Jackie Hamilton may not be a household name, but that could have been very different if the star were aligned differently back in the days when the likes of Mick Miller, Stan Boardman, Tom O’Connor and Vince Earl were getting their big breaks on ITV’s The Comedians.
Hamilton started his comedy career performing in pubs and paid in pints and went on to perform on television. However he never hit the big time and passed away in 2003.
Now, a new play loosely based on Hamilton is heading to the Royal Court with another Liverpool comedian, Les Dennis, playing the titular Jigsy to excellent national notices.
We caught up with Dennis to find out more about Jigsy, Hamilton and his place in Liverpool comedy history.
SevenStreets: Tell us about Jackie Hamilton and Jigsy.
Les Dennis: Jigsy is a one-man play based very loosely on the life of Jackie Hamilton; it’s about a comedian sat in a dressing room in a working man’s club in 1997 just as they were starting to die out. He’s looking back at a career he nearly had.
Jackie Hamilton was a local hero but never got outside his local parish. It’s kind of like a love letter to an era of comedy that doesn’t really exist anymore.
SS: Did you meet Jackie?
LD: Yeah when I was starting out, he was really funny and very encouraging of young comics I liked him a lot. Writer Tony Staveacre interviewed Jackie through the 70s and was fascinated with his style of comedy, so we’ve taken that style and created the fictional character Jigsy.
SS: Do you feel a sadness seeing that style die out, even though there seems to be a mini renaissance?
LD: What I love about the show is that during the Edinburgh run we were getting a lot of the young comics coming to see it people like Justin Moorhouse and Jimmy Carr, who were very complimentary.
For me it’s touching that people still see something in that era to be loved, because a lot of people used to diss old-fashioned comedy, and I can understand when it’s offensive, sexist or racist but Jackie was never that – it was just good clean fun.
SS: Did you experience that ghettoisation of comedy in the 80s?
LD: I think the rivalry was more media created… even when there was music hall and variety at the same time there was the Goons and Beyond the Fringe; there’s always two factions of comedy running side by side.
I went to a BBC Christmas party and on one side was Little & Large, me and Russ Abbott and those guys and at the other end Rick Mayall, Ade Edmunson, French & Saunders and at first they were separate.
But then Barry Cryer – or, as I like to call him, the Kofi Annan Of Comedy – kind of got us all and by the end of the night we were all having a laugh together.
SS: Is there something in the water that breeds the constant stream of comics from Liverpool?
LD: Jigsy says “They say we’ve got a different sense of humour in Liverpool and we have, we’ve got a different sense of humour because we’ve had to rough it,” and Liverpool people do tend to laugh through adversity.
It’s an extraordinary city in the sense that we can see injustice and you look at something like Hillsborough: the injustice was so incredible, people got it wrong and called it a city of whingers and we’ve proved them so wrong.
Liverpool people – whatever is wrong, whatever it is – they can still laugh through it.
The Royal Court
23 October – 3 November