Jim Davidson: On the Fringe for one night only

Jim Davidson
Jim Davidson
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JIM Davidson doesn’t do things by halves. He endured the worst year of his life in 2013 when he became embroiled in Operation Yewtree, the title of his show tells you the outcome of that investigation - No Further Action.

He then went on to win Celebrity Big Brother in 2014, the same year he enjoyed his first ever Fringe run, although perhaps enjoyed is not the right word.

Davidson returns to the Playhouse on Friday where, he tells me, there’s a last chance to see his current show. Reflecting on his Fringe experience last year, however, it’s a wonder he came back.

“I was so out of my comfort zone,” the 61-year-old admits.

“When I won Big Brother I suddenly got 145,000 Twitter followers on top of what I had before. Here was the problem I faced; there was nowhere for me to go to entertain those people.

“Those 18, 19, 20-year-olds who voted for me couldn’t afford to pay £20 a ticket, plus booking fee, to see me in a theatre.

“Chris Davis, my agent and friend, said, ‘Right you’ve got to get up and do the Fringe.’ Which was right, because at the Fringe they could come and see what I do at a fairly reasonable price.”

While it’s difficult to imagine Davidson, still remembered by millions as the host of top-rated TV shows such as The Generation Game and Big Break, as ever being vulnerable, he says performing in a small Fringe venue, with the audience within touching distance, was an unnerving experience at first.

“I was pretty vulnerable in that venue - the non-showbusiness of it all threw me. There was no stage, a backcloth with a pin holding it up, and it was all pretty basic. Now if you want to do an unplugged show that’s okay, but it took me a while to get used to it.”

He also discovered that coming to ‘Edinburgh’ was an expensive venture.

“When I found out what it costs to play here...” he says. “There’s the percentage you pay to the venue, you’re battling for poster space, we spent a fortune and I never saw one, I used to drive around looking for them.

“I was staying in a hotel where you couldn’t flush the toilet because they had reduced the pressure ‘to save money and the environment’.

“I was told, ‘If any waste does not go away, call room service and we will have it removed.’

“I was aware that people lose money up here but in the end I didn’t,” he says, adding that what he was most pleased about was the fact that other comics came to see him.

“I just want to belong, to be one of them,” he says.

No Further Action, lets him do that he believes, and has given him an idea for his next show, which will be a year in the making.

“No Further Action was the first time I actually had something to talk about, a reason to go on stage.

“A great producer once told me, ‘Jim, don’t be just as good as your last joke, let them know a little bit about you.’

“I thought, ‘Well I’m not really that interesting, apart from my sexual exploits, which always go wrong,’ but here was an opportunity to share this story.

“Of course, anyone who wanted to see it has seen it now. So I’m going back out in autumn 2016, doing the first part of an experiment - telling more stories about me, my birth, my life and where I am today, using music, slides and with a narrative, as opposed to jokes.”

If it’s as candid as the man himself it’s sure to stir a few feathers, but then Davidson has always prided himself on his forthright nature.

“Do you know, my phone was never hacked. I was one of the only ones. If they wanted to know anything about me all they had to do was go and see the act. If there was any disaster, I talked about it.

“In fact, a policeman called me up after the Operation Yewtree thing and asked me to call him. It was Operation... something else.

“He said, ‘Your name has been mentioned in some notebooks we confiscated from some reporters about hacking. You might want to put in a claim or something.’

“I said, ‘Okay, here’s my lawyer’s number, but I knew it was going nowhere because I’ve never had an answer machine or voice mail.

“They called back and said, ‘No you haven’t been hacked at all.’

Was he disappointed?

“Well I could have done with a few quid,” he laughs.

Jim Davidson: No Further Action, Playhouse, Greenside Place, Friday, 7.30pm, £18.90-£23.90, 0844-871 3014