I always knew I wanted to be a performer. The first school production I was in was Toad of Toad Hall and I played Toad. All the kids made paper mâché masks, but I was crying to my mum: “What is the point if they can’t see my face?” They let me paint my face green instead. I was about eight – and that was the beginning of me wanting to show off.
There was a Sliding Doors moment when I was 15. I had been accepted for the National Youth Theatre’s summer course, but I also bunked off school and went to audition for Pontins. You had to be 18, so I forged my doctor’s certificate and off I went. My mum, bless her, had to pay fines because I did no exams. I had done some acting, I’d ticked that box for the moment, so I decided to tear the arse out of it on a holiday camp and learn to be an entertainer. I loved that life – you did sketch shows, sang with bands, danced, called bingo and had a great time. I’d make the same decision now.
I bunked off school and went to audition for Pontins. You had to be 18, so I forged my doctor’s certificate
I had my heart broken so many times, but I broke a lot of hearts as well. I fell in love every week. The girls I went out with were much older and thought I was 18. I brought a girl called Karen home to meet my mum. She was 20. My granddad went: “What the hell are you doing? He’s only 16!”
She finished it, which broke my heart for a while.
My mum taught me to treat every woman like a princess, regardless of age, colour, size. I felt I did that from an early age. She was a big influence. When my dad wanted me to work with him on building sites in the school holidays, she would go: “Leave him alone. Look at his hands – they are made to hold a microphone not a fucking brick!”
I ended up homeless in Plymouth when I was 16. I had a DJ act with my friend Colin, the Fun Funketeers. We were promised a job but it didn’t materialise – always make sure you get a contract, lesson learned! My ego wouldn’t let me go home. I ended up on a park bench for a few nights. I look back on it as horrendous, but it felt like an adventure. The police literally drove me to the edge of town: “Piss off back to bloody fucking London!” I thumbed a lift back to the squat where I’d stayed for a bit. The next night they raided it and drove me out of town again. I went home with my tail between my legs. But I was lucky. It was a mild winter and I always had a safety net.
I lied about my age for years. By 17, I had a stand-up routine and toured with hen and stag parties, on the road with drag acts and strippers. I worked the nightclub door before I was 18, turning people away if they weren’t old enough, giggling my bollocks off – and then going on stage, doing rude gags as people laughed at my baby face.