Jim Bowen was so much more than just the host of Bulls­eye

He was the star of one of TV’s most un­likely hit quiz show, but as David Clay­ton re­mem­bers, the late Jim Bowen was also an ex­tremely tal­ented co­me­dian.

Let's Talk - - Contents -

E very­one knew him for Bulls­eye, the TV game show based on darts, but for me he was one of the funniest stand-up comics of his age.

I’m gen­uinely sad we lost Jim Bowen back in March, be­cause he made me laugh and laugh, and what’s more he used to stay around our house when he vis­ited Nor­wich.

Jim made his name on The

Jim was a funny man telling funny sto­ries!

Co­me­di­ans TV show which burst on to the screen in the early 1970s and cat­a­pulted many comics to na­tional fame – among them Dug­gie Brown, Mike Reid, Frank Car­son and Bernard Man­ning.

Jim was in that eclec­tic mix of gag-tell­ers and all of them found rich pick­ings fill­ing the coun­try’s cabaret clubs be­cause of their new-found fame. Many of them came to The Talk in Nor­wich where I was the DJ and I met them all, but Jim stayed at our house sim­ply be­cause he needed ‘digs’ and

hadn’t pre-ar­ranged them. Given my con­nec­tions with the night­club, my mother of­ten said she could of­fer our spare room. So, we had a suc­ces­sion of artistes come to stay for a few nights at a time.

Mother would try to ‘mother’ him: “Jim, will you sit down and eat your shep­herds pie!” He didn’t and wouldn’t. Nor did he have any of her rice pud­ding. Jim was the prover­bial ‘laugh a minute’. He didn’t eat much but boy did we chuckle round the din­ner ta­ble.

It is hard to imag­ine how ev­ery­one coped with­out mo­bile phones back in the 1970s. All you could do was leave mes­sages for peo­ple at des­ti­na­tions. On one of Jim’s later trips to The Talk we were get­ting phone calls from a TV ex­ec­u­tive. They wanted him to con­tact them as soon as he ar­rived with us. Back then I was run­ning an en­ter­tain­ment agency with The Talk’s com­pere, Brian Rus­sell, and we’d booked Jim, so we felt re­spon­si­ble for deal­ing with this.

Jim, how­ever, kept putting it off for rea­sons I can’t re­call other than he was en­joy­ing him­self, hav­ing a drink or two and meet­ing the peo­ple he knew around here. The TV ex­ec­u­tive’s sec­re­tary kept call­ing. I kept pass­ing mes­sages on.

“Oh,” he said im­pa­tiently, “it’s some pro­gramme they want me to do about darts.” His lan­guage was a lit­tle more colour­ful! “For good­ness sake call them back, Jim,” I pleaded. He kept putting it off. In the end I di­alled the num­ber and put the phone in his hand.

I re­mem­ber we all dis­cussed the idea over a pint or two and I don’t think we could quite work out what a game show in­volv­ing darts would look like. I asked Jim if he’d be able to do his stand-up com­edy, of which Brian and I were such fans. He wasn’t sure. In the end I think we all sug­gested it could only en­hance his pop­u­lar­ity, what­ever they needed him to do on the show. Jim con­cluded much the same ... and the rest is TV his­tory.

His reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances at The Talk night­club in Nor­wich en­deared him to East Anglian au­di­ences and, un­like other co­me­di­ans who came and went, Brian Rus­sell and I would pick a prime spot at the bar to watch Jim in ac­tion.

I al­ways thought Jim had a co­me­dian’s face, en­hanced by a pained, quizzi­cal ex­pres­sion as he de­liv­ered funny line after funny line. Rather in the style of Ken Dodd, Jim would build up waves of laugh­ter. Brian and I hung on to each other, help­less with laugh­ter. Once, we ac­tu­ally fell to the floor in hys­ter­ics. We’d heard Jim’s rou­tine and ma­te­rial be­fore, but as ever it was all about the tim­ing and Jim could do tim­ing.

I watched Jim be­come even more of a house­hold name. He was as funny as he could be on Bulls­eye and built up a great rap­port with the con­tes­tants and stu­dio au­di­ence, but it wasn’t re­ally a ve­hi­cle for his full-on com­edy. He turned his hand to act­ing in the ac­claimed Muck and Brass TV se­ries where he played a crooked ac­coun­tant. He popped up on Last of the Sum­mer Wine and, away from the screen, was a reg­u­lar per­former on cruise lin­ers.

Brian Rus­sell still runs Nor­wich Artistes En­ter­tain­ment Agency and booked Jim to work in this part of the world many times, of­ten with a stage ver­sion of Bulls­eye. Their joint love of Black­burn Rovers meant that Brian would of­ten stay with Jim in the north west to go to matches and they spent many hours in each other’s com­pany. “He was al­ways great with peo­ple,” said Brian as we rem­i­nisced about Jim’s com­edy.

“The thing is there are funny men who can tell sto­ries and men who can tell funny sto­ries, but Jim was a funny man telling funny sto­ries!”

I don’t think we could quite work out what a gameshow in­volv­ing darts would look like.

Jim Bowen on Bulls­eye.

Jim Bowen, pic­tured in Ip­swich in 2003, read­ing The East Anglian Daily Times.

Re­mem­ber­ing a great co­me­dian and friend, David Clay­ton (pic­tured left) pays trib­ute to the late Jim Bowen, with Brian Rus­sell ( right).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.