Havering comedian Jimmy Jones: 50 years in showbiz
IF there’s one thing you probably didn’t know about controversial Havering comedian Jimmy Jones, it’s that once upon a time he wanted to be a priest.
That was until his equivalent of Simon Cowell – a far-sighted nun called Sister Dominic - urged him to enter showbiz instead.
‘You’re born to entertain’, she told the then 11-year-old schoolboy. “You’d be wasted in the priesthood.”
She wasn’t wrong.
This year, 73-year-old Jimmy, who has lived in Havering all his life, celebrates 50 years in showbiz – raising blushes and gasps en route.
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He is the Marmite of comedy - the public either love him or loathe him – and has courted his fair share of controversy, with accusations of racism and sleaze.
It is something he vehemently denies.
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“I’m outrageous,” he explains, “but never blue. Comedy is about pushing the boundaries and I was one of the first to do that. I used to do a West Indian accent as part of my routine, but I can’t do that anymore because the PC brigade accuses me of racism. They don’t stop me doing my Irish accent though, do they?”
He cites his comedic heroes as Max Miller, Bob Monkhouse, and old friend Frank Carson.
And also Bernard Manning: “I get his comedy,” he says, with perhaps a hint of defensiveness.
Jimmy started his career as a club circuit singer, before gradually drifting from compereing into comedy.
His first gig, aged 23, was in Dagenham Working Men’s Club, in Broad Street.
“It went brilliantly” he says, “And I never looked back. It was a stag show and I enjoyed the buzz - I still do.”
It kick-started a long and successful career which spanned famous East End boozers – including specially-requested gigs from the Krays in their infamous Regency Club, in Stoke Newington, - Las Vegas, and tour after tour of sell-out shows.
However, Jimmy, who has had much success on video and DVD, is given a wide berth by TV execs, who still consider his material too offensive.
Despite this, in 1990 Jimmy was presented with the prestigious Mirror Club – Comedian of the Year Award, the first non-TV comedian to receive the accolade.
The twice-married dad-of-six, who currently lives in Marlborough Gardens, Upminster, remains a tour de force - as well as a Havering boy through and through.
“The people round here love me and understand my comedy,” he says. “It’s such a great place to live and will always be home to me.”
His new autobiography, Now This is a True Story - charting his success - has recently been published.
The Recorder has two tickets to give away to readers for Jimmy’s only Essex gig this year, at the Circus Tavern, in Purfleet, on Friday December 10, including a chance to meet the man himself backstage
Runners-up prizes are two signed copies of Now This is a True Story.
For a chance to win, answer this question by Tuesday November 30: Where did Jimmy perform his first stand-up gig?
Send your answers by email only to: email@example.com, entitled Jimmy Jones Competition.
The first four right answers drawn from the hat will win.