Brian Conley on catchphrases, returning to Dorset and looking like Bradley Walsh (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Brian Conley on catchphrases, returning to Dorset and looking like Bradley Walsh
“I’ve learned to embrace it,” he says with an air of jovial yet unconvincing acceptance.
Before his arrival in Wimborne in a few days time as part of his latest tour, I have lurched in immediately by asking Brian Conley not about his upcoming show or his memories of Bournemouth and the surrounding areas, but about his trademark catchphrase – “It’s a puppet!”
He would yell this line at the audience after his alter-ego Nick Frisbee beat Larry the Loafer with a stick, evoking a sympathetic “awww” from the crowd.
This slogan became so synonymous with him that he admits people still shout it to him as he crosses the road. Indeed if you start inserting Brian’s name into Google, the search engine helpfully suggests these three words as the next you should type.
Despite having other subjects he is no doubt keener to discuss, Brian is a gentleman and humours me.
“I mean how many people can say they have their own catchphrase?” he muses.
“But it wasn’t something I planned.”
I resist the temptation to ask him to re-enact it for me. I fear I am already pushing my luck and it isn’t long before he moves to pre-empt what he thinks the next question will be.
“Yes I know I look like Bradley Walsh,” he laughs, with a barely detectable nuance in his voice suggesting he knows from experience that those who ask about that silly old puppet will also make this other needless comparison.
The similarity between the pair though is undeniable. Visually the spitting image, there is only a year between them in age and for many years their careers were heading in similar trajectories.
Brian light-heartedly feigns jealousy of his old friend’s success – having his own primetime quiz show, a starring role in a hit crime drama, not to mention a stint in Coronation Street a few years ago, Walsh’s achievements have been remarkable by anyone’s standards.
“He’s doing brilliantly,” he beams, before proudly telling the story of how he introduced him to the woman he went on to marry.
However, the fact Brian isn’t on telly quite as much as his old mate is irrelevant.
For him it has always been about the performance, no matter where or who is watching.
"When I’m not working I get frustrated," he says.
“It’s been that way since I was a kid. I was a joker at school and always loved it.
“I started at stage school when I was 11 before getting my first equity card a year later.
“I used to love watching Tommy Cooper and Peter Sellers. Comics who really made you reach for your hankies.”
It wasn’t plain sailing the whole time though. A gifted singer and comedian, the academic side of things could be a struggle, but Brian credits his art with pulling him through.
“Many years later I found out I was dyslexic,” he says getting more serious as we move away from the subjects he so thrives talking about.
“I think I used jokes, singing and entertaining as a way of diffusing it.
“It made me what I am now and I’m grateful for that.”
So were the millions of people who tuned into the Brian Conley Show, the Royal Variety and his star role opposite Amanda Holden in popular comedy The Grimleys.
A treat beckons for all of them when he starts his tour, in what he says will be a comedy-led set with sketches and even a little song thrown in too.
“I’m really looking forward to being back in Dorset,” he says.
“I have fond memories from near the beginning of my career performing in Poole in particular.
“In fact I remember very early on performing at Poole Arts Centre with Anita Harris.”
Just a few miles up the road, at the Tivoli, on May 8, Brian will be back, and I fully expect he is bracing himself now to hear those famous three little words echoing in his ear yet again.
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