By Amy Henderson
Julian Clary has kept himself busy since he was last in Australia six years ago. He’s had three books published, performed in London’s West End and tried his hand at ballroom dancing but is finally returning to his roots … stand-up comedy.
Clary’s latest one man show, Lord Of The Mince, has been playing to sell-out crowds in the UK and has Australian fans eagerly awaiting his seventh tour Down Under.
Clary said he hopes people will embrace his mincing philosophy, claiming to do for mincing what Michael Flatley did for Irish dancing.
“I mean, really, mincing is a way of walking around but it’s also a kind of attitude to life, I think, a kind of confrontational attitude; a way of looking at the world which is slightly apart from everyone else,” he said down the phone from his London home.
It is after midnight and the Mincing Machine has just returned home from performing at a private party.
“I’ve only just taken my trousers off and I’m still in full makeup, just so you can picture the scene.”
As the host of the ABC cult game show Sticky Moments in the 1990s, Clary’s increasingly absurd and decreasingly modest costumes were the stuff of legend. From the skyscraper jumpsuit, complete with cut-out windows, to the gold lamé pirate costume, every piece was a work of art.
While he may seem to have toned down and covered up a little more over the years, Clary still has a flair for flashy fashion.
“Well, things evolve. I didn’t make that decision but it would be inappropriate to be wearing lycra at 50. I think it’s probably just as well,” he said.
“There’s quite a lot of sparkle going on in this show and I’ve got a ringmaster’s outfit. I just wear what I feel like, really.”
And apparently that’s part of the joy that turning 50 brings — freedom from the expectations of others and being comfortable in your own skin. Clary discusses ageing in his new show with candour, saying he feels completely liberated since passing the milestone birthday.
“I don’t do anything I don’t want to do now. I don’t worry about pleasing other people,” he said.
“You have a sense of achievement because you’ve done certain things. The shape of your life is more or less set by the time you’re 50. I mean, not set, but you’ve either done things that you wanted to do or you haven’t.
“And I’m contented. I’m much more content than I was in my 20s when I had all kinds of expectations of myself and now I’ve achieved some of them.
“And I would say you’re a survivor if you get to 50. Some of my friends didn’t make it, so I feel obliged to celebrate the fact that I’m here and obliged to enjoy myself while I am here.”
Clary lives with his partner and two dogs in the London suburb of Camden. While civil unions in the UK essentially give same-sex partners the same rights as married heterosexual couples, it’s still not enough, according to the comedian.
“I go one step further. I think civil partnership is great but we can’t actually get married, not called a marriage, which I find a bit discriminatory,” Clary said.
“I would like to have exactly the same. I’d like to be able to get married in church, you know. So we’re fighting for that, but Australia is lagging behind, that’s all I can say.”
Clary is genuinely surprised when he learns that Australia does not yet even have a civil unions scheme.
“That’s pitiful. What’s the delay for? You know you’re going to have to let us get married eventually,” he said in response to my explanation of political conservatism.
In 2004 Clary reached the finals of the BBC series Strictly Come Dancing (similar to Dancing With The Stars) and said the experience helped boost his self-confidence.
“Strictly Come Dancing gave me confidence to take on things I didn’t think I could do and if I hadn’t done that show I don’t think I’d have written a novel, for example, because it’s the sort of thing you think is beyond you, like ballroom dancing,” he said.
“But because I managed to get through to the final of that, it changed my perception of things, really.
“I was very nervous when I started this [show], but it’s sort of like going home in a way. I feel very comfortable on stage now.”
After perfecting his show on tour around the UK, Clary is excited about bringing it to Australia. While he has enjoyed his experiences in the theatre and novel-writing, delivering his trademark deadpan double entendres and saucy innuendo for an adoring audience is where he is in his element.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done my own show and I started to miss it,” Clary said.
“It’s very satisfying doing a show every night and making people laugh and then moving on to the next place. I quite like the energy it gives you.”
If you’re thinking of popping along to see the show, however, best not to upset the star’s mincing sensibilities. As stated on his website, ‘dress code is smart-casual but the usual rules for corduroy apply’.
“Well, you take your chances, you know. I do spend a lot of time looking at the audience and commenting and I think it’s rather nice if people make a bit of an effort to come to the theatre. You’re not slobbing around at home, as some people like to think. So yes, a bit of glamour would be nice.”
info: Julian Clary’s Lord of The Mince is at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre, April 13; Sydney’s State Theatre, April 20 and the Tivoli in Brisbane, April 21.