Jim Davidson pays tribute to Jethro at funeral in Truro
As well as vintage footage of much-loved comics – Freddie Starr, Bob Monkhouse, Jethro – Ustreme produces its own shows including new political series Left, Right & Centre with comedians from all viewpoints debating the issues of the day.
Five-times-married Jim, 68 – a self-made millionaire who grew up on a run-down council estate in south east London – was one of the faces of Saturday night TV, hosting Big Break and The Generation Game, until he was “cancelled” by BBC bosses in the Noughties.
His arrest by Operation Yewtree detectives in 2012 cost him an estimated £1million worth of lost earnings, but eight months later all charges were dropped, Jim entered the Celebrity Big Brother house and won the series with the biggest vote in the show’s history.
Here the controversial star hits back at detractors. Is he really guilty as charged?
The controversial star hits back at detractors
Are you a racist?
“No, I am not. It would be difficult to be racist growing up in southeast London. These claims come from the distant past because of my Chalky character. I invented Chalky to make people laugh, not to cause hatred. I based him on Georgie Campbell who I went to school with in Kidbrooke.
“Was Chalky racist because I did a West Indian accent? TV was full of funny accents in the 70s and 80s – ’Allo ’Allo!, Mind Your Language. It wasn’t deemed offensive. It was okay then. Doing accents was part of comedy.
“I think we’re a tolerant country and we’re doing quite well with racism, but we need a level playing field. I just read in the paper about a bloke wanted in connection with a crime who was 5ft 7 and white – they wouldn’t state his race if he was a black bloke. That’s unbalanced.”
So why criticise Black Lives Matter, leading to your clash with Diversity’s Ashley Banjo, below, on ITV last year?
“I spoke out against people attacking Churchill’s statue. I think Churchill did a pretty good job defeating Hitler. But because of that I got cancelled by the snowflakes running London theatres I’d been playing for forty years, so I was pressured to do Ashley’s show by my agents after Ashley’s team asked me on.
“I knew I’d be set up, but I didn’t realise how badly they’d set me up. In the end I set myself up by storming off the set and going through the wrong door.
“Ashley isn’t a good interviewer. He thinks anyone who disagrees with him is racist. There’s no room for debate. People like him fuel the bigots. He’s not bringing people together, he’s more about divisiveness than Diversity – divisive-ty.”
Jim Davidson storms out of interview with Ashley Banjo
Are you right-wing?
“I am a Conservative, yes, but my comedy isn’t about politics, it’s about telling the truth.
“The BBC look at comedy commissioning in terms of box-ticking. They are so obsessed with minorities they forget the majority. Nish Kumar just isn’t funny and that’s the first requisite of being a comedian – make people laugh. It’s not a university lecture.
“Comedy shouldn’t be about a nod and a wry grin, it should be about splitting your sides, and laughing your heads off.
“There’s no balance in TV comedy now. Everyone has to be left-wing. I’ve got fourteen comedians on the shows I’m filming today. It’s called Left Right & Centre, it’s like Question Time but with jokes and everyone gets a shout.
“I shot the pilot 20 years ago with Mo Mowlam in the chair. We had Jethro, Stephen K Amos and Bradley Walsh on that – now he’s on TV more times than the test card.
“People are sick of ‘woke’ and fed up with mad things like women being described as ‘birthing people’ instead of mothers. It insults women.”
‘It would be difficult to be racist growing up in south east London’
Why did the BBC cancel you?
“BBC executives seemed to resent the fact that someone had signed me. It was a case of ‘How dare this working-class bloke came on here and get paid and then have a go at Tony Blair on stage? We can’t allow this sort of thing.’
“In the end, they gave me £1million and said go away and don’t tell anyone. It was a political move.
“I was having such a good time there, but there were a few frowns about the way I and John Virgo rehearsed, we used to raunch up the rehearsals. They didn’t like that.
“But I had a real brush with cancel culture with Operation Yewtree in 2012. People can have their lives wrecked by accusations alone.”
What about the charge that you’re sexist?
“I own up to that. I was going to be an MP until they stopped them pinching women’s a***s. No wonder they’re watching porn in the Commons. I’ve put my tractor up for sale. I’ve had it washed out but it wasn’t enough.
“Why didn’t the Tory women have a word with [Neil Parish] directly? They must have known that by grassing him up there’d be a by-election. I hope Labour win, it’ll teach them a lesson.
“Now they’re bringing in more women. That’s like the fire brigade pumping petrol onto a fire. Make MPs less attractive that’s the answer. I doubt Ann Widdecombe’s ever had her a*** pinched.”
Jim in 1976
What do you think of other new channels that aren’t woke?
“I think people are fed up with wokeness and woke comedy. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella is closing early. They’re blaming it on the pandemic, but maybe people weren’t happy with it having a gay prince. Maybe that’s something to do with it.”
Is your kind of comedy old-fashioned?
“No, it’s funny. There’s a huge hole in the market for comedy that doesn’t do box-ticking. Our slogan is ‘laugh like you used to’. It’s comedy as people remember it and if you’re too young to remember it you soon get to like it.
“We treat our subscribers like a club. We got 10,000 in the first eighteen months. We’ve got an app coming for phones and then we’ll be on smart TVs.
“We’re a niche service – I have a niche, and a nephew – but we’re punching above our weight. And we’re cheap, just £3.99 + VAT a month. If you want a taste of it, catch me doing my news round-ups on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Or the specials – Freddie Starr, Jethro, all the greats.”
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You were close to Baroness Thatcher, how do you rate Boris?
“He’s doing all right. He’s made mistakes. But the government is swamped by young civil servants who all think the same, all these unelected snowflakes running the show.
“The trouble with Boris is he wants to be liked. The other trouble is he’s too left-wing, too keen to spend our money. He’s the best left-wing leader the country has ever had. Furloughing was almost Communism.”
What about reports of you walking off stage?
“Only if the sound has packed up, never for heckles. I’m not worried by hecklers. But when the PA system is naff or there’s bad lighting, I won’t do it. I drove 250miles to Devon and the place had no PA and a mic your granny used to have. The two women running said they’d get a proper PA in, but then I sat in the car park and watched them turning people away.
“It was political. They didn’t want me because they didn’t like my politics.
“I’m all for free speech. Let’s have more comedy on TV and fewer restrictions. Let people turn off if they don’t want it.”
*Ustreme can be found at ustreme.com
*Journalist Alex Belfield interviews SAS: Who Dares Wins star Billy Billingham at 6pm on the channel this evening.