Comedian Laurence Clark would like to apologise to all the people he made dress up as Jimmy Savile.
“I don’t do that material any more,” he says, referring to his show where he talked about appearing on TV’s Jim’ll Fix It. “It has completely different connotations now.
“But I am proud that I told Jimmy to get lost – you can even hear me saying it on his show – because he was being patronising.”
Since Savile’s death in 2011, hundreds of allegations of child sex abuse and rape have emerged.
Laurence’s brush with the TV presenter came when he was 14, when a fellow pupil asked Jim to fix it for a helicopter to land during a French lesson and take the teacher away.
“What actually happened was the teacher turned it around and played a trick on us,” remembers Laurence, 40.
“So really, we should all have been given Jim’ll Fix It badges, but he just had one badge he gave to the teacher.
“I was so annoyed that I found a badge on eBay and bought it for £125.
“Then at the end of my show, I’d get someone out of the audience, dress them up as Jimmy Savile and make them give me my badge.
“I often did corporate gigs, where I would get the chief executive up. Now when I’m invited back to these places, I have to apologise to the bosses.
“In hindsight, I guess I had a lucky escape from my encounter with Jimmy. Not getting a Jim’ll Fix It badge is really the least of my problems, all things considered.”
Laurence was born with cerebral palsy, a condition which interferes with nerve signals to muscles.
He uses a wheelchair and his speech is affected, though it’s not hard to understand him.
His latest stand-up show is called Inspired, because the word is one of his pet hates.
“During the 2012 Paralympics, the word inspiring was being bandied around a lot.
“I thought it would be fun to do a show that examined what that really means.
“I am often told I am inspiring for doing quite mundane, everyday stuff, like working and having kids.
“They think they are being nice, but it’s very patronising.
“My show is a mixture of stand-up comedy and films. It makes it more of a show, you’re not just watching a bloke talk for an hour.
“In one of the films, I go round London telling everyone how inspiring they are, for whatever they happen to be doing, and see what reaction I get.
“I told a commuter he was inspiring for doing the crossword. And I told people coming out of public toilets how inspiring they were for going to the loo by themselves.
“They were rather bemused.”
Another of Laurence’s films used hidden cameras to record what happened as he spent a day in London with a collection bucket. What would be the most ludicrous fake charitable cause that people would give money for?
He went from ‘Pay off my mortgage’ and ‘This is a scam’ all the way to ‘Kill the puppies’, to which people still donated.
“I went out of my way to explain what I was doing, but people still instinctively put coins in the bucket. I couldn’t stop them.
“Some people literally patted me on the head.”
Laurence first found fame when Prime Minister’s wife Cherie Blair tried to make a joke about him being a sit down comic at a Labour Party Conference.
In his act, he talks about how frustrating it can be when people try to help him.
“Niceness isn’t always the kind of thing I want,” he ponders.
“The thing that annoys me the most is when I sometimes get out of my wheelchair to walk up steps. I can manage it, if I take my time. I look like an accident waiting to happen, but I’m actually OK. But people will come and grab my arm without asking me, which makes me lose my balance.
“They are doing it out of the best intentions, which is all the more annoying because I can’t tell them to eff off!
“People are often not quite sure what to do or say to disabled people, and that is fertile ground for comedy.”
Another of Laurence’s shows was called The Jim Davidson Guide to Equality.
“It was when Jim Davidson cancelled a show because he took exception to wheelchair users being in the front row, and the theatre refused to move them.
“At the start of each of my shows, I checked whether Jim Davidson was in the audience, as I refuse to perform for him.”
Laurence and his wife Adele, who also has cerebral palsy, are parents to sons Tom, eight, and 10-month-old Jamie. They live in Liverpool but he’s a frequent visitor to the Midlands for gigs.
He met Adele at a disability cabaret night in 2002, which happened to be his very first stand-up gig.
“The two most important areas of my life started on the same night.
“I must have done well enough with my stand-up for her to agree to a date.
“I used to work in IT but I’ve been doing comedy for 12 years now. Venues are gradually becoming easier to access, though I was once booked at the Glee Club in Birmingham and they rang up as I was literally on my way there to tell me they didn’t have a ramp, so I couldn’t get to the stage. They do now.
“I also think people are more comfortable with disabled people these days – I think the Paralympics helped with that.”
* Laurence Clarke plays the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton on May 2. For tickets, ring 01902 321321 or go to www.wlv.ac.uk