MAKE the most of comedy star Mike McClean in this year’s Derby Assembly Rooms panto, for after three years of having audiences in stitches he says Jack and the Beanstalk will be his last show in the city.
Audiences have enjoyed Mike’s quickfire wit and rapport with the children to such an extent that they keep wanting him back.
“Derby audiences do seem to have taken to me – they must be easily pleased,” he laughs. “Hopefully it’s my cheeky northern charm. But this will be my last one. Three’s the magic number. I think you should always leave them wanting more. Otherwise I’ll be getting on my nerves, let alone everyone else’s.”
Mike’s post-show routine where he gets a selection of children up on stage has become a panto highlight but he admits that it’s not as easy to pull off as it looks.
“It has taken a long time to craft that. People always talk about it,” he says.
“They used to get the kids to do a song after the panto and for me it was a bit old hat. Kids say the best things and I just thought ‘the gold’s there’.
“You get on, you ride it and you milk it for laughs. One kid once said ‘mummy has parties when daddy’s out’ and it turned out she had Ann Summers events. I could amost hear the audience going ‘get more, get more’. The skill is knowing how to extract all that.”
Mike loves the buzz of performing live.
“It’s that ability to think on your feet,” he says. “My brain just works so fast when I’m performing live.”
Mike spent six years on TV with Richard and Judy and two more on the Big Breakfast.
He says: “Richard and Judy just let me go out and make funny little clips – and paid me for it. Which was great. They are two of the nicest people I have ever worked with.
“Then I got to do the Office Christmas special with Ricky Gervais and I just thought ‘I’m so fortunate that this is my job’. I always think I’m going to get found out at some point.”
Mike started out with drama training but decided it wasn’t for him.
“I thought ‘I know how to breathe and I dont want to be a tree’. I got out of it what I needed and my dad had just been made redundant, I was offered a summer season and we needed the money. So I left and went to work with Ken Dodd. That was a lesson in itself.”
Mike’s two small boys now come and see him in panto.
“I call it work. My eldest says ‘are we going into the show?’ and I says ‘no, it’s work’. He stands at the side of the stage asking me why I do this and that. He’ll be great if he ever goes into panto.”
This year Mike’s looking forward to working with Don Maclean, who plays the dame in Jack and the Beanstalk.
“Everyone’s already assuming he’s my dad,” says Mike. “If people ask I’m just going to say ‘yes’, it will make life a lot easier.”
Jack and the Beanstalk is at Derby Assembly Rooms until January 5. Go to www.derbylive.co.uk