Roy Chubby Brown is back at the Sunderland Empire this month. Katy Wheeler speaks to the controversial comic about his love affair with Wearside.
He’s the Marmite of mirth, his rude and crude brand of banter loved and loathed in equal measure.
But Roy Chubby Brown doesn’t let controversy stand in his way.
His humour, viewed by some as offensive, rarely makes it onto mainstream TV, yet his DVD sales run into millions and he’s constantly touring, travelling up to a thousand miles a week with his often-shocking jokes about news, race and gender in tow.
He’s been to Sunderland countless times as a regular on the club circuit during the establishments’ heyday and, more recently, at the Sunderland Empire.
Middlesbrough-born, the comedian says he always receives a warm Wearside welcome.
“I’ve been coming to Sunderland for 40 years,” he said. “I first fell in love with Sunderland when Bob Stokoe ran on the pitch.
“I have lots of friends up there, in Farringdon and Red House Estate. I know so many people there, that if I had a bad gig I’d be upset.
“It takes a while to build up that audience. At first an audience are suspicious of you, then they say ‘oh, it’s just Chubbs’ and then you can get away with more.
“You know, there was a book out about the bluest and dirtiest comedians and I was at No.1. I was quite proud of that.”
His new show, Don’t Get Fit, Get Fat Live, sees him turning headlines from newspapers into punchlines, but while his jokes may change, Chubby says his type of humour remains.
Roy, who lives near Northallerton, said: “I get all the papers and take a look at things. I have topical jokes mixed in with the classics.
“I don’t write them on note pads, I write them on boards. I have a shed full of boards.”
He added: “Things go in stages. There was music hall, then that went. Then there was clubland, then there was alternative comedy. Then comedians were just telling stories and the audience were coming up with the punchlines or having to work out what the endings were themselves.
“There were alternative comedians around in the late 80s who I just didn’t find funny.
“Now they’ve gone back to joke telling. I wish I could do alternative humour, but it’s one-liners I do. I’m old style, like Bobby Thompson.”
It’s a brand of humour that was honed in North East workingmen’s clubs.
“For the first 25-30 years I did clubs,” he said. “There isn’t a club in Sunderland I haven’t been to, Grindon Broadway, Farringdon, I’ve done them all.
“Back then you’d do two clubs in a morning and two in a night. That’s what people did: go to the club for a fag. But young people don’t want to play bingo these days.”
This year Roy, born Royston Vasey, turned 70 but he says being a pensioner hasn’t slowed him down.
“People say ‘why don’t you retire’, but when people retire they go for long walks, they paint, they play bowls. But all I’ve done for 46 years is tell jokes, I love thinking of things to say. It keeps my memory going.
“Now I’m 70, you tend to put jokes in about your age, about how non sexual you are, how you’ve become ugly.
“All my mates at the pub were saying I should get an award, because I answered back to the wife the other day.
“I don’t pull any punches, I call a spade a spade. People have stopped saying things because of political correctness.
“I don’t let that stop me, but I make sure people know it’s a joke. It’s not like people go to see a fight film and go out and fight people.
“They come out of the theatre and they go back to reality.
“They come out and think ‘eee, I can’t believe he said that’, then they just forget about it.”
Over the years, Roy says he’s been booked to appear on primetime TV, only for high-profile comedians to refuse to appear alongside him.
He said: “People think I don’t have any brains, that I’m going to go on there ‘effing’ and ‘jeffing’ and ‘c’ing’ and ‘b’ing’, but that’s my stage persona, my stage act. My mother and father certainly never heard me swear.”
But one thing he can count on, is touring his live act.
“We are always touring. We have a week off in June, a week off in September and week off at Christmas,” he said. “There’s five of us all together on tour, living off my immoral earnings.
“I get nice little surprises. I played Wayne Rooney’s birthday party in Manchester just before Christmas, which was good fun,” he said. “You know, I have 30 DVDs out, with an hour on each one, and there’s not two jokes the same.”
Love him or hate him, there’s no denying there’s only one Roy Chubby Brown.
•Roy Chubby Brown plays Sunderland Empire on March 28. The show is for audience members aged 18 and over. Tickets are priced from £23.90 from Tel. 0844 871 3022.
We’ve got a pair of tickets to give away to next week’s show. To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: where was Roy Chubby Brown born?
Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk.
Closing date: March 26.