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Kay, Peter

Category: Performer

 

Peter John Kay was born on 2 July 1973  in Bolton, Lancashire, England. 

He is a comedian, both a stand-up comedian and in television and film.  He is married to a lady called Susan Gargan, has three children who he dotes on, and has gone out of body during his stand-up stage show, principally as a result of stage fright.  He finds the somewhat detached position he has when out of body – watching himself perform, helps him.  He has been known to watch himself from the wings.  And this is not a joke.

Peter Kay - Saturday Night Peter
I’ve found this out-of-body experience has remained with me throughout the years and as much as I truly admire the part of me that can perform stand-up, the other part of me finds it completely terrifying. The question is which one of them is real?

with Prince William [and his wife]

Peter is these days an immensely successful and well known chap.

He has friends that include J K Rowling and Eric Clapton, and he hob nobs with royalty.  He even gets on with one of the Gallagher brothers from the group Oasis.

His 2010-11 stand-up comedy tour played to over 1.2 million people. He has written, produced, and acted in several award winning television and film projects. He won the NorthWest Comedian of the Year in 1996.  In addition, he has authored three books.

In 2005, Kay was awarded a Rose d'Or at the international television festival in Montreux for Best Performance by an Actor.  In 2016, Kay won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Male Comedy Performance, the BAFTA TV Award for Best Scripted Comedy and the National Television Award for Best Comedy for Car Share.

On 19 July 2016, Kay was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the University of Salford at Salford’s Lowry Theatre.

Career and life

with J K Rowling

As a result of his father’s perhaps unconscious influence, Peter was steeped in the comedy tradition of the North of England from the word go. 

Peter Kay - Saturday Night Peter
My dad only wanted two things abroad: hot weather and home comforts. We went to Lloret De Mar in '82 and he was so chuffed at finding a British pub. 
'You'll love this place, it's called the Red Lion. Here it is, look they've got a British phone box outside. 
Come inside, look at this, they’re serving Tetley's bitter! And normal food too, egg and chips, chips and beans, It’s all here, look they’ve even got yesterday’s Daily Mirror and Only Fools and Horses on the television.  It's like being back home, but you’ve got the weather.  They’re a lovely couple, retired with emphysema; she won’t see Christmas, it’s heartbreaking. Here, bring that Connect 4 over, son, I'll give you a game.’
My dad would also try and take everything from home with him on holiday. The suitcase would be stuffed with things like a sink plunger, digestive biscuits, a washing line.
'Dad why have we got a washing line in the case?'
'You never know,' he would always say, 'they might not have them out there.'
He'd take tea bags and that powered milk stuff Coffee-Mate, and wrap them up in a polythene bag, his logic being: 'You arrive at four o'clock in the morning and you’re thirsty, what do you do? Come and see your dad. He'll make you a brew.'
'Dad, are we going to be alright going through customs with a bag of white powder?'
Nineteen hours we spent in that Spanish cell, it was like a scene from Midnight Express. My dad trying to make brews for the guards in an effort to prove his innocence.

Kay won his second Royal Television Society award for best actor for playing
Geraldine McQueen, a transsexual dinner lady from Ireland.  Paul McCartney

If ever someone has had to work had to reach the top, it is Peter.  He was not academically inclined – a great bonus if one wants to be a comic, but he was artistic - creative.  According to Wikipedia [without citing any references] he has a ‘GCSE in art’.

According to Wikipedia  “He took several minor jobs, including working in a toilet roll factory, a Netto supermarket, a cash and carry, a cinema and a bingo hall, which later inspired episodes for That Peter Kay Thing”. According to his biography his only two main jobs were as a cinema usher and a steward at Manchester Arena, with the addition of a mobile disc jockey. 

Both Wikipedia and his biography agree that he studied for a Higher National Diploma (HND) in media performance at the University of Salford's school of media, music and performance, which he completed.  This involved a stand-up course.

Peter Kay - Saturday Night Peter
I was on Preston train station and this announcement came over the tannoy. 'Warning for passengers on platform number five: the next train is an express to Carlisle. We advise passengers to move away from the yellow line at the edge of the platform as they may get sucked off.’
 I was hanging off the end of the platform shouting, 'Bring the train on, I'm ready.'

[for those outside the north of England, this is a sort of trainspotting joke].

Prince Charles at the Royal Variety concert

His first professional gig was at the Boardwalk in Manchester.  His first competition was the North West Comedian of the Year, which was held in Manchester and hosted by Dave Spikey, who would later be the co-star and co-writer of Phoenix Nights. Peter was last on the bill and won the competition, beating Johnny Vegas. Despite winning the competition, Peter continued to work part-time as an usher at his local cinema in Bolton, whilst performing stand-up locally.

Then the cinema closed, so Peter had to make a decision – find another job or move into comedy full-time.  He chose the latter.  The North of England has a particularly well developed club scene for acts of all sorts, although the audience are, shall we say, challenging.  If you can please a North of England audience you can probably tour the world with ease, maybe even go to Mars and please the Martians. 

Peter Kay - Saturday Night Peter
It's the end of the season when things are winding down that all the end-of-the-pier acts go and play the local working men’s clubs for a bit of extra money.  My dad's logic was that if you went to Blackpool then you could see a top-class show for half the price. Well I say ‘top class'; one of the acts we had to watch was a singer called Tony Colorado. Heard of him? No, we hadn't either. He was a cross between Barry Manilow and Barry White with an American/Lancashire Accent:
 'It’s great to be over here in England by 'eck tha knows. But eee by gum the weather sure is cold.'
 I thought, Colorado my arse. Anyway, he sang 'Please Release Me' and he was just getting to the last line when my dad was walking back from the bar with a tray of drinks, I'll never forget it, coming to the end and his big finish, he reached the last line of the sang which is 'Release me, my darling let me . . .' and without missing a beat my dad shouted out, 'GO! '
We could have died of embarrassment. Tony Colorado looked up and said, 'Thanks, dickhead' in the broadest Lancashire Accent I’d ever heard.

it is a real place not a joke - The Frog and Bucket Comedy Club

After winning Comedian of the Year, Peter worked regularly at the Frog and Bucket .  And we know he did over 600 gigs before he had his first live tour.

Peter says the strangest gig he ever did was at Tankersley Manor, Barnsley – principally because of the other acts, which included four men running around dressed as lizards, then a horse in a one man wild west drama, then a man who vomited back car keys whilst the people in the audience were on the pudding course of their dinner.  Such is Barnsley, they like their humour quirky.

His first foray into TV came as a warm up for the Parkinson show, but in 1987 he went to Edinburgh to compete in the finals of the BBC’s New Comedy awards.  He didn’t win the BBC competition, but he did win Channel 4s So you think you’re funny.

The key to understanding Peter’s appeal, is to realise that it is in the almost surreal pictures he paints. He is possibly our only current surreal comedian, although Les Dawson used to do the same.

Peter Kay - Saturday Night Peter
when the big summer holidays were over you’d go back to school in September …. Then the teacher would come on stage in assembly: 'Come on now, quiet everybody, simmer down, you’re not on your holidays any more' and there’d be one lad wearing trunks and a snorkel. 'Eh? What? Nobody told me, ......'

He is also a superb observer of the apparently ordinary, but in fact really extraordinary.  Everything that people take for granted, he observes and sees the extraordinary

Peter Kay - Saturday Night Peter
Do you ever dip your biscuit in your tea and it breaks Do you ever do that? I swear to God, no matter how old you get in life, you never quite get over that. And you panic, when it falls in? It's like slow motion MUM, GET A SPOON QUICK MY BISCUIT'S FALLEN IN MY BREW, HURRY UP IT'S SINKING.'Ahhhhh!
Rich Tea are bad for that, Rich Tea should be called 'One Dips’ because that’s all you get, one dip. You’ve got to be like lightning with Rich Tea 'cause they just fall straight in your cup, they don’t even try. I’m willing them to have a bit of backbone, just try, come on . . .
'Oh I can’t, I can’t . . Oh it's too hot', you're a biscuit, it's your job.
You have to get four, together to get a good chance at dipping and they’re cocky, they don't even fit into your cup. You’ve gotta bite a bit off to get them in your brew Rich Tea.
They’re not like HobNobs, now that's a biscuit made for dipping.
HobNobs are like marines, they’re like the Steven Seagal of the biscuit world. When you dip a HobNob they’re like 'Is that it? Again! Go on dip me again 'cause I’m going nowhere, me son, dip me!' And they drink half your brew. Where's the brew gone? 'If you don’t dip me I'll drink it again!'

 

Peter’s break in the world of TV came when he made an episode for Channel 4's Comedy Lab in 1998, "The Services", which won a Royal Television Society award for best newcomer. This served as a pilot for That Peter Kay Thing. Following the series' success, Kay and his co-writers – Neil Fitzmaurice and Dave Spikey – used the episode "In the Club" as the basis for Phoenix Nights, which was an immediate hit. Somehow Phoenix Nights is the very essence of Peter.  I have known people who don’t understand his other humorous forays, who laugh out loud at Phoenix nights.  Apparently the bouncy castle scene is particularly memorable, as well as the lady juggler and the seduction of a lady on the stairlift – ‘not long now, we’ll soon be there’.  The series is set in a newly refurbished social club run by wheelchair-bound Brian Potter, and somehow encapsulates everything that is the most bizarre about the working man’s world of the northern social club.  The first series was filmed in part at St Gregory's Social Club in Farnworth, Greater Manchester, where the exterior, hallways and function suite were used.

Peter Kay - Saturday Night Peter
my sister. ….. tried selling my Magna Doodle in the front street when we had a sale outside our house. We did that every summer: put a blanket down and sell stuff - toys, annuals, you name it - and my sister and her mates used to make ‘rose perfume'.  They'd get an empty bottle of Rola Cola, fill it up with tap water and then put rose-petals in it and then sell it. I bet the Avon lady were shitting herself.  Eight litres for 40p.

Theatre work

 

Peter’s acting career is as successful as his stand-up comedy career.  He played the flamboyant gay director Roger DeBris in the Mel Brooks musical, The Producers.  He appeared in the first episode of the 2002 series of Linda Green, playing a pizza delivery man.   He has had two cameo roles in Coronation Street. He appeared in the Doctor Who episode "Love & Monsters". His character, the sinister Victor Kennedy, proved to be an alien called the Abzorbaloff in disguise.

Peter does a lot of work for charity – Comic relief and Children in Need and also helps his fellow comedians in a quiet way.  He was included in the Independent on Sunday's "Happy List" in 2009 as "simply Britain's best comedian", and – as an exception to their general rule – was included again in 2010 for also raising funds for Children in Need.

 

References

Geraldine - Susan Boyle Interview Comic Relief Single - the one show 

Peter supported the charity Comic Relief in 2011 with a cover version of "I Know Him So Well". The song was re-recorded by multi-platinum selling singer Susan Boyle and Kay in the guise of Geraldine McQueen.   The video which accompanied the single was also directed by Kay and identically parodied the original video shot for shot. It premiered on Comic Relief on Friday, 18 March 2011.

Shows and programmes

 

Notable shows and programmes [many on DVD], include:

  • That Peter Kay Thing (1999)
  • Phoenix Nights (2001–2002)
  • Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere (2004)
  • Britain's Got the Pop Factor... and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice (2008) - a BAFTA-winning satire of reality talent shows
  • Peter Kay's Car Share (2015–present) – a BBC sitcom
  • Cradle to Grave (2015-present) – a BBC sitcom

Stand-up shows on DVD

In December 2011, it was reported that Kay had sold over 10 million DVDs, a UK record for a comedian.  They include:

  • Live At The Top Of The Tower (22 November 2000) – Live at Blackpool Tower
  • Live At The Bolton Albert Halls (10 November 2003) – Live at Bolton's Town Hall
  • Live At The Manchester Arena (2005) – Live at the Manchester Arena
  • Peter Kay's Special Kay (17 November 2008)
  • Live – The Tour That Didn't Tour – Tour (7 November 2011) – Live at London's The O2
  • Live & Back on Nights (19 November 2012)

Observations

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