There’s more to Mammy’s favourite Irish comedian, Jimmy Cricket than his R & L Wellies. After 50-plus years in the spotlight, the comedian has drawn on his experience to pen a new stage comedy, ‘No More Fiffing and Faffing’. Jimmy also stars in the new show, which is a mixture of drama and variety. Carmel Thomason caught up with him to find out more.
Can you tell us a bit about your play?
Jimmy: “’No More Fiffing and Faffing’ tells the story of comedy double act Joe Fiffen and Jerry Faffen on their last night in summer season at an end of pier show. Things haven’t gone well so they decide to jack it all in and make it their last night in showbusiness. They perform their favourite sketches to their loyal fans, then we follow the boys back to the dressing room where they settle old scores.
“The dramatic narrative of the play is the fact it’s a stormy night and the Health and safety man wants to close the show and their agent rings them in the dressing room and offers them a reality TV show if they change their minds about retiring, which Jerry wants to do but Joe has his heart set on a new career as an Entertainment’s Manager in a seaside holiday Hotel.
“I play Jerry the comical one. A singer friend of mine Jonathan Young, also from Belfast, plays Joe the straight man, so it gives the play an extra Irish dimension. The third member of the cast-Archie the stage manager is Colin Meredith, an actor from Rochdale whose been in all the leading soap dramas on television”.
How different did you find the process of writing a play to writing sketches?
Jimmy: “I’ve written a few plays over the years, but this is the first one that’s got anywhere. You can type out a sketch in 20 minutes once you’ve got the initial idea for it, however a play takes six-months because you’re doing a wee bit every day while you’re doing other things. In my case that means taking my live solo act around the country. The Godsend for me was, my eldest boy, Dale and my wife, May. They’re computer friendly so they can take my very rough drafts and turn them into a presentable script”.
What inspired you to write ‘No More Fiffing and Faffing’?
Jimmy: “I’ve worked with lots of comedy double acts over the years especially in pantomime and they’ve always held a fascination for me”.
How much, if any, is autobiographical?
Jimmy: “In the mid-sixties I worked as a Butlin Redcoat in a camp in Clacton. I teamed up with a fellow redcoat called Chas Elliot and we did a comedy double act when the season finished. We played up on the fact that Chas was Jewish and I was Irish. Even calling ourselves wait for this- ‘Cohen and Kelly’. Although it was short-lived we had a lot of fun. I’ve drawn on that for this production”.
Who was your favourite ever double act?
Jimmy: “I suppose like most people Laurel and Hardy and Morecambe and Wise. You didn’t just laugh at them, you developed a deep affection for them”.
You’ve seen many changes in comedy over the years. What for you is the biggest change?
Jimmy: “I’ve seen enormous changes in comedy over the years. Some of it has been good, but, and here’s where I get on my soapbox, I’ve also seen standards slip and a coarser type of comedy come into prominence which unfortunately has been embraced by television Chiefs with the result that most older people have lost their respect for television and rarely watch comedy on the tele these days for fear of getting upset”.
Why do you think your style of comedy has managed to survive so many years?
Jimmy: “I’ve always tried to keep my act fresh. Even routines like the letter from my Mammy which I’ve doing for yonks can be pepped up with subjects like Brexit, iPhone, and flat screen teles”.
Your daughter, Katie is now following in your footsteps. How does it feel to have another comedian in the family?
Jimmy: “Katie is carving out a career in writing and stand-up but with a four-year-old, Jim and another on the way it can be tough. I’m quite sure she’ll make that breakthrough in the next few years. Needless to say, her Mum and I are in the wings cheering her on”.
What has been the best thing for you about a life in comedy?
Jimmy: “Comedy has given me a chance to earn a living doing something that I love. I enjoy cheering people up and helping them forget their troubles. This play is a new challenge for me and trying to make it work is enormously exciting for me”.
‘Jimmy Cricket – No More Fiffing and Faffing’, comes to the Plaza, Stockport on Sunday 19 January 2020 at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced at £10.00 with tickets for children (Under 16) at £5.00. Visit stockportplaza.co.uk for details.