This year the empress of smut Julian Clary has returned to strut onstage with his aptly named comedy tour Born to Mince. The show is typically Clary-esque: campy, queer and brimming with innuendo; it is a night of sequins and sex guaranteed to make die-hard fans quiver with delight.
When recently discussing effeminacy and homophobia in Will Young’s Homo Sapiens podcast, Clary said of performing “All these things that have been a disadvantage in the past you can turn around in the comedy world.” This is certainly demonstrated in his shows: Clary, appearing resplendently in a glittering suit, treats the heterosexual world as the oddity compared to his persona’s lewd lifestyle. Clary is outrageously irreverent: the tongue-in-cheek humour of his raunchy jokes is normalised to the extent that he talks about filth as if casually chatting over afternoon tea.
What seems most surprising is the age demographic of his audience as he suavely delivers his salacious anecdotes along with a series of pornographic cartoons,. Middle-aged and elderly punters abound – you would expect a younger contingent given the explicit content. However, the veiled manner of his puns makes it soon apparent why his show appeals to an older generation; it is bawdy yet refined – a gossipy show full of pursed lips and side-eye. Clary also appeals because he hearkens back to an earlier time: he performs Broadway numbers to an orchestral track, exhibits Liberace-like showmanship and wears costumes rhinestoned to the nines.
For me Clary’s career highlight is his 1993 joke about being sexually involved with politician Norman Lamont. Clary, remarking that the leafy set at the British Comedy Awards reminded him of Hampstead Heath, added that he had just been there elbow-deep in the Chancellor of the Exchequer; the comment quickly turned the room into a wild scene full of dropped jaws and wheezing laughter. Any supremely disruptive moment like that, which was televised live and successfully enraged the right-wing British press, is truly difficult to top.
In Born to Mince the double entendres delight but they do not shock; there are no sharp intakes of breath even in this characteristically smutty and profanity-laden set. Like some acerbic courtier, who whispers his bitchy comments behind a hand fan, Clary can make his listeners blush and gasp with his barbs but what he says is never heavy-hitting.
Clary’s true talent is in his audience interaction. Other than talking about aging (astonishingly, Clary is now 60 years-old), a large part of the show involves picking on unfortunate members of the front row. Clary’s pantomime experience is evident in the coolness of his tone; his skill in plucking out jokes from thin air is truly remarkable. Clary lightly bullies a menagerie of attendees with ease – ad-libbing is his art.
The show ends with an appropriate sketch involving two male audience members and props. As erotic dialogue plays in the background, a flashy gay-o-meter seemingly sourced from a perverse fairground is manually operated by Clary to visualise their arousal. As the meter shoots up with homoerotic speech, Clary congratulates guests for their supposedly excited states – it is a wonderfully camp way to wrap up the show and a great reminder of his stage role as mincing ringmaster.
Julian Clary is just one of many comedians G Live regularly hosts as part of its comedy programme. The venue showcases a great selection of stand-ups who have often graced our televisions on panel shows like Mock the Week and 8 Out of 10 Cats. Tom Allen has performed there in the past and upcoming acts include Al Murray, Jimmy Carr and James Acaster; you can check out future performers and their dates here.