Playhouse Theatre, London He may be a one-joke comedian, but he deserves a warm hand. By James Rampton

comedy Julian Clary,
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The Independent Culture
The backdrop at the Playhouse Theatre consisted of 12 naked backsides - variously disguised as Mickey Mouse, a belly dancer and the devil - above the caption: "Welcome to my shrine to the human posterior." Got the right theatre, then - this could only be a Julian Clary show.

Since his tabloid-enraging remarks about Norman Lamont and fists at the British Comedy Awards nearly two years ago, according to the ironic Clary himself: "My career's being going awfully well - as, indeed, has Norman's." Unlike the former Chancellor, however, there is no reason why Clary should not make it back into the limelight. On the evidence of his new show, he still has the audience where he wants them - in his throbbing, sweaty palm.

He may only have at his disposal one basic joke - re-told in ever more imaginative ways - but it's a good enough one to sustain an hour and a half on stage. Indeed, when he attempted something more unexpected - a weird sequence about Russell, his pianist, passing through Joan Sutherland's small intestine - he was quick to acknowledge the error of his ways: "Getting a little surreal for some of you there. Please don't panic, we'll be straight back to the buggery jokes shortly."

Even in his new restrained, no make-up look, he did not let us down. He must be the only comic - including even the late Frankie Howerd - who can turn the act of sitting down into an innuendo: "I do like to cling on to my stools."

As always, much of the show revolved around ritual humiliation of individual audience-members. Anyone who chose a front-row seat, or worse still, handed over their handbag to him, had obviously never been to see him before. He even managed to contrive a double-act with an usherette about a colleague of hers who had taken his fancy.

"Is Jamie in yet?" he asked.

"No, he came and went."

"The story of my life," he replied. "Still, at least it's the right order."

Later on, he got a tipsy clergyman up from the audience - I kid you not - to operate the remote-control for a slide-show about the life of Julian Clary. As a reward, he fed him a banana from his "gay food trolley". All this was conducted to hoots of delight from the sexually mixed audience. It is impossible not to grasp the punters' message to Clary - Carry on Camping.

n Julian Clary is at the Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, London WC2 (0171-839 4401) until 16 September