CONSIDERING that Jimmy Cricket has effectively spent his life telling stories it perhaps shouldn’t come as too big a surprise to learn that the popular comedian has put together his own life story,

An autobiography - Memoirs of an Irish Comedian - is due to be published next spring coinciding with his 50th anniversary in showbusiness.

On Sunday the celebrations for this golden anniversary will commence a little ahead of time when Jimmy stars in a special show at Blackburn’s Empire Theatre.

With his trademark wellies, dinner jacket and floppy hat, Jimmy became one of the most popular comedians of the Eighties being a frequent performer on our TV screens. He had his own series on ITV and was a regular on variety shows and panel quizzes as well as playing at some of the biggest live venues.

His stage persona may be of a humble, rather naive character who still gets regular letters from his mammy worried about her ‘little boy’ who has left home, but off stage there’s a keen intellect and a twinkle is ever present in his eye.

“Success in this business is far from guaranteed that’s for sure,” he says considering his 50 year milestone. “Actually Mrs Cricket and I had to first decide when my 50 years in showbusiness really started.

“I actually started off as a Red Cost at Butlins in Ireland when I was 20 (he’s 77 next week) and later I swapped coats to become a Blue Coat at Pontin’s but I was really only doing the comedy part time then.”

Jimmy did a series of jobs including factory work and door to door selling during the week, working the clubs at weekend.

“We decided that things really started when we were living in Stockport and I had an agent who would send me a card the week before telling me what clubs I was booked at - that’s really when I became a professional.”

Jimmy credits his wife May for enabling to pursue his dream of making people laugh.

“She was unbelievable,” he said. “She got a job in a crisp factory so that I could give up the door to door selling and concentrate on developing the act. That was probably the game changer for me.”

Initially Jimmy performed under his own name, Jimmy Mulgrew.

“I did this club in Manchester where I have to say I didn’t go down too well,” he recalls. “My agent told me not to worry and work on the act. He then booked me at the same club a year later. When I told him I’d not done well last time he told me to change my name to Pat O’Hare.

“After the second show the concert secretary asked him if I used to be Jimmy Mulgrew. When the agent said I did the secretary said ‘well he was no better than he was last time’. I must be the only comedian to have died in the same club under two different names.”

Jimmy’s early career was spent developing his own act.

“I would study other comedians and learn from them,” he said.

“I auditioned four times for Opportunity Knocks in the early days but I wasn’t ready,” he said. “I also tried twice for New Faces but again I know now I wasn’t ready.”

The big break came through a new TV talent show from London Weekend Television, Search for a Star.

“All the ducks were in a row at that point and I won my heat and in the final came second to an impressionist, Fogwell Flax,” said Jimmy.

By now he had adopted the name Jimmy Cricket - “my agent thought Mulgrew sounded too Irish and I really liked the Disney film of Pinocchio with Jiminy Cricket in it.” The trademark wellies marked L and R on the wrong feet were now also in place and an appearance on the BBC variety show The Good Old Days completed the Jimmy Cricket look which has endured over the years.

“They wanted me to wear Edwardian gear and gave me a battered old hat.”

Although Jimmy was too late for TV shows such as The Comedians, the Eighties were a golden age for comedy and variety artists on TV.

“There were only three channels at that time,” he said, “so you would be seen by millions.”

Over the years Jimmy has never been tempted to stray from his own distinctive act. It’s family friendly, he’ll often juggle or play the saxophone and there’s invariably a ‘letter from me mammy’ to be read out.

“The trick is to keep things up-to-date,” he said. “I love the razzamatazz of it all. I’m a bit of song, a bit of dance; a bit of soda siphon down the pants.”

Mostly comedians now have a different comedy circuit, the comedy clubs.

“They don’t float my boat,” he said. “I do like comedians like Tim Vine and Milton Jones because they are ‘clean’ - I have an affinity with them.”

After a career lasting more than 50 years, retirement is not a possibility.

“It’s not something I’ve ever considered,” he said. “In fact I had a couple of illnesses over the last few years and the thought of getting back on stage has helped me get better quicker.”

Jimmy’s memoir is almost complete although anyone hoping for him dishing the dirt will be disappointed.

“I don’t believe in settling old scores in public,” he said. “From a commercial point of view it would be better if I didn’t say nice things but that’s not me.”

Looking back on his career I wonder what Jimmy of today would say to his younger self just embarking on a comedy career,

“With hindsight I’d tell myself to relax a bit more, believe in God a bit more and spend more time with the family. That’s always a constant balancing act.

“But I must have got some things right. I’m still married to the same woman and my kids still talk to me.”

Jimmy Cricket, 50 years in Showbusiness, Blackburn Empire Theatre, Sunday, October 16. Details from