Perhaps the most offensive, insulting and crude comedian Britain has ever produced, Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown is returning to Manchester in December.
And, in the first of a two-part interview, Brown chats to MM about his upbringing, comedy style, accusations of racism and his love of Manchester.
One of the country’s most high-profile comedians Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown has made over 1,000 appearances and performed to millions during his 30-year career.
A figure consistently courting controversy with his material – often deemed racist and sexist by critics – he retains the ability to command huge crowds and sell out big-name venues.
And Brown feels it is his straightforward ‘joke is a joke’ mantra which ensures he remains so popular, despite frequent jibes of his abusive style being outdated.
“There’s no airs or graces about my act, it’s down-to-earth, it’s things that you can relate to,” he told MM.
“I’ve always entertained wagon drivers, bin men, plasterers, labourers, people like that – we’re working-class, and my material is working-class material.
“It’s pointless me being too clever. You get too clever with my audience and they think ‘what the f*** is going on here?’”
What is most poignant about Brown’s indictment of his audience is that he recognises that they are on the same wavelength as him.
Born near Middlesbrough in 1945, Brown – real name Royston Vasey – was raised in a working-class family on a rough council estate, where it was ‘good to brag that you’ve stolen more than someone else’.
Leaving home at 14 and by his own admission ‘a bit of a thug’, he spent part of his younger days in borstal and prison. A point in his life he deeply regrets.
“I’ve got over that,” he admits. “I’ve educated myself, and when I look back I’m proud that I got away from that situation.”
He is just as proud of he pioneered his confrontational, foul-mouthed style had not yet normalised – claiming he ‘took the building site and put it on the stage’.
“I don’t mind having my reputation,” he insists.
“In 1971, if you said ‘nipple, t**, a***, fart, f*****’, anything like that on stage, not only were you thrown out but you were likely to get beaten up as well.
“You had to take a chance.”
Regardless, Brown’s style is now instead widely regarded as a figure of a questionable past, unfit for a multicultural and socially-advanced Britain. Unsurprisingly, he rabidly disagrees.
“I did Great Yarmouth last night and the manager said, ‘there’s only two shows done well here, that’s yours and Jimmy Carr, the rest haven’t done very well at all’, he said.
“I’m still selling tickets, you know,” he adds, with conviction. “There are always new things in the act. As each day goes by I work for what I do, I don’t just sit back.”
It is perhaps not the novelty of his material which irks his critics, however. With the common perception of Brown being that his act promotes intolerance through racist and sexist jibes, he is written-off as somewhat of a relic.
Such an assertion clearly angers Brown, who claims that it is completely unjust given the racial diversity of his crowd.
“If you’d have been in my audience last night you would have seen that there were four lads at the front who were obviously Asian and they were falling laughing.
“If you had been at my show in Hayes in Middlesex on Thursday night, we had eight people five rows back with turbans on, and they were f****** crying laughing.
“Especially when I said ‘what the hell’s that there? I thought it was a shelf with towels on!’”
Indeed, Brown also claimed that most jokes made about any minority group in his act were sourced from the minorities themselves.
“I get most of my Indian, Pakistani and black jokes from them type of people,” he says. “I go to the gym with coloured people, they don’t even want to be called ‘coloured’ now.
“They say ‘if you are calling us coloured, or black, or any of that, you’re distinguishing us from another race of people’.”
And despite claiming he has no prejudice at all against anybody, Brown says that if a joke materialises that he finds funny, he will crack it regardless of who it offends.
He explains: “I know that if there’s 1,000 people in that room, 600-odd of them will fall off their chairs laughing because what’s at the back of their mind is ‘I f****** wish I’d dared say that’.
“Even a little thing like, ‘Did you see the start of the 100 metres? – I thought it was f****** Crimewatch!’”
He laughs: “It might be a racist remark, but it’s funny with it.”
The problem is, regardless of his intentions or what he actually thinks on the matter, most would consider such a joke highly racist and a no-go in modern Britain.
However, Brown claims that anyone who feels he or his act is racist are ‘idiotic’ and comment on his performance based on hearsay, not first-hand experience.
“They stand behind curtains, and they can’t form an opinion for themselves. They follow like sheep.
“People just want to be part of it all and take chunks out of me, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
“Come along and see it for yourself, and then at the end of the night you make up your mind whether what I said was in fun.
“Sometimes you get the weak individual who goes to see a violent movie and comes out and wants to kick somebody in the b******, it is stupid.
“Then you get people who come along to see a show like mine and they just forget all their cares and wars, they forget all their problems.”
Ahead of his return to Manchester in December, Brown admits that he cannot wait to perform at a city which holds such a special place in his heart.
His office is based in Saddleworth, and he has fond memories of playing famous Manchester venues in his early days, such as Fagin’s, Rendezvous and the Hippodrome.
A multi-instrumentalist, whose performances often involve musical interludes, he also bought his first set of drums and his grand piano in the city.
And as a regular visitor to Old Trafford with his United-mad son, Brown talks of Wayne Rooney being a big fan of his, and claims he ‘knows for a fact’ that David Beckham owns his DVDs.
“I’d be heartbroken if I didn’t do well in Manchester”, he admits. “They treat me like I’m some kind of superstar which is always flattering.
“[The Manchester crowd] always treat me with respect and that’s what I like about them, and there’s always 50 or 60 at the stage door, and that’s great, that makes you feel a bit special, you know.
“They might be shouting ‘we’ll kill you, you fat b******!’ but it doesn’t matter!”
The second part of MM’s interview with Chubby will be published soon.