Simone O’Kane talks to the multi-talented comic about his time in the business, and his new live show

IT’S been a long journey for one of Britain’s best loved comic entertainers, Brian Conley.

But it is that journey which has enabled him to put together a tour showcasing his many talents. He’s in Manchester at the end of this month, with his show which contains comedy sketches and song, taking the audience on a retrospective and hilarious journey through some of the highs of his career.

“It’s the life of Brian potpourri style,” says Brian, “it’s as much fun as you can have with your clothes on and it’s me on stage all of the time.”

“It’s a collaboration of a lot of the things that I have done, so really it’s saving the audience £400, they get to see a bit of everything for a discounted price. There’s lots of comedy and you are guaranteed to have a laugh. I have not been to Manchester for a few years and they are all a good bunch up there and you can’t beat that sexy northern accent. It’s a lot more friendly up there as well.”

Brian’s TV career has seen him win multiple awards including a National Television Award for most popular television performer as well as presenting and performing on the Royal Variety Performance several times.

And for those old enough to remember his time as Nick Frisbee, he brought the catchphrase ‘It's a puppet’ into many households with his sidekick Larry the Loafer – who will also be on tour. There are also extracts from his time as Dangerous Brian, although the star admits he won’t be chewing any cars or walking on hot coals.

“The show is comedy-driven and yes, I will be bringing out the puppet, well it’s not really a puppet, it is just a sock with two eyes but it does the trick. It’s funny because the audience always get excited when they see him and they will enjoy him being out again,” says Brian who also did a lot of one-off TV shows like Summertime Special, Live From Her Majesty's and This is Your Life.

Well-known for his work in musical theatre, taking on lead roles in productions such as Me and My Girl, before going on to cement his reputation with the Olivier Award-winning Jolson at the Victoria Palace Theatre, he has starred in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and in the Olivier Award-winning Hairspray. Once his 25-date tour comes to an end Brian is performing on stage as Barnum on a year-long tour.

He says: “There’s been so many highlights that I can include in this show, that is why I am putting them all together. On of my more memorable times was when I was in Jolson, I was Al Jolson and loved that.

"That was a time when I received wonderful reviews and people saw that I was an actor and a singer, rather than just a stand up comedian. I have enjoyed all the musicals and I have kept my fingers in a lot of pies. It’s good to move from one thing to another. Pantomime is another thing that I love because the productions that I have been involved in have always been huge.”

His tour, named The Real Life of Brian Conley, highlights the comic’s years in the industry and how he is still going strong despite obstacles, including an out-of-control drinking habit.

“I am pretty relaxed and I have managed to survive for 40 years. I got an Equity card when I was 12 and I have kept it fresh. I enjoy winding down with the family and sitting in the garden. I love my family and I enjoy being a dad. Away from the madness that I used to enjoy,” says Brian.

Over a decade ago Brian gave up alcohol – he was using booze to self-medicate to help him unwind. Now he says he prefers to relax with his family, enjoying the simple things in life.

“I now love a cup of tea and laughter,” he says. “Laughter is the greatest medicine.

“Unless of course you’re a diabetic then it’s insulin.”

The Real Life of Brian Conley, The Lowry, Monday April 28. Box Office: 0843 208 6000.