Julian Clary has marriage on his brain. Not to his partner Ian, mind you. But to someone from the audience on his latest tour.
The new show from the veteran gay comic – not to mention novelist, Celebrity Big Brother winner and Strictly Come Dancing contestant (he came third) – sees him touring the country looking for a husband.
“I came up with the concept some time ago when I thought my partner, who had gone to work in America, wasn’t going to be coming back,” the 53-year-old tells Scout London.
“He originally went for six months, then it was a year, then it was 18 months – I got fed up, so I thought, ‘I’ll show him’ and I set about trying to find a husband on tour. I’ve always looked for ways of pulling people out from the audience, so this takes the form of an open audition for a husband. I get eight to 10 men on stage and put them through a variety of challenges until in the end I ‘marry’ one of them.”
Being dragged on stage is something that fills many people with horror – Clary included.
“I’m one of those people who hides at the back at comedy shows,” he admits.
“But my show doesn’t really have any humiliation in it, and I find people enjoy it in the end. Shy people are a bit mortified, but go through some sort of barrier and are pleased with themselves at the end – they have this incredible sense of achievement.”
Although he came up with the idea for Position Vacant, Apply Within two years ago, the gay marriage debate is still making headlines, and currently raging in the pews and pulpits of the Christian community.
“I would love to look back in 10 years – when it’s all fine and gay people are allowed to marry and there’s a lot more equality,” says Clary. “It’ll be interesting to look back to the people who think society is under threat due to this, and see if they say, ‘Sorry, I was wrong’.”
What’s striking about the so-called Commodore of Camp is just how thoughtful and reserved he is. For a man with such an outrageous stage persona and a reputation for acerbic wit – he nicknamed fellow Celebrity Big Brother housemate Jersey Shore’s The Situation “the occasional table” – his quiet, measured responses seem contradictory.
This was evident during his ‘stay’ at the BB house, where he seemed placid and non-confrontational.
“Like a lot of comedians, I’m not very funny or extroverted off-stage,” he reveals. “It took me a while to say anything vulgar in the Big Brother house. There were a lot of people in there performing for the cameras and I found that quite excruciating, so I went down into myself. I wanted to quit, but found myself thinking, ‘Just do one more day, one more day’.”
Once he did finally emerge – as the winner – he simply went home and retreated from the spotlight. In spite of how he might appear, Clary confesses to being a solitary person who prefers his own company to that of others.
Knowing that about himself, why did he put himself forward? “I dared myself to do it,” he grins. “Also, I knew my tour was booked, so I knew being on TV would give that publicity.” He pauses and laughs: “Plus, they pay very well.”
“But no-one I know thought it was a good idea,” he adds. “They all tried to stop me.”
So, stage ‘marriage’ aside, does Clary have any plans to get hitched for real?
“My partner and I do talk about it,” he admits. “But I don’t want a civil partnership – I want marriage and all the romance of it. As soon as we can get properly married, we will be first down the aisle.”
Julian Clary – Position Vacant, Apply Within
November 22 & 23
O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire