Comedian Jasper Carrott was born on 14th March 1945 at Acocks Green, Birmingham, UK. Back then, he was called Bob Davies, but he became known as "Jasper" at school, and legend has it that he added the "Carrott" himself when he was introduced to someone on a golf course – no doubt because of his carroty hair.
We should probably start with how the man looks – perhaps the best way I can describe him is to suggest that had Peter Jackson been looking for a live actor to play the part of Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings, he could have gone further and fared worse than Jasper Carrott. His face in repose isn’t all that odd, really, but when he talks it is incredibly mobile, and often quite grotesque. That alone, coupled with the red hair I mentioned earlier, probably destined him for a career in entertainment.
He was educated at Moseley Grammar School, and when he left went through a number of jobs including market trader, denture paste salesman, and driver. Then, with a loan of twenty-five pounds, he started his own folk club The Boggery in Solihull, serving as MC. Because he was often strapped for cash, he began singing at the club himself, but as he interacted with the audience it was clear that his chief talent was in comedy, and soon that element took over the act and his guitar became little more than a prop.
He was friendly with Bev Bevan, the drummer of Birmingham band ELO and in 1975 the band’s singer and mastermind, Jeff Lynne produced Jasper’s first single. Ostensibly, the A side of this was a curious little number called Funky Moped sung in an exaggerated Brummie accent "When oi get me moped out on the rowed oi’m gonna roide, roid, roide!" but its immense popularity (it sold over half a million copies, earning Carrott a silver disc) was due to the B side – The Magic Roundabout which was played in every club and school disco for the one classic line "'Piss off,' said Dylan and Dougal did so – all over Florence". For the uninitiated, The Magic Roundabout was a very popular stop-motion animation children’s TV programme of the time. Two live albums followed this.
It was in 1978 that Jasper really came to the forefront though, with a series of six thirty minute TV shows for London Weekend Television, called An Audience With Jasper Carrott. His wry observational style and strong Birmingham accent proved a huge hit with some oft repeated routines arising form it – including the first instance of reading motor insurance claims aloud ”I turned into the wrong house, and collided with a tree we don’t have” , and the ever-enduring "How to Get Rid of a Mole" routine, which lists numerous remedies and concludes with "Blow it’s bloody ‘ead off!" and an imitation of a man, sitting on a lawn, on a swivel chair firing a twenty bore shotgun at a mole. No amount of description can do this piece of comedy justice.
A tour around the country followed – 118 dates, breaking box office records at many theatres.
1979 was a very significant year in Carrott’s career. He travelled to the USA to look at soccer there, recording his experiences in Carrott Gets Rowdy and he transmitted a one hour live to air TV show The Unrecorded Jasper Carrott from The Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the first and last time any solo artist has done so. The recording of this show became a gold album and was again followed by a sellout tour. He was also named 1979’s ITV Personality Of The Year, and published his first book A Zit On The Side. This was also the year that Jasper introduced us to an alternative definition of Durex (in the UK a brand of condom, in Australia, apparently a brand of sticky tape) and introduced the word "zit" into British vocabularies. He claimed to have told the Americans that the British slang for “spots or pimples” was "bollocks" – one can only hope and pray that the claim was true.
In 1980 he made his first hugely successful tour of Australia and New Zealand, and in 1981 he filmed another TV Special (Beat the Carrott) which again became a gold album, and performed at The Secret Policeman's Other Ball; part of a company that reads pretty much like a "Who’s Who?" of British comedy.
Through 1982 and '83 Jasper recorded two series of Carrott’s Lib for the BBC (the second winning a BAFTA award) and his second book, Sweet And Sour Labrador, based on his 1981 tour of Hong Kong, was released to advanced orders of 200,000.
Jasper spent much of 1984 in the USA filming an HBO / Channel 4 Special and perfoming in San Francisco and LA, and in 1985 he co-wrote and produced friend and fellow comedian Phil Cool’s successful first TV series Cool It and starred in his first stage play, The Nerd.
1986 saw Carrott presenting and directing six part BBC series focused on American comics and filmed in live venues, called Stand Up America, and playing his first role on film – Heinrich in Jane And The Lost City. His third book Carrott Roots was also released in this year.
The first of three series of Carrott Confidential screened in 1987 and the show filled a peak Saturday evening slot, attracting audiences of 10 million. By the second series in the following year it was the highest rated comedy series on TV. Jane And The Lost City premiered in May 1988 and Carrott’s 4th book Shop! Or A Star Is Born reached Number six in the best-seller lists over Christmas.
1990 was the year that Jasper left the BBC for independent production company Celador, with whom he recorded the first of four wry looks at hilarious TV advertisements from around the world Carrott’s Commercial Breakdown (the other three were screened in 1991, 1993, and 1995), and this won Independent Prize at the Montreux Festival and a Gold Medal at the New York TV & Film Awards. He also undertook a 90 sellout tour of the UK including a special at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon, recorded for TV.
The first series of the Celador production Canned Carrott screened on BBC in 1991 introducing both the inept character "Wiggy" (an inept kind of Mr Bean who also poked gentle fun at Jasper’s spreading baldness) and "The Detectives" with acclaimed actor Robert Powell showing a less serious side to his nature in a spoof of buddy cop shows like The Professionals. These three minute skits were to become a full-blown series in 1992 and to run for five series, until 1997.
In 1992, with his old friend Phil Cool, Jasper toured with the show Carrott & Cool
for 143 dates, and The BBC1 Christmas
Special One Jasper Carrott
live from Drury Lane attracted more than 14 million viewers. In that year he was named as BBC TV’s Personality Of The Year.
With The Detectives running on the BBC, Jasper toured to The Middle East and Far East in 1993 and Australia and New Zealand in 1994 and recorded another Christmas special for the BBC Carrott-U-Like, followed in 1995 by a break while he celebrated his 50th Birthday. That year he was named Midlander of the Year, and received an award from Aston University in Birmingham for services to the Midlands. In 1996 he took to the road again, and presented a BBC Radi two series of more than 13 hours of his own material recorded since 1973 together with 13 hours of other classic comedy from the BBC archives.
In 1998 he undertook his longest ever tour – a 150 date odyssey of major theatres, and recorded the BBC series Back To the Front which screened in 1999 – his first series of pure stand-up for 10 years.
He continues to tour, and in December 2001 returned to TV in a BBC1 comedy drama where he plays the builder step-father of an Asian Boy with cerebal palsy, a ground-breaking series which accurately reflects the life of a disabled teen, without portraying it as one long tragedy.
Carrott is married, a father, and a lifelong - and passionate - supporter of Birmingham City Football Club. He’s also one of the funniest men ever.