Julian Clary's UK Tour Part Two

25 April-23 May 2020

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Born To Mince

Review: Julian Clary at the Brighton Dome

When Clary is working the room, when he is mixing the expected with the spontaneous, he is pure entertainment

Dominic Maxwell - The Times

“Hello,” Julian Clary says to some audience members he spots creeping to their seats 20 minutes late. “You’ve missed half a dozen buggery jokes, that’s all.” Ah, if ever an act knew what he is about and how to play with that idea, it’s Clary.

Wearing a gorgeously glittery black and gold suit, he starts by speak-singing his way through a reworded version of Keep Young and Beautiful that ends by making it hilariously unambiguous exactly what the gay man’s reward will be for doing so. He is, he reminds us twice, “Julian Clary the camp comic and renowned homosexual”.

He turns 60 near the end of this tour, called Born to Mince, and there is a lifetime of craft behind his ability to be so thoroughly insulting and so thoroughly welcoming at the same time. “Is there nothing on ITV3 tonight?” he asks after seeing how many middle-aged straight couples are in the crowd. When Clary is working the room, when he is mixing the expected with the spontaneous, he is pure entertainment.

The problems with his shows often come when he has to move beyond badinage and into something a bit more like “material”. Sure enough, the evening goes flat as he starts telling us some resistible rubbish about going on holiday to a celebrities-only island. He throws in a hint of Harry Hill-ish absurdism with a big prop phone and a pre-recorded jingle, but it’s piecemeal. The musical moments, notwithstanding an expertly sweary song written for him by Gary Wilmot, are middling. His finale, All That Jazz reinvented as All That Jizz, is puzzlingly poor.

Yet when Clary lets more real world into his stories, such as his tale of tedious country conversations with locals near his home in Kent, it perks up. He squeezes in gratuitous sideswipes at celebrities such as John Barrowman and Tess Daly. It suits him. Best of all is a game show inverting gay aversion therapy, in which he brings four men up on stage and proves that one of them can be made gay. It plays to all his strengths, giving him (literal) straight men to play off. And, in passing, it cocks a snook at the idea that sexuality is something you can talk someone into or out of.

Clary is about a bit more than buggery jokes. You won’t catch him saying so, though. That would spoil the fun.