“Comedy is like wine; there’s no sell-by date and it improves with age…”
Ahead of their return to stand-up, Mick Miller and Jimmy Cricket talk about a life in comedy.
Mick Miller and Jimmy Cricket are two of the best loved – and most established – names in comedy.Both Mick and Jimmy started their careers as blue-coats at Pontins, and after appearing on television shot to fame with their very different comedy styles.
Jimmy is particularly known for the versatility of his act, which includes physical comedy, one-liners and various clowning routines. While Mick is perhaps best remembered for his Noddy and Big Ears routine, which involves a radio presenter who’d rather entertain himself – with some gin – than a bunch of kids. “But comedy is like wine,” says Mick. “There’s no sell-by date and it improves with age…”
After many years working together on and off, the two comics have recently taken to touring in tandem, with each performing half of the show. James Harle catches up with the pair.
JH: So, how was the show in Edinburgh? Did you both enjoy the festival?
MM: I don’t know whether I could do it for a month, but it was a great experience. We sold out- which was a great honour for us- and we got a four star review. So yeah, we’re over the moon! And it was nice to catch up with some old friends that I know, Les Dennis is a friend of mine, Tim Vine came to see the show- I think we caused a bit of a stir!
JC: Yes, we did, we did. We were only there a couple of nights, but it’s really exciting, very different… it’s heady at the fringe, you know? Everybody who’s anybody is there, and it just runs through the whole gamut of comedy. We went up on the Friday and had this BBC marathon to do, which went on into the early hours of the morning. It was quite funny though, because when I finished my spot we had a couple of lads jump up on stage protesting… but in Edinburgh, you just think it’s an act really, don’t you?
MM: And we did the Chorlte Fast Fringe as well, and some podcasts. It was great.
JH: I saw a lot of publicity along the lines of ‘Jimmy and Mick show the younger comedians how it’s done’, that sort of thing. Is that how you see your relationship with younger comedians?
JC: Well, I don’t know about that. I was never into that sound-bite to be honest with you, James. I certainly don’t profess to show anybody how it’s done! It takes me all my time to work it out for myself. No, the marketing people came up with that one and it just embarrasses me slightly.
MM: Me too. I don’t know who wrote that – but it wasn’t us.
JC: The fact is, we were just lucky enough to be born earlier-so we’ve had more time! Mick and I aren’t far off the same age, and we started in the 70s all around the clubs, cabaret… and so we have a lot in common. We still enjoy it, and that’s why we’re still in it.
MM: It’s flattering some people think that way, of course. It shows the old-timers can still hack it.
JH: Now this joint tour isn’t coming out of nowhere, is it? You two have a bit of history together…
JC: Oh yes – we met on a series I did in the 80s, but I’ve always liked Mick and always had a lot of respect for him. When I got that series with Central Television [Oh, and There’s More] I used him. In fact, I’ve put a clip from the programme up on my website, just as a taster for the show – a bit of publicity as it were. You remember, the one with the bartender?
MM: [Laughs] We loved doing that one. And actually, we both started out the same way: as blue-coats at Pontins. We’ve been working together periodically ever since Jimmy had me on his show. It works well because we’re two different styles- we’re not poles apart, but we’re quite different acts.
JC: And with regards to the show, it’s a combination we both feel works. There’s no clash, no egotism… I do the first half, Mick does the second. Simple as that. It’s nice to see old bits like that one out from the archives and up on Youtube though- that’s a brilliant thing.
JH: Speaking of archives, has a lot of effort gone into developing new material for this tour, or is it more an airing of the tried-and-true gags your fans know so well?
JC: Oh, you accumulate good gags over the years, as you can imagine, but that’s not to say that you don’t inject freshness in. You really have to. I’ll do a letter from me mammy, which I’ve always done, but I’ll put the Olympics into it, you know… I’ll always have a very vaudeville style: a little song, a little dance, a soda siphon down the pants. But Mick has his Noddy routine, and if I didn’t do a letter from me mammy I don’t know if I’d get out of the building alive.
MM: It’s all stock, with me. It’s all in my book, and it doesn’t change too much- about 30% of it, I’d say, is changing around. But I’ll always be stuck with Noddy and Big Ears. It’s like Jimmy said, you wouldn’t make it out alive- they want Frank Sinatra to do ‘New York New York’, they want Jimmy to do his letter from mammy and they want Mick Miller to do his Noddy and Big Ears. Most of the time though, your fans are your fans because of your style and timing more than your actual jokes.
JH: Well, you’re both old hands at the comedy game now, anyway. Do you still deal with nerves before a gig?
MM: I still get a bit nervous, but I think it’s good though: if you aren’t nervous, you’re not going to give 110%. Bernard Manning used to get out of the car and walk straight on, but not me. I’ve got to see the place, scout about… see what the enemy is like.
JC: Not me! I’m gagging for it. But as Mick says, you get a little bit of butterflies before you go on, and that keeps you on your toes. Me being a Christian, there’s always going to be a little prayer before I go on… And the best thing is to love your audience. The more love you give, the more relaxed and at home you feel: they’re friends. They’re friends you’ve never met- but if they’ve paid to see you, that’s the greatest compliment, you know? They could’ve gone anywhere that night.
JH: What question have you always wanted to answer?
JC: That question calls for a stunning ad-lib! Maybe something about my good lady. She drives me to the gigs and puts up the spotlight and she sings in some of the shows, so it’d be a nice thing if I was asked more about her.
JH: Consider yourself asked…
JC: Well, I met her at the holiday camp, and she and her sister could actually sing, would you believe! She was a waitress, and then when the summer season finished I got them work singing as a duo – and they were very, very good. We ended up having a big family, and brought up four children; but now that they’re grown up she can come on the road with me. She sings, easy listening mostly. You know, Irish songs: ‘40 Shades of Green’, a bit of Dusty Springfield. It’s very nice.
Actually, my daughter Katie [Mulgrew] does an act too, and she was up in Edinburgh as well. She shared the bill with a young Geordie comedian called Tony Jameson, and they did half hour each at 1.20pm every day, and they did the fliers and everything…they loved it. It’s a different type of humour, of course, and a lot of her humour comes from growing up in the Catholic household and things; so when our family came to see the show she approached the stage with some trepidation, but we all got into it and she had a great show. So, anyway, there’s another question I’d like to answer, and have, so thank you.
JH: And you, Mick?
MM: I just want someone to ask me to do a gig at the Apollo. Yeah. I’d do well.