When comedian Jasper Carrott first appeared on TV it was in a local BBC football programme called The Golden Game.

Twelve months later he was on Top of the Pops to perform his top five single Funky Moped / Magic Roundabout.

“DJs used to play it while they went to the loo,” laughs Jasper, now 69.

“I only ever performed Funky Moped live twice and it was the first song to chart that wasn’t musical.

“I told the Top of the Pops producer I would not appear with a moped on TV, but they got one anyway and I refused.

“I thought I would send myself up instead and got a white, Las Vegas-style suit with white shoes.”

If you want a laugh, check it out on YouTube – the channel from which there is no escape.

Jasper’s showbusiness career began in 1969 when he launched The Boggery, a folk club in Solihull, with friend Les Ward, who died last year.

But becoming a stand-up happened by accident.

“I thought my career would be as an entrepreneur, manager, promoter,” he says.

“For three years my agency was losing money so I kept it going with my entertainment work.

“I thought I would give stand-up a go for two years and it became a career.”

One of his best moments was organising the legendary 1986 Heart Beat charity gig at the NEC – and finding that fellow Brummie Jeff Lynne was able to bring along his friend George Harrison.

“George said ‘Hello’ to me in the Green Room. He actually knew who I was. Now I can say I’ve played with one of The Beatles.

“It was clear when George died (in 2001) that Jeff had lost a great pal,” says Jasper.

The Heart Beat 86 show with George Harrison was one of Jasper Carrott's career highlights
The Heart Beat 86 show with George Harrison was one of Jasper Carrott's career highlights
 

By the mid 1980s, Jasper’s mostly London-based TV career was in full swing but he was beginning to realise that home is where the heart is – and he has continued to live close to Birmingham with former journalist wife Hazel ever since.

“I did a 1984 TV special for HBO in the US which is amazing when you think about it,” he recalls.

“People were telling me I could have a career over there, but I like it here in Birmingham where I’m an individual, not a celebrity. I go on holiday with friends who are ordinary people from accountants to panel beaters and if I’ve known you for 30 years you’re a new friend.

“The only place to match Birmingham as a place to live in this country is the Wirral.”

Jasper’s record-breaking 14-night run at the NIA was 10 years ago this year.

Interestingly, he’s moved away from thinking that bigger is better.

“If people go to see Michael McIntyre now, they might end up watching an ant on stage – or on the show’s big screen as if he’s on their TV.

“So, yes, there is an element of guilt there.

“At least we ‘only’ had 5,000 people a night so you could tell what colour of jacket I was wearing.”

Next Thursday he will compere a 4,000 capacity event in Hyde Park called British Summer Time.

Tim Minchin and his Band will headline a bill including Alan Davies, Nina Conti, Milton Jones and Gina Yashere.

Jasper will then co-star with impressionist Alastair McGowan in an hour-long section of Oxfordshire’s Henley Festival on July 13.

He then goes back on tour in Stand Up & Rock with childhood friend Bev Bevan.

Trevor Burton (The Move), Joy Strachan-Brain (Quill) and Geoff Turton (The Rockin’ Berries) will be alongside them for the three-month tour from September 4.

Lasting until December 5, there are shows from Leeds to Yeovil and Rhyl to Skegness as well as Birmingham, Solihull, Redditch, Wolverhampton, Stratford-upon-Avon and Lichfield (five nights from November 11-15).

“For the tour, I’m writing some new stuff about getting old and the internet,” says Jasper.

“I’ll also do a couple of routines that are older favourites in the course of 40 to 45 minutes. Complete with the visuals we have, people are taken on a journey.

“From the shows we’ve done so far, we would have had a 100 per cent rate of standing ovations if only 100 per cent of the people in the audience could stand!”

The biggest crowd Jasper has performed in front of was 25,000-strong at Althorp, a year after the Princes of Wales had died.

“I thought I was compering that with three or four others, but, when I got there, I was the only one,” he recalls.

“David Hasselhoff was there and he gave me a signed photo, so I gave him one of mine but he didn’t seem too amazed.

“When I started to run out of material I began to sing some of the songs I knew from the 60s and 70s by the likes of Cliff and The Eagles and the crowd sang along.

“I used to run through Hyde Park when I was working in London in the days when I did marathons.

“I’ve never seen an event there, though, because I’m not a big festival goer.

“Even though people tend to have a ‘Dunkirk spirit’, I just hope it doesn’t rain. I once performed at Ragley Hall to 2,500 umbrellas, risking life and limb with electricity on stage.

“In conditions like that, you either have to revel in one-upmanship or sympathise and offer a rebate.

“Your timing has to be different with a big crowd, to allow for the sound of your voice to travel out and the laughter to come back.

“It’s only milliseconds, but you have to take your time.

“Forty years of compering gives you techniques and tips that you learn. If one act comes off with energy get the next one on quick, or build it back up so they can start on a high.

“You can’t stay on too long yourself or the audience starts to get impatient so you have to judge it very carefully.’’

He adds: “I don’t get nervous before shows, more apprehensive.”

Now a patron of the new Library of Birmingham, Jasper has a keen interest in his home city’s development. He says the library is a ‘‘magnificent’’ building that will define the city for the next 25 years. “It’s got everything you need... including books!

“We’re a very Forward city. When we built the Bull Ring in 1964, everyone else copied it, so we knocked it down and built a new one.

“Trams? I don’t know enough about the Metro to know if we need it or not.

“HS2? I can hear both sides but I don’t know if we need to travel faster in the electronic age and it’s already affecting some house prices. But people probably once said we didn’t need motorways.

“What we do know is that it will probably cost three times as much as they say it will and whether we build it or not I can take the mickey out of someone either way. I’m a comedian.”

The entertainer he most admires ‘‘without a doubt’’ is Dudley-born comedian Lenny Henry.

“I thought he did well in the film True Identity and that he might have had more opportunities,” says Jasper.

“He’s a good actor, as his Shakespeare work proves.

“When he started off at 17 he was one of only two black comics and he was criticised for the way he first started to get laughs from a white audience.

“But he worked his way through and he’s still around, big time.”

Jasper says he met the late Rik Mayall twice – once when they spent five days together in Majorca while shooting an in-house commercial for Thomson Holidays and then when Rik wrote the Dave The Cardboard Box sketch for Carrott’s Lib.

“We got on well but he was very quiet. I never saw him being interviewed,” says Jasper.

He will be giving Monty Python’s reunion at The O2 in London a wide berth. Should they have reformed, I ask.

Birmingham-based comedian Jasper Carrott
Birmingham-based comedian Jasper Carrott

“If they’re doing it for any reason other than money, then no,” he says.

“If they want the money, fine.

“But I won’t be going. They can’t possibly recreate what they had.”

Back at home in Lapworth, Jasper has two labradors, Louis, 15, and Eve, a former breeding bitch for Guide Dogs For The Blind, now retired after having 43 puppies.

“Louis is getting on a bit – he needs palliative care,” says Jasper. “Eve is living the kind of life she deserves after 43 puppies.

“We don’t use commercial dog food but get fresh, hormone-free meat from Scotland and cook that.

“So Eve’s in doggie heaven, though not literally because she’s still alive!”

A father of four – The Office star Lucy is 41, Jenny (39), Hannah (38) and Jake (34) – Jasper now has six grandchildren.

Having read Sting’s recent proclamation that he wouldn’t be leaving his fortune to his children, Jasper concurs.

“I understand what he means,” he says.

“If you give your children too much, they stop trying to achieve.

“I think you tell your children that you can make their lives comfortable, but you are not going to support it.”

As well as his stand-up career, Jasper has made a string of hit TV series including Carrott’s Lib, Carrott Confidential, Canned Carrott and Commercial Breakdown.

His wider passion for doing things his own way wherever possible led him to become a director of production company Celador.

Four years ago, a California jury awarded $269.4 million in damages to Celador International Ltd in a row over the show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

The jurors agreed that Disney’s Buena Vista Television and ABC breached an agreement that entitled Celador to 50 per cent of the profits from the programme.

“The Celador (money) has made my family more secure, but it hasn’t changed my life,” says Jasper.

“I still keep my feet on the ground.

“We had an 11-year battle with Disney which cost $11 million between us which we could have lost.

“When you take out what we had to put up, 45 per cent tax and how many times it was divided it doesn’t add up to a lot.”

From running marathons, Jasper now plays golf and swims three times a week to keep supple.

“It was an eye-opener for me when I read that keeping moving is as important as fresh air, clean water and good food.

“So I keep moving.”

He will be 70 in March but has no problem with that other than trying to work out how to celebrate – having gone to Warwick Castle for his 50th and been joined by 30 friends in Kenya for his 60th.

“If anything changes (with my health) I’ll deal with it when it comes but you can’t worry about old age. Worrying is a problem in itself. Live every day.

“In your brain, you are always 27, that doesn’t change. If you go up the stairs panting you think: ‘Why is that? Is it something I ate?’.”

Jasper says he has no plans to write an autobiography to coincide with his birthday milestone.

“With a book you have to dish the dirt, and that’s not something I wish to do now.

“And, five years after you are dead, nobody knows who you are.

“Who remembers Dick Emery or Sid Field... very few people know who he was.

“It’s all very transient. You have to be a Shakespeare to be remembered in 400 years’ time.”

Surely today’s digital technology will ensure that Jasper has an afterlife longer than most of his light entertainment predecessors?

“In the old days success was about mystique. Who was the real Marilyn Monroe?

“You never knew who comedians were – you had to go to see them live, people like Max Miller.

“Now there are hundreds out there and I can’t watch most of them. I don’t want to be too influenced.”

* Stand Up & Rock tickets are available from 0121 323 2200 or www.brianyeates.co.uk and include a show at Birmingham Town Hall on Tuesday, October 21 (0121 345 0600).