COUNT ARTHUR STRONG | INTERVIEW
From cookery to crooning, there’s nothing that self-proclaimed doyen of light entertainment Count Arthur Strong can’t do. Turning his hand to stargazing, the legendary comedy creation blathers to Sam Pryce.
Your new touring show, Is There Anybody Out There?, is all about astronomy and the mysteries of the universe. As a “doyen of light entertainment”, what insights can you offer us into these subjects that people like, say, Brian Cox or Carl Sagan cannot?
Well I’ve got a telescope for a start. And a book on astronomy. Or astrology? Whichever one of them it is. And I bet neither of them know all the planets in order from the sun. Mars, Jupiter, February, July, Mothering Sunday, Whitsuntide, Youranus, Pluto, Daffy Duck and the other one. See.
When did you first become interested in the stars and the planets and whatnot?
When I switched the telly on and saw Brian Cox making a fortune for doing next to nothing. And how do we know what he’s telling us is true? I thought, “I could do that!”
Have you ever seen an alien or a UFO?
I’ve seen both. Though I must admit I saw Alien by mistake. I thought I was going to see The Sound Of Music but I went in screen four instead of screen 14. The first inkling that there was something funny going on, was when John Hurt came out of her stomach. I remember thinking, “That’s not Christopher Plumber. And what’s happened to Climb Every Mountain?” I got my money back though. Eventually.
You decided to call your memoirs Through It All I’ve Always Laughed. But was there any point in your topsy-turvy, glamorous life that was not a laughing matter? Have you really always laughed through everything?
Yes. Apart from these questions. And Mrs Brown’s Boys.
Having had success on radio, TV and the stage, which of these do you like doing the most and why?
The one I like doing most is whichever of the three I’m currently doing. Also, you forgot to mention my writing. I am, of course, a published author and writer. My latest novella Codename Rattlesnake has just come out to raving revues. It’s the first volume of my wonderful Inspector Marsden Mysteries. And everybody I’ve given one to says she really likes it.
What is the touring life like for a performer of your advanced age? I imagine it’s rather challenging.
I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at? I’ve taken to touring like a duck I have. And who are you calling old? Come over here and say that.
Do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions?
No, I don’t. Apart from saluting magpies. But that’s not a superstition. I just do it because I think I might have some bad luck if I don’t. And whistling in the dressing room. If you do that you have to go out of the room, turn around three times and eat some coal. I don’t know why? But we all do it. Sometimes there’s quite a queue. And coal’s not cheap you know.
You’re a man of many talents, from ventriloquism to cookery to crooning. Is there anything you can’t do?
No. There is literally nothing I can’t do. You name it, I’ll have a go at it. Hang gliding, boxing, knitting, whatever. As long as the money’s right. I’m not an idiot. Call my agent and we’ll sort something out.
And finally, we know that you have an affection for your native Doncaster. But can you tell us about any of your fond memories of performing in Cardiff or indeed Wales?
Oh, me and the Welsh go back a long way. I’ve played all the major cities in Wales. Swansea, Cardiff, Glasgow, Vienna. I would say though that my favourite theatre there is the wonderful Swansea Grand. Oh yes, I shall be tucking into my usual plate of haggis and porridge after the Swansea show alright! I literally can’t wait for that.
Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, Fri 7 Feb. Tickets: £22. Info: 029 2064 6900 / www.shermantheatre.co.uk Grand Theatre, Swansea, Thurs 5 Mar. Tickets: £23.50. Info: 01792 475715 / swansea.gov.uk/swanseagrandtheatre