For anyone who watched TV in the 1980s, the idea that Les Dennis would one day be a critically acclaimed actor would have been frankly ludicrous.
This was the guy who played second fiddle to the dreadful Russ Abbott and trotted out ropey light entertainment on the ironically titled Les Dennis Laughter Show.
So the 57-year-old former Family Fortunes presenter deserves all the more credit for his hugely impressive turn in “Jigsy”.
This compelling one-man show is that rare example of a brilliant script with a performance to match.
It tells the tale of a comic in the twilight of his career, a relic of the Bernard Manning era of working men’s stand up who drinks too much and doesn’t understand the generation that is replacing his.
But – like Dennis himself – a style that fell completely out of favour in the 90s bred a raft of comics who quite simply knew how to be funny.
Perfect timing, perfect delivery and perfectly in tune with the audience, it’s something North Somerset playwright Tony Staveacre’s well-crafted piece clearly understands.
The play is a love letter to the Liverpool comics of a bygone age, punctuated with some wonderful gags.
Dennis lays on a thick Scouse accent to deliver them, rolling his r’s as wide as they can go.
He also proves himself to be a capable mimic, imitating everyone from Ken Dodd to Tommy Cooper. It’s clearly a world that he knows very well.
Darker moments creep in, particularly towards the end with some interesting questions about the self-destructive streak that lurks within many successful comedians.
Dennis is no stranger to these moments himself of course. Indeed, his career resurrection has come about because of them – starting with his notorious Big Brother appearance and his painful but impressive turn in Ricky Gervais’ Extras six years ago. It’s far from his first time on stage but for someone who seemed to spend a decade doing little more than imitating Mavis Riley, “Jigsy” is a remarkable achievement.