Comedy impressionist Joe Longthorne talks to Will Harris
MANY entertainers can claim to have come back from the brink in their careers but none more so than Joe Longthorne.
The comedy impressionist brings his returning touring show to Crewe’s Lyceum theatre on Saturday.
The Hull-born entertainer has battled leukaemia and, in a last ditch attempt to save his life in 2005, underwent a bone marrow transplant that very nearly killed him.
“I can remember lying on a block of ice, in and out of consciousness,” he recalls.
“The priest had read me the last rites four times.”
His surgeon said he didn’t know how Joe managed to pull through.
“It was somewhat of a miracle – perhaps it was to do with the hundreds of fans outside the hospital with their candlelit vigil,” he says.
That fan base had been built through years of entertaining audiences all over the world with his fantastic repertoire of voices.
“When I was six, I came first in a talent show and my prize was a huge toy motor car,” he said. “I think I decided then that show business was for me.”
At 14, Joe was given the chance to hone his performance skills on Yorkshire Television’s popular Junior Showtime and remained with the show for more than two years.
“I loved that show,” he says. “I then turned professional and set about earning a living for myself in the northern working men’s clubs. It was a tough training ground but an essential apprenticeship for any entertainer.”
It was through the London Weekend series Search For A Star in 1981 that Joe was first launched to the British public and his success on the show led to appearances at the London Palladium and a month-long season at London’s Talk Of The Town.
His repertoire of voices includes hundreds of the world’s top singers.
But he is perhaps best known for his impersonation of Shirley Bassey, who has said: “Joe can do me better than I can do myself.”
During his career, Joe has received gold and platinum discs for his albums and enjoyed sell-out concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as touring Australia several times.
His working life was going from strength to strength until in 1989, at the pinnacle of his career, he was diagnosed with lymphoma.
“Cancer is not a word you expect to hear when things are going so well,” he said.
“I felt invincible and suddenly out of the blue I felt helpless. I had two choices; to give in or fight. I chose the latter. I got up, dusted myself off and got on with life.”
Following his life-saving bone marrow transplant, Joe edged his way back to recovery, returning to the stage with a sell-out show at the London Palladium in 2006. Finally cured of his 17-year illness, he had a new lease of life and in 2007 was awarded the Variety Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Healthy and happy, Joe’s new show is a testament to his talents and fighting spirit.
The show starts in Crewe at 7.30pm and tickets are £20. To book, phone the box office on 01270 537333 or visit www.lyceumtheatre.net.