Banks as they shed their Shed Seven cohorts for an acoustic set down the road from their York home in Barnsley.

Witter and Banks present a special night of Shed Seven material and a few surprises in a whites-of-their-eyes show with an invitation to “holler along to some of the best anthems ever”. Box office: seetickets.com/tour/rick-witter-paul-banks-shed-seven-acoustic.

Hitting the sweet spot: York Chocolate Festival

Choc absorbers: York Chocolate Festival, Parliament Street, York, today, 10am to 5pm

TO coincide with Eastertide, York Chocolate Festival returns to Parliament Street to showcase chocolate and all things sweet from independent businesses.

Tuck into a festival market with a selection of chocolatiers and confectioners; an activity area with chocolate lollipop-making, tastings and cookery workshops; a chocolate bar (not a bar of chocolate) and a taste trail on foot around the city to sample delicatessens, restaurants and suppliers. Entrance to the festival and market is free, with some activities being ticketed.

Buffy Revamped: Seven Seasons, Seventy Minutes, One Spike, as Brendan Murphy re-creates every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Fringe show of the week: Buffy Revamped, York Theatre Royal, Wednesday, 8pm

THIS Edinburgh Fringe 2022 award winner relives all 144 episodes of the hit 1990s’ television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, as told through the eyes of the one person who knows it inside out…Spike.

Created by comedian Brendan Murphy, the satirical Buffy Revamped bursts with Nineties’ pop-culture references in a seven-seasons-in-seventy-minutes parody for Buffy aficionados and those who never enrolled at Sunnydale High alike. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Richard Galloway in Badapple Theatre Company’s 2023 tour of Eddie And The Gold Tops, doing the milk round from April 15

Theatre tour of the week and beyond: Badapple Theatre Company in Eddie And The Gold Tops, on tour from April 15 to June 13

GREEN Hammerton’s “theatre on your doorstep” company, Badapple Theatre, mark their 25th anniversary with a tour of Yorkshire and beyond in artistic director Kate Bramley’s revival of her joyous Swinging Sixties’ show Eddie And The Gold Tops.

York actress Emily Chattle, Zach Atkinson and Richard Galloway transport audiences back to the fashion, music and teenage optimism of the 1960s as village milkman Eddie becomes a pop star quite by accident. Hits flow like spilt milk, Top Of The Pops beckons, but when things take a ‘churn’ for the worse, how will he get back for the morning milk round in Badapple’s wry look at the effects of stardom? For tour and ticket details, go to: badappletheatre.co.uk or contact 01423 331304.

Badapple’s Yorkshire tour dates:

April 15, Aldborough Village Hall; April 16, Marton cum Grafton Memorial Hall; April 19,
Appletreewick Village Hall;  April 20, Kings Theatre, Queen Ethelburga’s School, Thorpe Underwood; April 26, Bishop Monkton Village Hall; April 27, Spofforth Village Hall; April 29,
Kirkby Malzeard Mechanics Institute.

May 4, Sheriff Hutton Village Hall; May 13, Sutton upon Derwent Village Hall; May 21, Cherry Burton Village Hall; May 24, Husthwaite Village Hall; May 25, Tunstall Village Hall; May 28, Otley Courthouse. June 9, North Stainley Village Hall, near Ripon; June 13, Green Hammerton Village Hall. All shows start at 7.30pm.

Hand in the air tonight: Chris Hayward performing his Seriously Collins tribute to Phil Collins

Tribute show of the week: Seriously Collins, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Friday, 7.30pm

NOW in its fifth year, Seriously Collins features Chris Hayward and his musicians in  a two-hour tribute to singing drummer Phil Collins and Genesis. No gimmicks, no bald wigs, only the solo and band hits, re-created meticulously. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Back in York: Ryan Adams goes solo and acoustic at the Barbican

Solo show of the week: Ryan Adams, York Barbican, Friday, 8pm  

NORTH Carolina singer-songwriter Ryan Adams plays York for the first time since 2011 on his eight-date solo tour, when each night’s set list will be different.

Adams, who visited the Grand Opera House in 2007 and four years later, will be performing on acoustic guitar and piano in the style of his spring 2022 run of East Coast American gigs, when he played 168 songs over five nights in shows that averaged 160 minutes. Box office: ryanadams.ffm.to/tour.OPR and yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Scott Matthews: Restless lullabies in Selby

Singer-songwriter of the week: Scott Matthews, Restless Lullabies Tour, Selby Town Hall, Friday, 8pm; The Old Woollen, Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley, April 16, 8pm

EXPECT an intimate acoustic show from Scott Matthews, the 47-year-old Ivor Novello Award-winning folk-pop singer-songwriter and guitarist from Wolverhampton, who has supported Foo Fighters, Robert Plant and Rufus Wainwright on tour.

Mastered at Abbey Road Studios, his starkly bold April 28 album Restless Lullabies reincarnates songs from his 2021 record, New Skin, removing its electronic veil. Box office: Selby, 01757 708449 or selbytownhall.co.uk; Farsley, oldwoollen.co.uk.

Fernando Maynart: Joyful night of Brazilian samba and bossa nova in Helmsley

“The Brazilian Ed Sheeran”: Fernando Maynart, Helmsley Arts Centre, April 15, 7.30pm

BRAZILIAN singer-songwriter Fernando Maynart returns to Helmsley Arts Centre with a new band and more of his beautiful TranSambas music, rooted in South American culture.

Combining song-writing with traditional, tribal and modern Latin rhythms, Maynart presents a concert with joy at its heart and  a repertoire of rhythms embracing bossa nova and samba. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Jasper Carrott and Alistair McGowan: Evening of comedy and impressions at Grand Opera House, York

Double bill of the week: An Evening Shared With Jasper Carrott and Alistair McGowan, Grand Opera House, York, April 16, 7.30pm

BRUMMIE comedian Jasper Carrott has shared bills in the past with impressionist Phil Cool and latterly with ELO drummer Bev Bevan. He first did so with impressionist Alistair McGowan at Reading Festival in 2017: a one-off that went so well that further shows ensued and now Jasper and Alistair are touring once more this spring.

The format involves McGowan taking to the stage first in each half, followed by Carrott’s stand-up combination of quickfire gags, sketches and stories. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.