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The Independent Culture
John Shuttleworth is at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London WC1 (0171-388 8822),Tue to Sat

John Shuttleworth is a no-hope showbiz performer who has banged out such tuneless Hammond organ dirges as "Pigeons in Flight". He is also, of course, a joke, the subtle comic creation of Graham Fellows (a man who gave the world Jilted John, too). But not everyone gets the joke. "I've had people walking out and asking for their money back," Fellows laughs, "because they think it's just a doddery old man who can't sing. It's a compliment in a way."

The character of Shuttleworth is based on the people Fellows met while working behind the bar at a working men's club in Sheffield. "I met a few Johns there," he recalls. When Fellows first "did" John more than 10 years ago, people were sceptical. "They said, `It's very difficult to do characters. People won't take it on board. People having chicken in a basket want in-your-face gags'." Now of course, you can't move on the circuit for people dressing up as security guards and pub landlords.

According to Fellows, people warm to the character "because he's clean, he's not blue. He espouses traditional family values. He draws people into a safe little world of his own which they can identify with. They like the inconsequentiality of all the things that happen to John."

Fellows now needs a break from his creation. "I do get fed up with him sometimes because he's invaded my life," he says. "Ironically, I want time off to do John-type things. I want to mend the roof on my car-port, for instance." But he won't ever be able to kiss John Shuttleworth goodbye. After all, he has now reached such heights of street cred that last year he was the principal support for Blur.

EYE ON THE NEW

Craig Charles, the sharp Scouse stand-up and actor, starts his autumn tour this week, before appearing in a fresh series of Red Dwarf and a new Channel 4 sitcom starting in the New Year.

Tour starts at Sussex University (01273 685861) 11 Nov, 9pm

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