Julian Clary – A Fistful of Clary ★★★

National treasure Julian Clary meets the Wild West in his latest UK stand-up tour, A Fistful of Clary

Julian Clary, the country’s premier renowned homosexual, offers his first show since 2022’s Born to Mince.  A Fistful of Clary is a stand-up-come-panto, split into two halves. The first, more traditional, turn is taken up with musings on his reality TV appearances over the past few years (Masked Singer, Strictly Come Dancing, Celebrity Big Brother), punctured by the expected ribbing of the audience. If you’ve seen any of Clary’s stand-up over the past few years, this is practically Julian’s Greatest Bitchy Barbs. “Where are you from? And when’s the market there? You clearly make good use of it.” It’s still funny but we’ve heard it (and more) across several routines over many years. 

It’s all very good-natured and entirely predictable, both in terms of lines and delivery. Which is possibly part of the appeal. The audience hooted along at every mention of “fisting”, “lube” and “anal” as if it was the most punk rock thing that they ever did hear. And, once upon a time in the ’80s, on post 9pm Channel 4, it probably was. 

The second half, in which six men of various shades of willing are plucked for the “audition of your lives” to star in the gayest Western this side of Divine’s Lust in the Dust, ambles along agreeably. It feels very much like Clary’s breakthrough Channel 4 show, Sticky Moments, but this time delivered with a cup of Horlicks rather than a sniff of poppers. 

Naturally, there are musical interludes. A tribute to Paul O’Grady is lovely and heartfelt. As is the closing number about being gay. A thunderingly unfunny trinket about “knobs of butter”, however, has one praying for the interval. 

It would be massively churlish to expect Clary to deliver genuine anarchy or still be operating on the cutting edge, given how many years he stood firm (ahem) and delivered in the face of horrifically-prejudiced tabloid outrage. But it is a little disappointing to be able accurately to second-guess every other line of this evening’s banter. 

That said, Clary’s great strength is his warmth. Despite his many years experience, he still seems endearingly nervous at times. In this age of ‘GO LARGE’ comedians bellowing audiences into submission, there is something rather lovely about spending an evening in 2024 with Julian Clary. He would probably balk at being called “old school”, but that’s very much a strength of his now. 

A thoroughly-agreeable night of ribald humour, delivered by a pal who you are always rooting for, A Fistful of Clary is the gin and slimline of comedy. Not all good, not all bad. But it gives you enough of a taste to know it was worthwhile. (Ice and a slice, optional but very much advised.)

A Fistful of Clary was reviewed at Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh 

Titters a-plenty, as camp legend takes his tried-and-trusted brand of smut and innuendo on a UK tour, this time married to a Wild West theme – ★★★ 3 stars

A Fistful of Clary Tour

A Fistful of Clary tour continues around the UK

Book Now