Roy Chubby Brown is a comedy legend, but he splits opinions across the globe. To some he is the funniest man ever to grace the stage, to others he is the devil incarnate.
We took the chance to find out more about the man behind the famous patchwork suit, and it turns out that he is actually a nice guy who is happy to chat about his life, career and many other things.
Hello Chubby. Can we start by asking you where you come from, I’ve heard people call you a Geordie, but you’re not are you?
No, I was born in Grangetown, Middlesbrough and have lived in the Middlesbrough area all my life. I’m proud of where I come from and I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t come from there. Technically, I’m a Yorkshireman, but Teesside best describes the area.
How did you get in to comedy?
Well, growing up was tough and I realised that I had to do something that kept me out of trouble. I joined the merchant navy and travelled the world.
It was a great time in my life, but I became homesick. I returned to Middlesbrough without a job and after dabbling in a few things, I decided to use my musical skills and joined a local band.
That was when I got the bug for performing in front of an audience.
We started to do quite well in the pubs and clubs around the area and found ourselves working further afield. I had always been the joker in the pack and started getting off my drum stool to make wisecracks to the band and the audience. Eventually, the comedy became bigger than the music, we had evolved in to a comedy act.
So you were like The Grumbleweeds and the Barron Knights?
Yes, I suppose we were. But the more we worked away, the harder some of the other guys found it. They had wives and girlfriends and wanted to be at home.
After a few line-up changes and a few leaving the band, we ended up as a duo. We renamed ourselves, Alcock & Brown. I was “Brown” and as the comedy half of the duo, I decided to wear a flying hat and goggles after those famous aviators. That was where it all began.
Oh, I wondered why you wore what you wear. Did the patchwork suit also come at that time?
No, that came later. It just sort of developed.
What happened to “Alcock”?
He just decided that he didn’t want to be in a double act anymore. We didn’t fall out, we just went our separate ways. I had no choice but to carry on as a solo act.
Were you a “blue” comedian then?
No, I was doing daft stuff. I did silly impressions and stupid jokes.
So how did you move on to the more adult material?
Well, working in the north east working men’s clubs, you had to grow a thick skin. Hecklers could be a problem, so I learned how to answer them back in a way that stopped then shouting out at me.
I started to add more rude jokes at some gigs, just to be able to get through my spots.
I was getting a reputation and my agent at the time asked me to call in to his office for a meeting. I thought I was in trouble, but what he said at that meeting was to change my life forever.
What did he say?
He told me that word had got back to him that I was throwing in some rude jokes and “put down lines”. I thought he was going to tell me to stop doing it, but he explained that “Blue Comedians” get paid more than “Clean Comedians”. He wanted me to make a decision, go fully blue or stay clean. I needed the extra money, so Chubby Brown as we know him now was born. The stag and hen shows started to come in and I was working more than ever before.
I presume that those shows were all in the clubs, how did you get in to working in theatres?
I had a roadie called Ronnie working with me at that time. He used to drive me to gigs and did my sound and music. After the show, Ronnie would sell cassette tapes of old shows.
These tapes were getting copied and passed around. This meant that my name was getting known and the clubs were getting much busier when I was on.
Ronnie kept saying how many people were coming to see me and how much money the clubs were making. My fee needed to be looked at, because I had become the hot ticket in town.
I asked my agent to come to one of the shows and when he did, you could see that he hadn’t realised how popular I had become. He decided that the time was right to go bigger and booked a theatre. The rest is history.
You have worked all over the world, how did that happen?
It’s mainly down to those cassette tapes and the videos that we released. Ex pats are everywhere and when I did shows in Australia, they brought their Aussie mates along. I love working over there, they have a great outlook on life.
You are quite controversial, how do you feel about that?
I understand that, but it’s not me, Chubby is a character, he’s a comedy creation that is very popular. Can you take a grown man in a flying hat and goggles wearing a patchwork suit seriously?
Chubby represents the working man, he’s not educated, he thinks he’s God’s gift to women and he says what he thinks.
Believe it or not there are a lot of people out there who connect to that. Those people read The Sun, not The Times or The Observer. They drive white vans or work in factories, they are real working class people. They don’t like being told what to think and say. I don’t mean any harm to anyone. I actually like most people and would dearly love everyone on this planet to get on with each other, but the truth is that this world is full of dictators, leaders and religious extremists who want to hurt others. I’m just a comedian who makes people laugh.
What does the future hold for you?
Well, I’m 73 now, I know I don’t look it! I love what I do and so long as people come to see me, I’ll carry on. I have a routine when I’m at home and part of that is to write for at least an hour a day.
I read the papers and get ideas for gags and comedy songs and routines. I can’t wait to tell those gags to an audience, because getting a laugh from something you created is better than any drug.
Do you enjoy Touring?
To be honest, I don’t like the travelling, the roads in this country are a disgrace. I hate being in the car for hours on end, but it’s all worth it as soon as I step on to that stage. I have to say that I have a great team that work with me and have great fun. I’m very happy now and apart from the travelling, I love what I do.
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