I feel Baz’s pres­ence be­fore I go on stage


Burton Mail - - Celebrity Wellbeing -

MAK­ING peo­ple laugh comes nat­u­rally to Paul El­liott – and clearly lock­down wasn’t go­ing to stop that.

Paul – one half of leg­endary com­edy duo The Chuckle Broth­ers – has been busy de­light­ing fans with on­line per­for­mances from his gar­den, singing, danc­ing and telling jokes.

“I did dance moves in my deckchair as I was re­cov­er­ing from Covid-19 – and the video had more than a mil­lion hits,” mar­vels the 72-year-old, talk­ing on the phone from his home in South York­shire.

“My first in­stinct is to per­form, so as soon as I could get out of bed, I wanted to do lit­tle videos to cheer peo­ple up and make them smile,” adds Paul, who con­tracted the virus in March (“my wife was wor­ried I might die at one point – it was hor­ri­ble”).

As well as this, Paul is still deal­ing with the dev­as­tat­ing loss of his brother, Barry, who died in Au­gust 2018.

“It’s like los­ing my right arm be­ing with­out him,” he con­fides. “Work­ing on stage with him is what I miss most. No one could make me laugh like he could. We started out in show­busi­ness to­gether when he was 18 and I was 15, and we were never apart from then on. I was the feed and he was the comic – the Ernie Wise to his Eric More­cambe.”

The pair found en­dur­ing fame with BBC chil­dren’s show Chuck­levi­sion, which ran from 1987-2009. When it ended, they car­ried on tour­ing – per­form­ing in packed the­atres, night­clubs and stu­dent venues – and Paul is still widely recog­nised and fondly greeted with their fa­mous catch­phrase, “To me, to you!”.

Their cult sta­tus was fur­ther en­hanced in 2014 when they recorded a char­ity sin­gle, To Me, To You (Bruv), with grime artist, Tinchy Stry­der. It had three mil­lion down­loads and led to them per­form­ing at Bes­ti­val.

The broth­ers were work­ing on a come­back se­ries, Chuckle Time, for Chan­nel Five when Barry, 73, who had bone can­cer, be­came too ill to work.

He was cared for at home by Marie Curie nurses – and Paul is now sup­port­ing the char­ity’s emer­gency ap­peal.

“Baz didn’t want to stop work­ing, so kept his ill­ness se­cret for a long time. He didn’t want treat­ment or sym­pa­thy and only told me just a few months be­fore his death,” he re­veals.

“He re­ceived such in­cred­i­ble care and kind­ness from the Marie Curie team. The char­ity rely on do­na­tions from the pub­lic to sur­vive, and just as they are gear­ing up to care for even more peo­ple, with the cur­rent cri­sis, their fundrais­ing in­come’s been se­ri­ously com­pro­mised. They des­per­ately need funds to keep their work go­ing.”

Con­tin­u­ing with per­form­ing with­out his brother has taken courage – but do­ing so has been im­por­tant for Paul, who re­turned to the small screen ear­lier this year in the BBC’S The Real Marigold Ho­tel.

“Baz made me prom­ise I’d carry on and I still love the busi­ness. The first clubs I did af­ter his death, the au­di­ences just stood up and cheered as soon as they saw me. Any­body un­der 50 has grown up with the

Chuckle Broth­ers and there was so much love com­ing across the foot­lights, which was heart­warm­ing,” he says hap­pily.

“Baz comes to me in my dreams, and I feel his pres­ence when I’m wait­ing in the wings be­fore I go on stage. He in­spires me with gags. I’m do­ing a lot of the lines he used to do, and I feel he’s there help­ing me get laughs, so I can time them the same as he did. I have so many happy mem­o­ries of our time to­gether that I’ll never lose.”

Sadly, he’s no stranger to grief. In 1975, his three-month-old daugh­ter, Ni­cola, died from a rare liver prob­lem. In what he de­scribes as “the worst day” of his life, Paul was forced to per­form on stage hours af­ter her fu­neral. Show or­gan­is­ers had re­fused to re­lease the broth­ers from their con­tract and threat­ened not to pay them if they didn’t ap­pear – and in those days, they were too hard up for that to hap­pen.

“I went to the fu­neral at 11am and was on stage in Glas­gow by 8pm. That was the low­est I’ve ever been. It was re­ally, re­ally tough and I don’t think we were very funny that night,” Paul re­calls.

“I went through hell af­ter los­ing her, but if you start think­ing, ‘Why me?’, that doesn’t do you any good. In the end, you re­alise you just have to ac­cept that these things hap­pen in life, live with it and carry on.”

He rel­ished his time in In­dia film­ing Real Marigold, where he opened up about his feel­ings of loss to the group, which in­cluded for­mer

Bond girl Britt Ek­land, Drag­ons’ Den’s Dun­can Ban­natyne and cricket com­men­ta­tor Henry Blofeld.

“We all got on so well – none of us feel like pen­sion­ers – it’s only the odd ache and pain that lets you know you’ve aged,” Paul says of his time on the se­ries.

“Ac­tu­ally, in show­busi­ness re­tire­ment is a bit of a dirty word re­ally, no one ever wants to give up.”

While he was in In­dia, Paul re­vealed that he suf­fers from lym­phedema (a build-up of lymph fluid in tis­sues caus­ing swelling), fol­low­ing a rough tackle in a foot­ball match when he was 14.

“My left leg is twice the size of the other due to soft tis­sue dam­age, and there’s no treat­ment. I’ve kept it hid­den all my life – I’ve never worn shorts and avoid beaches and swim­ming be­cause I’m so em­bar­rassed about it. It was mas­sive for me to re­veal that on screen to mil­lions of peo­ple, as un­til now, only fam­ily and close friends have known.

“I hope it shows peo­ple that some­thing dis­fig­ur­ing needn’t hold you back in life.”

The Chuckle Broth­ers’ suc­cess is tes­ta­ment to that.

Hap­pily mar­ried to wife Sue for 33 years, Paul is con­cerned about the toll lock­down has taken on the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

“It’s never been known in his­tory for show­busi­ness to close down like this. There’s so much un­cer­tainty now and it’s very wor­ry­ing fi­nan­cially with no work, but what can you do?” he says.

“I’m just look­ing for­ward to get­ting back in front of an au­di­ence again.”

Paul Chuckle is sup­port­ing Marie Curie’s Emer­gency Ap­peal. Do­nate to the ur­gent ap­peal at mariecurie.org.uk/do­nate

Paul El­liott who is sup­port­ing Marie Curie’s Emer­gency Ap­peal

Paul with this brother Barry

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