Daisy Asquith investigates the mysterious world of children's entertainers and how the talents of magicians, singers and clowns are often wasted on screaming, distracted kids.
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This programme contains very strong language.
'Preparation usually is clean shirts, clean trousers, sort out some balloons.
'check my balloon pump, make sure that's all right.
'Bit of lipstick.
'False glasses. Clean hat. Clean wig. Polish my horn.'
-HE TOOTS HORN
You got £2 you can spare?
This is the ultimate insurance.
-What is it?
-It's a cricket box.
The one thing that young boys think funny is to go up and punch someone in the nuts.
It's a universal humour that I used to find funny at that age as well.
But when your balls drop...
Nothing's gonna get through this. Let's give it a test.
Ah, that's better. Afternoon.
What's the baseball bat for?
It's better to have one than not, isn't it?!
Who do you think I am, some sort of clown?!
-After three. One, two, three...
-THE KIDS ALL SHOUT OUT
-You've got a bald head.
-It's not real! It's not real!
-Keep yourselves sitting down, boys and girls.
Argh ha-ha! Aaahh!
Now sit down, cos I want to tell you something.
Tommy Tickle. Tommy Tickle. Tommy Tickle.
I'm Tommy Tickle. I bought this round off a guy called Timmy Tickle.
He moved to Essex to become Silly Billy Blue Hat.
-One, two, three...
I never planned to be a clown.
Just fell into it.
And I was supposed to become a landlord of a pub.
I used to stop fare evaders on the Underground. And I fell into this.
You little terrors!
It's very stressful.
It's a very stressful job.
And I don't think I could be doing it for 30 years.
But I keep sticking at it.
I've got reasons to stick at it.
Absolute poverty, otherwise.
Amazing what you do to keep off the breadline.
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.
Why are pirates called pirates?
Because they aaa-are!
# We're going this way, that way, forwards, backwards
# Over the Irish Sea
# A bottle of rum to fill my tum That's the life for me. #
-That's one of my favourite songs.
When I'm performing, I'm Potty the Pirate and I don't like parents to use my real name
because I think it destroys the illusion a little bit.
So I do insist the parents always call me Potty.
Do you like children, then?
Oh, I love kids. They're great fun.
When you entertain, you give out positive energy and get lots back.
And they love pirates. Pirates are so big at the moment, so I have quite a lot of real fans.
Better than starving.
You're not married then, Potty?
No. Well, basically, I'm a bit shy about all that stuff,
so I'm not very good at chatting up women.
A lot of people say, what about all those single mothers? Well, of course...
I'm working. I'm a professional. What can I do at the end of a party?
Say, "Ooh, I rather like you, young lady, any chance you'd like to come out with me?"
You can't do that.
Depending on where people have gone, for a deluxe or standard party,
I can make anything from sort of £500 up to £1,000 at the weekend.
The most important thing for me is that I thoroughly enjoy what I do.
-What's next, huh?
-# Kiss! #
-# Comb your hair... #
# Wave your hands...
# Round... #
OK. Ah! Ah! Arrghh!
It's a snake! Help! Help!
Where's my magic whistle?
-I want Mummy...
-OK. Go and get your mummy.
She's near your counsellor. There you go. There's always one.
Seven parties a week, on average.
And, like, on a Saturday, three.
And then on a Sunday, three.
And one, midweek.
Vodka, gin and Prozac.
-Who wants a laser gun?
I'm on the go. I'm running. See, you can't keep up with me, can you?
Lots of falling down, up and down, I'm doing lots of that.
I thought, it's jolly, Mr Pumpkin. It could have been Mr Carrothead, or Mr Blackberry.
I've got Sandy. I've got Billy Badger.
I've got Mr Crocodile. Harry Hedgehog.
I've also got my magic garden for the little ones who like to feed and give the daisies some water.
The other thing is, you've probably noticed that I'm not OTT, I'm not really sort of...
Some people get dressed up as clowns and have the make-up.
But because of the age group that I do, I tend to find that
I don't do clowns because they get a bit nervous, some of them.
The birthday girl, you see.
-How did you think of your name?
Mrs Pumpkin. She thought of the name.
I don't find it difficult to actually do Mr Pumpkin, because it's all in me, anyway.
That's me anyway, so, it's not just like a job, I enjoy what I do.
I love it.
I was either going to be a children's entertainer, or I wanted to be an air steward.
It's very much go, go, go.
CHILDREN SQUEAL EXCITEDLY
I like ice cream. Do you like ice cream?
Who likes strawberry ice cream? Put your hand up. Ah-ha-ha!
-Now, boys and girls, do I look silly in these?
-He earns every penny.
Right. Everybody sit up.
All shuffle back a little bit. Say, "Shuffle, shuffle."
That's it. Could you tell Mr Pumpkin what is in his cave today?
Oh no! Who's got hold of me big sack of whoopee cushions?
Don't jump up and down on 'em cos they'll burst.
So, what about your wife? What does she think?
-She's a psychiatric nurse.
-A good thing too!
Yeah. Tell me about it. It's how we met.
-< Bye-bye Tommy Tickles!
-Bye-bye. Take care.
So, can she help you, then, when you get home?
No. She doesn't.
When I get in, I just smoke and drink for the evening and that's it.
-This is wonderful.
This is absolutely wonderful, yeah.
You see, there's not a lot of clowns out there. There's not a lot of clowns.
My humble abode.
Oh, they've left the batteries.
How am I supposed to recycle my batteries if they won't take them?
Yeah, I look like a ballet dancer now.
-You've got a few holes in your tights.
I'm a pirate, I'm allowed to.
Luckily. Now, it's a question of, do I wear pink or orange?
Think I'm going to wear pink cos they're not as holey.
So that's the main part of my costume that's a bit eccentric.
The rest of it's all pretty normal clothes, really.
Got a rather scary hole in the crotch because...
I don't know what women do who are my size or bigger when they want tights,
because you don't seem to be able to get tights made for people my size.
I've not found them yet.
I've just found it's easier to tear the crotch like this.
And then my pirate britches.
The main bit of my costume, of course, is my jacket.
And I did have that custom made.
And I specifically gave a lot of directions for what I wanted
for that, cos it's got lots of pockets on the outside and stuff.
-It's very tidy in here.
Ah, well, it's not the pirate in me.
It's the magician in me that's obsessively tidy,
because...you really can't be a magician and be an untidy person.
It just doesn't work cos you have to have a clear, clear mind.
Housework. Ah, I love it.
It's very therapeutic. I love washing up.
I used to work on cruise ships for ten years so I suppose I got used to being in a pretty clean environment.
I like to think my cleaning standards are at least as high as anything I saw on the cruise ships.
This is not a look I tend to sport at home.
As soon as I get home,
the clowning day's behind me,
and you know, I've been dealing with kids all day,
the last thing I want to do is come home to me own.
Don't bite my shoes, noodle! No.
Look at his face.
-Louey, what's this?
-They've never been so perfect circles.
No, they've never been so perfect circles.
Louey, what's the matter?
Louey, Louey, come here.
Is there something wrong with Daddy?
Louey. I just want to be loved.
Love me! Love me, son, for who I am!
-< I told you.
Louey. Look. It's Daddy.
Me and my son.
Oh, we get a smile. Hello.
What kind of Dad are you?
Uptight. Aggressive. Moody.
Lying. Sanctimonious. Wrong. Male.
I'm sure you've forgotten some!
-Aggressive. Have I done that?
-Yeah, you've done that.
Moody? What about sanctimonious?
-Selfish. You've done that.
Take some advice from Mr Pumpkin.
Don't do this. It's a killer.
Three, two... add some more tension.
I've even got Mrs Pumpkin doing it. She's over there.
Look at Mrs P.
Got a big smile on her face.
And right, a little bit.
Breathe in. Feel it up your arms. Give yourselves a clap.
Well done, you worked really hard(!)
Where did you two meet?
We were doing the tug of war with the bishop.
The Cardinal Hume, actually.
-It wasn't Cardinal Hume.
-No, it wasn't. It was Bishop Cormack.
Bishop Cormack, as he was.
Nick was in front of me, and he was doing tug of war, and I just thought ooh, look at those muscley arms.
And then I thought, cor, he's all right.
So I flirted outrageously with him.
That's how we met, isn't it?
-And I was 17.
And next year it'll be 25 years that we've known each other.
-Get that on camera. Ah.
No, she's lovely.
We get on well, don't we? Both of us.
Because Nick used to sing in a band and he used to do some cabaret
and he used to dress up, and we had a bit of a joke
that when he came home we'd both sit in bed and take our make-up off.
I think I learnt a lot by being in the band as well, didn't I?
How to wear skirts.
And how to put on suspenders.
Nicholas! His feminine side.
We've all got a feminine side, haven't we?
< Well, I have.
-Do you like having Mr Pumpkin in your life?
Nick used to work for a printing company and he hated it.
And he did that for 13 years.
I had 13 years of him saying how much he hated his job.
And he now is a different person because he's happy in what he's doing. And he's successful.
What are we going to do today?
-We'll go home and we're gonna blow some balloons up.
'I've a feeling that some of the ladies where I live,'
generally speaking I would say, they're a bit kind of patronising, slightly patronising...
..about his work.
Actually, I feel very tired.
-I expect you do.
-I feel really, really tired.
But it's fine cos this show I've got to do now is going to be like falling off a log.
Right, I'm going to have to go and get myself together.
-All right. I'll see you there soon. It starts at one.
I wish he would settle down, you know.
Have children of his own, cos he's so good with children.
Why do you think he doesn't?
He hasn't met the right one yet.
Hey! Hello, everybody.
THEY ALL SHOUT BACK That's it.
When I say, just wave it up and down like a toy... Oowww!
Do you think he will find the right girl?
I don't know. I wish he would.
But you see...
Well, as he said to me not so long ago, he said,
women these days, they seem all they want is to go out and drink, go to a pub, and that's true.
This is my little friend.
Can you say hello to the boys and girls?
Yeah. Hello to the boys and girls.
No, don't repeat what I say.
'Now, where is he the best? We know now that he's the best in Brighton.'
The next thing we hear is, he's the best in the county, then the best in the country.
And then, I said I expect he's best in the whole world by now.
'And in his opinion, he is.'
# Jingle all the way. Oh, what fun It is to ride in a one horse...
# One-horse open sleigh! #
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Merry Christmas, everybody!
He's certainly not lacking in confidence, is he?
Yes, it was fine.
A bit quiet, but it is a hospital, and quite a lot of the kids are sick that were here today.
I was pleased with it, really.
If I am honest, and I'm pretty sure I've told Douglas this,
maybe not in so many words, but I'm not really interested in magic.
They're no good for you?
-Yeah, they're cool.
-Is that all right?
Oh, good. And I've seen some more.
-Near the door.
Near the door at number four.
I got lucky with the clown trousers. I bought them at a charity shop for £3.50.
I've done every party with them.
They've come apart, but my mum's done them all up.
They've got through about four hula hoops, but now she's worked out
how to make the clown trousers out of a template.
Come on, dear.
Hello. Got to come and see your nan.
If you give him something to eat, like a biscuit or something, he'd love it.
He's not having nothing.
So what do you think of his new career?
Well, I admire whatever he does.
He's amazing. It does worry me a little bit at times, you know,
in case he gets sort of let down, but he fights back.
This afternoon, we're at Horsham,
and my eldest daughter lives at Horsham.
She's just about to be kicked out the school.
She's just had her third suspension in a row.
If she sees me there, it's gonna be swearing, the whole lot.
She'll just kick off. It won't be good.
So maybe she's not going to be there.
He's a good lad. You know,
I do admire him, cos he has taken some knocks.
But he's picked himself up, as they say.
# Brushed himself down And started all over again! #
Pumpkin two. And pumpkin three.
Oliver. Sebastian. And Miles.
-This is my mum. This was taken when she was 18.
Lovely lady, isn't she? Beautiful.
I've got a video upstairs of my mum when she didn't have the illness.
It's her in the kitchen having a laugh, and it's just really nice.
She was the socialiser.
She was the one that organised all the parties and things.
Dad was more sort of...
He was happy with his own company, you know.
Here he comes! Ready?
-Everybody go, "Shake, shake, shake."
-ALL: Shake, shake, shake.
Now, Billy, don't eat the cake. If he tries to eat the cake, tell me.
-He's eaten it!
-What? Right! Billy, that's very, very...
Right. I want something cheap and bright.
-Cheap and bright.
-I need clown red.
Got a bit lighter?
That's spot on. How much are they?
Would you like a balloon for the little girl?
-Could I have one for me?
'Children today are very different.
'Children today are different to how they were 15 years ago.
'No moral boundaries. No nothing.'
-Are you too old for a balloon?
You're too old. Do you want a PlayStation 4?
-How about an Xbox 420?
I've got some in the van. I'll go and get 'em in a minute.
'I mean, look at my eldest.
'She's an absolute...
'You know, she's vile.
'She's... I love her to bits, but she is...'
-This is actually my dad.
< Can you make me a sword?
-I'm on my break, but I'll make you one as soon as I get back.
-Owww. I don't wanna be on camera!
See, that's exactly what my dad doesn't like. >
This like really disappoints him. >
But sometimes it's hard because, like,
I feel like whilst I'm still young I should be allowed to make mistakes.
What a turn up for the books. I didn't realise that.
If you look at the...
This is what she sent just the other day.
"You can be a right cunt at times, I don't owe you anything.
"I haven't done anything wrong. Care about your other kids."
I said the "c" word while dressed as a clown. That's terrible. Right.
My dad gives too many rules and my mum doesn't give enough,
so I don't get met anywhere in the middle.
She won't listen to anybody.
She won't do as she's told, won't do the right thing.
I know that some people think I moved to my mum's so I can get away with everything, but I didn't.
I moved cos it was bad between me and my dad.
I have to switch off.
How do you do that?
I don't know. I really don't know.
But she's been a major problem for some time. A major worry.
So I've just learnt to live with it.
Another minute, all I've got to do is be a clown for 45 minutes, this hour.
And then I'm done. Obligation up.
It's been an emotional afternoon, but I can't be emotional any more.
I've got to be happy.
That's it. That's assault.
What's your name?
I'm going to name my kid that.
-The one that's going to be born next week.
-There you go. Get your council house.
-And I don't quite know who the dad is yet, but I'm going to find out soon.
I've narrowed it down to three people so far.
One of them could be female.
Oh, my God, I can speak gibberish. Listen.
-SHE SPEAKS IN PIG LATIN
Now all you've got to do is pass your O-levels.
-Right. Sorry about that.
Hello. And what's your name?
-What's your name?
Jamie. Would you like a golden swan?
-Bye. Been emotional.
Do-do doodley do.
There's your doggy.
And you'd like a pirate sword?
This fucking town.
Every time I come to Horsham or Crawley, things fuck up big time.
For fuck's sake. Right. "Do you want a fucking balloon?" I'll give you a fucking balloon.
I've fucking had it up to here with fucking balloons!
That was Tommy Tickle.
He'll be back in 15 minutes after his short break.
I saw Mum today down at the care home in Horsham.
Took my dad over there.
So that was all right.
-How was she?
-She was all right.
She could be better, actually.
But, she had some food.
She had some jelly babies.
She likes jelly babies now, so we've taken her some jelly babies.
When you go and see her, what do you talk about?
We don't talk much. We just sort of laugh and smile.
Cos she can't communicate greatly, cos of the illness that she's got.
But she sort of smiles. She just likes to cuddle, you know, which is brilliant, isn't it?
I don't know. I don't know what the future holds for Mum really, to be honest.
She's comfortable, but it's just a terrible illness, isn't it?
It would be quite nice if you could come in and see her, actually.
How loud can you scream?
THE KIDS ALL SCREAM
It isn't actually scary. >
-No. Not scary.
Who's not scared?
Well, anyway, then...
So I put pixie dust on the captain.
He and his men were having a ball!
They were shouting and screaming. The carpet started to float about.
It flew past the enchanted mountains where the waggly birds and the...
THE CHILDREN CLAP AND MUSIC STARTS
# For it's hard, you will find
# To be narrow of mind
# If you're young at heart... #
When I was about 16, I thought, oh, dear.
I knew I just wasn't like other people. My childhood was hell.
I didn't like my childhood, cos I went to 14 schools.
My father was a raging alcoholic.
My mother was a complete Jesus freak.
He was actually the worst alcoholic I have ever encountered.
You see the guys on the streets drinking White Lightning at nine in the morning.
My father would put that to shame.
When I was seven, the whole family just went...
HE BLOWS A RASPBERRY It wasn't a family any more.
I just thought, well, I don't want to ever be in a relationship which is going to end that way.
I'd rather not be in a relationship at all than with somebody I'm not in love with.
I guess I'm the ultimate romantic, and it's hard to find your romantic girl these days.
Most girls don't give me enough time to get to know them.
One thing that girls should look out for - if you want to find a romantic man,
you've got to know him before he's going to make love to you.
Otherwise...It's a joke.
Yeah, these are superfast rollerblades.
There you go. Robert Mugabe.
This is the box of magic tricks. But you didn't hear that, Maxi.
What's your first name? Austin?
-No, it's Maisie.
-Oh, it's Maxi. OK.
Tommy Tickle is the very person I'm looking for.
You've got a big fat bum.
Who can sit down quietly?
Right. Leo Sayer, can you just sit over there for me, please?
I'm warning you, I've got some ASBO gift vouchers I'll give you.
Which one of you brave individuals would like to come up to
-the fat, sweaty man and draw a nice, big, round circle there.
Do the nose, but don't go over the lines.
Oh, it went up my nose!
If you've got a fat man dressed as a clown in front of them, there's no rules.
I mean, if that's the teacher,
it's all off. The rules are off.
The thing is, whatever party you do, you don't really know
what you're going to find. Each party's different. Very, very different.
Until you get there, you don't know what the children will be like.
The majority of threes, fours and five-year-olds, they're pretty good.
When they reach six, they change.
They're not so forgiving, if you get the tricks wrong.
I'm always getting it wrong.
Don't interrupt me!
'When you put kids in a room, they change because they get courage.'
You have really good children all of a sudden become the ringleader
of a gang of savage thugs. Average age, five.
You can see them change and if you haven't got parents around...
I'm not a childminder, I'm a children's entertainer.
But the amount of times I turn up at parties and all the parents are in the kitchen, Pimm's...
You know people say that children grow up too quickly?
Well, why do they think children grow up too quickly?
It's because they have pressure put on them to grow up quickly.
Who is this man?
Leader of Zimbabwe.
It's Robert Mugabe!
Robert Mugabe backwards, is it? Ebagum Trebor. Ebagum Trebor!
Ebagum Trebor. Mr Straightface! Mr Straightface is saying. yes...
Hm-hm. No. Cheaper car insurance?
You're sponsored by Admiral.
We'll spend the last ten minutes, I'll make you all a magic balloon.
And then I've got to go back to my nice, padded room.
'Usually, at the end of the day, there's nothing better that I like to do than obliviate myself
'in front of a large amount of alcohol and fags.
'Cos I'm just so knackered. Really drained.'
How long do you think you'll keep this up for?
For about another three years, I reckon.
Three or four years. I said five years.
So, yeah, another four years.
Cheers. All right.
I'll send someone round to put it on the mortgage. Bye, bye, Marlon.
I have the number of a good therapist if you need it.
He'll need it after this!
-Anybody got a light?
-You don't smoke?
-No, course not.
-What kind of kids are you nowadays?
-Not good enough!
-Say. "Silly Billy!"
-KIDS: Silly Billy!
-Say, "Get the cream!"
-Get the cream!
I tell you, my throat is just starting to go a little bit now.
I don't know if I can take any more custard pies in the face this year.
I've had about a thousand of them!
And the lips start to go a bit dry, you know. Right.
Pack these bits away now.
I'm quite a quiet person outside of this industry.
I'm not as hyper as I am here, but I probably let it all go when I'm doing my shows.
So there is that other side to Mr Pumpkin.
# I love to dig all the day
# And finding treasure is a joy I can't express... #
'The kids have to like you.
'If the kids don't like you, you're in big, big, big trouble.
# When I see That treasure chest... #
CHILDREN MAKE NOISES TO INTERRUPT
Are you going to stop blowing on your blowers?
No? OK. We'll put music on, cos you've had enough singing now.
I finished the songs early, cos they were blowing those blower things.
It's kind of pointless.
Cos I can't concentrate and the kids can't really hear
what I'm singing anyway, with all that noise going on.
'In this game, you can see how, if your attitude to performing changes,'
that can be very dangerous. It's a question of burn-out.
If you feel yourself burning out, there's things you must do -
get together with other entertainers and talk, take a break, read a book, learn a new routine.
There's things you can do. But if you're getting to burn-out stage,
it's important to do something about it.
I've done a party before where a child stood right...two foot away
and called me Mr Poohead for 40 minutes.
Loud. Didn't stop. "Mr Poohead! Mr Poohead! Mr Poohead! Mr Poohead!"
The rest of the kids didn't care.
And it's very tempting that you could lose it. But you can't.
You can't lose it.
But, I'm not saying that everybody's lost their temper,
but with this job, if you lose your temper, it's high profile.
You'd be surprised at people who don't ask whether you're police-vetted.
I've probably been asked three times, in five years.
-It can happen to pretty much anybody.
-I did hear of one incident.
I imagine he just snapped, was pushed too far and had had a bad week. I don't know.
The Great Velcro.
Erm... Obviously, I've read about him in the papers.
My father-in-law pointed him out to me in the Evening Argus.
And then he made the Mail or whatever it is, as well.
KNOCK AT THE DOOR
-What a surprise.
-The Great Velcro?
Not any more. I've lost that name.
-Mm. It had to go.
-Is it OK if I come in?
-Yes, yes. Yes, madame.
Well, this is my front room, which is also known as The Tip, and also known as a magic room.
How many rabbits have you had?
Over... Since about '78, four.
Let me think. Rosita.
I work with a rabbit when I know it's suitable to work with a rabbit.
The climate, as such, has changed.
People are not always um....
so sympathetic to a magician with a rabbit any more.
It's got certain connotations.
I probably am one of the last generation of magicians that'll use rabbits.
They are my magic flowers.
I came out the Navy, left school at 15, what could I do?
A bit of juggling. A bit of chat.
Yeah, I sometimes think that I'm not suitable for this line of work,
because I have got a terrible temper.
I've got a raging temper.
Even if you did lose it, you might sort of think, "Oh, God."
But at the end of the day, you've got to remember
you're an entertainer, you're there to make everybody happy.
You know, there are laws, there are public laws, and there's your own law
of what you think's right, and what you think's wrong, you know,
and they don't always tie up together, do they?
Anything physically abusive or mentally abusive to children is obviously not acceptable.
Go back home, you know,
or go up on the Downs and scream away, you know.
The deification of kids has happened in the last 40, 50 years.
I think the Greeks or the Romans had any sort of thing about kids, they'd crucify them.
You know, little sods, you know.
Deep down, I punish my kids.
But do some kids deserve it? Are they a pain in the backside?
I did a show in a park and this kid came,
started behaving really badly.
He didn't relate to me at all. He started throwing my stuff away, and then he started being weird.
He started looking at my balls, going... HE MAKES A KISSING NOISE
And I thought, this kid's taking me for a big ride here.
I thought, sod it, I'm not having this.
I thought, Lynn, you've done it now.
I thought, you have done it. I thought, God, Lynn.
30 years up the creek.
Look how many parties he's done - thousands of them. Everyone's allowed to make one mistake.
It only takes one time.
Just one slip. And it could theoretically ruin your career.
Big disaster, really, cos they called the police and I got a caution.
The kids were shouting, "Are you going to get arrested? Are you going to prison?"
I think he just was pretty tired and he just made the mistake of picking the wrong person.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
We've been able to get an excellent magician.
Now, I love magicians and I hope you do too.
Abracadabra. Simsalabim. Hocus pocus, fish bones choke us.
Hat back on the head. Abracadabra.
LAUGHTER You may clap.
The police officer said, "We're going to caution you.
"You can't hit a child."
It's not called "clipping round the ear" any more.
When I was in the car, I felt quite emotional and upset.
And the policewoman, obviously the sensitive one,
you know, touchy-feely, said - cos I was a bit, "Oh God," - she said,
"How do you feel about it?" I said, "I feel sorry.
"I feel sorry for myself, actually."
-What's inside, Colin?
-An Easter egg.
-Take it out.
Chocolate egg for you, for being a good boy.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
God. I mean, I shouldn't have done it, you know, but...
-'Lynn's old school.'
You have to be really on the ball nowadays just to keep ahead.
MUSIC PLAYS # Go Johnny go, go!
# Johnny, be good. #
'This kid had just pushed the boundary of a 63-year-old man
'who's lived a bit, lived through Thatcher and Tony Blair.
'I'm not a bad person. I may have been a bad person on that day.
'That's one day in 63 years.
'Well, I'm not dancing round a handbag singing I Will Survive.
'I just had to get on and do it, you know.'
Do you think you'll never do a kid's party again?
Oh, I will do them on special request.
If they want a particularly violent magician, I'll be there.
This is a little bit sad. Put your hands up, everybody.
-Say, "How sad. "
It's a little bit sad, cos this is a story about a man called Mr Pumpkin.
-Who's Mr Pumpkin?
-Do you know what, I'm afraid Mr Pumpkin's getting a little bit old. Everybody go, "Ahhh."
That's lovely, thanks.
Have you been a bit low, then?
When I go and visit my mum - at the moment she's very poorly.
And so, to see somebody deteriorate in such a quick time.
Although she's still alive, you're grieving now.
It's a form of grief, cos she's not that person.
She's there, but she's not the mum that I used to know,
who was a very happy, lively mum and full of life.
she's just that shell now. And there's no answer for it.
You know, she's not going to get better.
She's just going to be on the decline.
Then I'm going from that to a party where everybody's happy and they expect you
to suddenly put on this lovely mask, that Mr Pumpkin mask, that lovely face everybody loves, very happy.
So you have to change. You have to go into like auto drive and turn into Mr Pumpkin.
When that door opens, bang, you're Mr Pumpkin and you have to perform.
< Right, children, what are we going to say to Mr Pumpkin?
You're very welcome.
-Thank you very much.
-Can we do hip hip hooray for Mr Pumpkin?
Brilliant. I don't normally eat this, to be honest.
-Do you guys have healthy food, then?
Not a whole one. Half a grapefruit.
No coffee. No coffee. No tea.
Don't drink any alcohol whatsoever.
Mr Pumpkin's body is a temple, as they say.
Cor, that's good coffee.
How does a pirate retire?
Well, you can never quite get away from being a pirate, you know.
I mean, basically, once a pirate, always a pirate, yeah.
So I'll always keep doing stuff till the day I drop.
What I don't do enough of is go out to meet people, you know.
That's my problem. Also, at my age, I think, well I don't really want to be going out too much.
I'd far rather have a family at home and spend time with them.
So, the problem is, where do you meet people
in a country like England where it's freezing cold most of the time?
See, my choice would be on the beach.
Why are people scared of clowns?
Why are people scared of the Russians?
Why are people scared of chavs?
You know, it's the Daily Mail again.
When you walk into a show,
they don't know you. You could be anybody, couldn't you?
I normally say to them, look, I've got three boys, and that immediately puts them at ease.
If they know you've got children,
it just, you know...
it makes them feel a bit more at ease with you.
I've had people at parties... I've come out of a party and you're getting changed
and they're just saying, "You dirty old clown paedo."
"Had a good time feeling the kids?"
To be quite frank, if I wasn't a clown, it's probably the kind of thing I'd say.
It's, um... it's what people say, really.
I just feel as if I want to kick their fucking teeth in.
I'd love to kick their fucking teeth in.
I march in, get myself sorted out, there is no chance.
Not even the merest hint of getting a child on their own.
It's not as if you get a child up on stage and say,
"I'm going to pull this cover over them and make things disappear for 15 minutes."
It just wouldn't happen.
If you're going shopping, if you go alone, you can see the children,
you look at them and give them a smile.
Now parents can take that. If they don't know you, they're going to think,
"What's he looking at my child for? Why is he smiling at the child?"
Some people would take that the wrong way.
-So you really haven't been in here before?
-No, no, never.
-Not even in the old days?
BURLESQUE MUSIC PLAYS
But the great news is, I've got my new routine going at last.
Well, it's not new. It's two years old now. I've been working on it for two years.
Well, I suppose it's because I take what I do quite seriously.
Any kind of artistic thing, you've got to focus a bit.
The trouble is, you end up with tunnel vision, and that's all you do.
The onslaught starts tomorrow.
So I don't want to stay out too late either, really.
You can't do a kid's party with a hangover.
The kids will know there's something wrong - they'll pick up on it,
and they'll get at every little nick in your armour, every chink
in your armour, and they'll get you and get you, and they'll pull you down and it'll be awful.
What do you think of Doug's job then, Erica?
Well, I think it's very funny,
in a sort of a quite heart-warming way. He's a very warm person.
So, it's good.
But, I just sometimes feel that he can't really divorce himself from the role.
And he comes out with sort of making pirate noises
-in sometimes very inappropriate places.
Those sort of quite throaty noises.
-Aarrhh, that'd be because I be a pirate, see?
Potty the Pirate is a distillation of various parts of my own character.
So, really, Potty the Pirate is already me.
So, I'm never going to be any different to Potty the Pirate.
It's just that there's possibly a little bit more to discover in the real person.
You know, I have to accept him as he is.
-Just go with it, I think.
This one is of me, my mum, my dad
and Fiona, on our wedding day.
Let's see if I've got any more here.
Oh, this is a good one. You'll like this.
That's me as Julian Clary when I was in my band.
-Yeah. Very camp.
Choke collar, for that extra gay look.
-And the cycling pants, look.
-Did men come on to you?
Did men come on to you while you were dressed like that?
Might have done.
When I was in the band, Mum used to come and watch and she'd put all my make-up on.
If it wasn't on properly, she'd tell me.
Or, "That wasn't such a good gig," "This was a good gig,"
or "Your choke collar's not on properly."
I used to do a bit of Elton John, a bit of Phil Collins, a bit of Queen.
And she liked to sing as well. She'd whistle.
Mum liked Nat King Cole. There we are.
It's not a brilliant video, but it's memories, isn't it?
I want to sort of keep it.
# That's what you are... #
That's a lovely picture of Mum, isn't it?
# Though near or far...
# Like a song of love That clings to me
# How the thought of you Does things to me
# Never before
# Has someone been more... #
With Alzheimer's, yeah,
you are, you go back to being like a child, really.
She had some tests done and everything.
I think things just deteriorated over the last...
I'd say, the last year-and-a-half.
-It was very quick, then?
-Yeah. It happened in about a year-and-a-half.
Very, very quickly.
# That's why, darling
# It's incredible
# That someone so unforgettable
# Thinks that I am unforgettable too. #
What do you miss?
I just miss being able to go up and talk to her.
You know, and have cuddles and things.
If I had any problems, I could go and talk to Mum.
I sometimes find it a bit difficult to go and talk to Dad, whereas Mum
I could just talk to, and she would say, just come and have a cuddle, which was nice.
I haven't... really got that any more.
I can give the cuddles, you know, but you don't get the same response as you would when
she was well, which I miss, which I would like back again,
and it's not going to happen, is it?
I try and always be that sort of happy person.
-But you put that on for your mum as well, don't you?
Have you always been your mum's entertainer?
MOBILE PHONE RINGS
I'm all right. It's Robbie the magician.
# Swing low
# Sweet chariot
# Comin' for to carry me home
# Swing low
# Sweet chariot
# Comin' for to carry me-e-e
# Ho-o-ome. #
Tell me about Erica. She seemed so lovely.
What does she mean to you?
Ah, well, I don't know, really. It's a strange relationship we have because...
..one of the very first things she said to me was, "Well, we have absolutely nothing in common."
I don't think she takes the relationship seriously at all, so I'm not about to either.
You see, I am...
The fundamental thing about me is I believe in God, pretty fervently.
I don't subscribe to religion,
but I know that God's real, because God's demonstrated
to me in my life that he exists.
Call it universal intelligence, greater power, whatever you want to call it, but it is real.
That's the fundamental thing in my life,
so the thing about relationships is it comes secondary to that.
Do you relate your job to your beliefs?
Put it like this, my whole life is a product of my faith, yeah.
Everything that happens to me in life,
I believe, is a product of what I believe.
So, yes, it's related.
It's not directly related,
and I would never start talking to children about God in such terms.
I prefer for children to talk about magic,
because as far as I'm concerned, God and magic are pretty much equivalent.
Magic wand and a red ball and a hat.
That's a hat trick. Only did it once.
Off the top of my head.
What you do is, you take the ball off the wand,
throw it in the air where it's invisible. Wait for it to come down.
Over the top. And there it is.
I had to change my life a bit. Um...
So, what do you do now?
What have you had to do?
I just thought, of all the people that like magic, other than kids...
it isn't teenagers, it isn't the stand-up comedy crowd...
It's people of an older, more civilised generation.
-What are they like as an audience, then?
No, they're fine. But they watch.
They're not stupid, you know. They watch.
And it's a magician, a magician.
They've been brought up on '40s and '50s and '60s sort of variety shows.
They're not Xbox.
They are still doing jigsaw puzzles.
This hasn't been heard for years.
MUSIC: "Harley Davidson" by Serge Gainsbourg
# Je n'ai besoin de personne...
# En Harley Davidson
HE REVS A MOTORBIKE
# Je ne reconnais plus personne
# En Harley Davidson
# J'appui sur le starter... #
-# Et voici que je quitte la terre
# J'irai peutetre au paradis Mais dans un train d'enfer... #
Thank you very much.
The teddies are both gifts, and they're just there
because they're quite cute really, and this one is actually a puppet.
I tell you what. Would you like a nice big bowl of porridge?
Bowl of porridge?
Oh, no, he doesn't eat porridge, cos he's a puppet. I forgot.
What? You don't like that word.
He doesn't like that word. What word do you like?
Friend. He likes that word. Are you my friend?
No, you're not, you're a puppet, you stupid thing.
Look, me hand's stuck up you.
You have to be careful that you don't go completely insane,
and start having a relationship with your puppet that's beyond the norm.
Cos it could happen.
Could so easily happen.
I was seeing Nathan, because Nathan was really upset.
-About what happened with Ricky, there was a load of people trying to jump him.
Well, stick away from all of them. They're all bad news
and your behaviour is criminal.
I got a call from the school.
So what happened?
Well, I was having this argument.
I was having this argument with this teacher because he wouldn't let me move a chair
and he was excluding me from the rest of the girls in my class.
Then he went to pick on me on my own and I got in a mood about it. And then...
he's really small, so I called him a flid, which I know that was quite out of order,
but he does look like one. And then
I just got really angry, and I swore a lot and I punched a lot
and went completely off the handle.
And then I got in a bit of a fight with the policeman.
This is a difficult subject to talk about.
I don't even know what it is.
Sometimes I just kick off.
In the grand scheme of things,
I couldn't really give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.
It's not the worse thing ever to happen in the world.
It's just a bit of a pain cos it just means that, as a marker of long life so far,
it just makes me feel as if I haven't done as good a job as I should have done.
And I think this has been a shock for you as well,
cos I don't think you thought you were going to get expelled.
And I should expect it's not a very nice experience.
I feel really small.
Yeah. Just wish I had the...
The wisdom to get you through it.
I ain't going to be a single mum living in a council house
on some dead-end estate, working in McDonald's, with about seven kids.
You should become a clown.
It's the only way I can give you a head start,
cos you'll be able to do a job for £100 an hour.
That means I could dye my hair blue and pink and green and all them amazing colours.
And have a reason to do it.
I think it would be quite a good job. The thing is, she's got a...
To be a good clown or a children's entertainer, you've got to go through
a massive amount of personal upheaval so to be in a room of screaming kids, all they want to do
is punch you in the butt, it seems like an all right night.
You have the ability to do it cos you've helped me out in the past.
And then blow into it.
Get the air in your cheeks, but then push it from your cheeks into the balloon, not from your lungs
into the balloon because you'll never do it.
Keep stretching it.
No, Mondays you put it up.
ELDERLY RESIDENTS MURMUR
This is slightly different, isn't it?
it's always warm, it's always warm.
Always warm. My audience are there.
I'm just gearing up.
Pity there's no green room.
Whatever that may mean.
But, an audience. An audience.
That's what it boils down to.
It's tough at the top, you know.
I started off with nothing and I've got most of it left.
Put that in. That's quite good.
That's a pain!
Cos we've got to get to Eastbourne, quick.
I haven't got the penny.
Can I have a receipt as well, please? Thank you.
Right. Let's go. Eastbourne, Eastbourne, Eastbourne.
Got to get there real quick. 30 in a 40.
Come on. Fuck's sake.
Do you find this funny? 16:58, three minutes in.
For fuck's sake. And the ambulance ain't turned off.
There's some fuckin' old...
There's a pensioner crossing the road on all fours, rolling a cabbage with their nut. Here we go.
Eyes down for a full house. Party number four today.
Party number eight in two days.
Saturday today. Yesterday was Friday.
MOBILE PHONE RINGS
What time does the party finish?
Yeah. I'm just going to floor it and I'll see you as soon as I can, all right?
Right. We've got 40 minutes until the party finishes.
Come on! That's right.
Fuck rack, wank cupboard!
It's a life of parish halls and community centres
and well-meaning, well-to-do people's houses,
and I wreak havoc going from nice place to nice place,
cos I've often not got enough time.
I've got me balloons.
Looking for a party.
Has anybody seen a party?
-Who's the clown?
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Daisy Asquith investigates the mysterious world of children's entertainers.
The idea for the film fcame to her whilst on a typical seaside holiday where a different children's entertainer would set up in the hotel ballroom at six o'clock each evening and perform a different act.
From animal petting to sea shanties to balloon buffoonery, it seemed an almost thankless task. Kids screaming, crying, badgering and demanding whilst performers attempted to maintain their professional cool and pull yet another hankie from their sleeve or fall face down again, knowing it's guaranteed to make a four-year-old laugh.
She started to wonder who these people were, how they ended up here, whether this was their life-long ambition and how they knew what the children wanted. Then those creeping doubts and stereotypical fears stated to rear their ugly heads: don't you have to be a bit weird to do this sort of thing, are they all failed adult entertainers and do they all still live with their mothers?
Back home, Daisy started to investigate further and soon found all her preconceptions challenged in a world of pirates and pumpkins, comedy handshakes and rabbits in hats. This is a film about what she found.