The warm-up man takes cen­tre stage

Wir­ral-raised Ted Rob­bins is the king of the warm-up men, and the co­me­dian who al­most died on stage Cheshire Life: De­cem­ber 2018

Cheshire Life - - Personalities - John Cocks

It is very nearly four years ago that Ted Rob­bins went out be­fore a packed Man­ches­ter Arena in a stage pro­duc­tion of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights and promptly sank to the floor with a heart at­tack.

But for the ef­forts of a doc­tor and para­medic who leapt forth and broke a dozen of his ribs bash­ing his heart back into life, this could have been Ted’s own Tommy Cooper mo­ment.

To­day, Ted is fit­ter, slim­mer - down from 22 stones at his most portly to 16 stones - and still do­ing what he’s al­ways done best... mak­ing peo­ple laugh. A vet­eran of over 20 pro­fes­sional pan­tos, he’s pulling on his corsets to play the dame in Stock­port Plaza’s Sleep­ing Beauty.

‘It had a huge ef­fect on me, hope­fully for the good,’ say Liver­pool-born Ted, re­flect­ing on his heart at­tack at home. But his re­cov­ery wasn’t all plain sail­ing.

‘I had my heart surgery and, not long af­ter that, I went into a very dark place. In the end, I went to my doc­tor and said “This isn’t just feel­ing down. I’ve no plea­sure in any­thing at all”. I was get­ting anx­ious, de­pressed. There was a hope­less­ness.’

But then his tone bright­ens. ‘I got help and I’m do­ing great.’

Sup­port­ing him through this process was his wife Judy, who hails from Ac­cring­ton. Ted and Judy mar­ried 29 years ago and the re­cep­tion was a hot­pot sup­per at a work­ing men’s club in Oswaldtwistle.

He still speaks of the mo­ment he met pro­fes­sional dancer Judy as ‘the best thing in my life’. He pro­posed just days af­ter meet­ing her and they started mar­ried life with Ted con­fess­ing to be ‘ab­so­lutely pen­ni­less, in fact I was over­drawn’.

Ted’s CV is al­most as var­ied as that of his late dad Wrex­ham-born Mike Rob­bins, who worked as a hol­i­day camp com­pere, singer, man­ager of the Golden Garter cabaret club in Wythen­shawe, Man­ches­ter, pub land­lord, pro­duc­tion line worker at Vaux­hall, shop­keeper and even, briefly, a pro­fes­sional tram­polin­ist.

Ted - who has four younger sis­ters in­clud­ing ac­tor, co­me­dian and singer Kate Rob­bins - grew up in Be­bing­ton and at­tended Wir­ral Gram­mar School.

One of his first jobs in en­ter­tain­ment was as com­pere in a per­form­ing dol­phin show in Porth­cawl, run by his dad.

Ted tried nurs­ing, teach­ing, worked as a But­lins red­coat in Black­pool, starred in a risqué stage show with 1970s sex sym­bol Fiona Rich­mond but then carved out a name in TV land as the na­tion’s best warm-up man. He would put au­di­ences at their ease for Vic­to­ria Wood, Des O’con­nor, Cilla Black and many more. Even TV shows such as Master­mind sought Ted’s golden pat­ter to keep the crowd happy.

‘I have a very in­ter­est­ing re­la­tion­ship with John Humphrys,’ says Ted. ‘I’m like the Fool to his Lear.’

There was the odd big break which made Ted star of the show rather than warm-up man, for in­stance, the 1984 Satur­day night Granada TV show Some You Win. Ted can still quote, word for word, Nina Myskow’s with­er­ing News of the World cri­tique of his per­for­mance, in which per­haps the least of­fen­sive phrase was ‘hugely tal­ent­less’.

‘The best thing to come out of that for me was work­ing with Ken­neth Wil­liams,’ says Ted. ‘He was hi­lar­i­ous and funny, strange and weird.’

An­other cru­cial fig­ure came into Ted’s life through a chance meet­ing al­most 20 years ago.

‘I was com­ing up from Lon­don on the train and I had my butty and my news­pa­per and I just wanted to nes­tle into a crook of the train and half doze,’ Ted, aged 63, re­calls. ‘This plump lad blocked my way and said: “You’re Ted Rob­bins, aren’t you?”.’

The chatty stranger knew ev­ery­thing about Ted’s ca­reer. ‘He kept talk­ing to me across the aisle and to­wards the end, he said: “Chan­nel 4 have given me a show. Do you want to be in it?”.’ The stranger was, of course, Peter Kay. Ted took a role in the spoof doc­u­men­tary se­ries That Peter Kay Thing, and then played the vil­lain Den Perry in the hugely suc­cess­ful Phoenix Nights.

‘That changed things for me so much,’ says Ted.

‘I’ve worked with two ge­niuses in my time. I think Peter’s a ge­nius, and Vic­to­ria Wood was a ge­nius. Vic­to­ria was so kind to me.’ Ted Rob­bins stars with Claire King in Sleep­ing Beauty at the Stock­port Plaza from Fri­day Novem­ber 30th to Sun­day Jan­uary 6th.

“I’ve worked with two ge­niuses. Peter Kay’s a ge­nius, and Vic­to­ria Wood was a ge­nius”

Au­tho­rised and Reg­u­lated by the Solic­i­tors Reg­u­la­tion Au­thor­ity.

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