The controversial comic Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown returns to York this Friday. Emma Beaumont finds out that it’s not always easy being blue
“Hello darling, how are you today… Oh yes I’m very happy to be coming back to York, it’s lovely place to walk around…”
I don’t know what I expected when I called “the world’s most outrageous comedian”. A man deemed too blue for television in an age where people have sex in a box and Frankie Boyle’s dead celebrity schtick gets airtime on panel shows.
It certainly was not this soft Teesside lilt and enquiries into whether I grew up locally…
Roy Chubby Brown returns to York Barbican this Friday, with what the posters excitedly say is “His most shocking show ever”. We are told he will share his views on “the news and women”. I somehow doubt he’s a closet feminist.
Of course shocking is Chubby’s calling card and one that keeps him touring, consistently filling out sizeable, overwhelmingly northern, venues.
“I’ve been at this 40 years; had 24 DVDs out, two LPs and 12 cassettes,” he says with nostalgic pride.
“The people coming to my shows are not first time buyers, they know what to expect with me and exactly who I am.”
After a quick scan of YouTube, you can know what to expect with Chubby too. His routines pillory minorities, use the F word as a conjunctive and rouse not just laughs from the crowds but politically loaded cheers.
Has he ever thought about moderating his act? He slips into an anecdote “Les Dawson once told me, about ten years into my career, if I stopped all the effin’ and jeffin’ I could be one of Britain’s top comedians.
“It was already too late. Comedy is about categories: you get the people who entertain the students, those who amuse the doctors and then me. I’m the voice of the council estates. My fans are lorry drivers, pipe fitters and nurses.”
Maybe he’s right about comedy sticking within social boundaries. Of course you get the middle class types who discuss Michael McIntyre’s gentle humour over Waitrose olives. Private school kids get a relatable kick out of Jack Whitehall’s boarding school anecdotes.
Although whether lorry drivers, pipe fitters and nurses are happy to be enclosed within the Chubby portion of this comedy Venn diagram is another matter.
Pressed further about his comedic style he says “I suppose I’ve made my bed and now I’ve got to lie in it.
“Being blue was a way to separate myself from the thousands of other stand-ups on the circuit. It’s made me money.”
By contrast to the defiant defence of their right to offend by the likes of Boyle and Jerry Sadowitz, this is a strikingly practical, almost apologetic, explanation for Brown’s position as elder statesman of the shock circuit.
The real Roy
Clearly he wants to detach the artist from his creation, saying categorically “toilet talk is banned in my house, my wife and I do normal things; go shopping together”.
But the pride in his work is evident when he says “I write everyday: I’m always working on new material”. His favourite moments are when fellow comedians say “even though Chubby is blue, he is hilarious”.
Brown is dismissive of television saying it doesn’t show true talent. “All it does is takes what you have, uses it and then dispenses with you.” He also struggles to name young comedians he’s a fan of “Lee Evans is quite old now, isn’t he?”
He finds too many comics “very off the wall” and likes to keep things simple. “When you come and see me you don’t have to work out the punch line. People have enough problems of their own, they want to come to the theatre and relax. I’ll just tell you a joke.”
Maybe Chubby is solely a character, but he is informed by the thoughts and feelings of the man beneath the goggles.
Tellingly before we say goodbye Brown says, “I couldn’t get away with the stuff Chubby does, he gets away with bloody murder”. In that moment he seems to envy his creation’s freedom to shock in a buttoned up society.
A Jekyll and Hyde character perhaps, but the audience at the Barbican on Friday know which one they’ll be getting.
- Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown is at The Barbican on Friday November 1st
- Tickets cost £19
- More information click on the Barbican website