Des Clarke can't believe he's in showbiz

AT 32 Des Clarke has already flirted with Britney, currently presents the breakfast show on Galaxy FM and has won a clutch of prizes for his stand-up.

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Des Clarke is currently starring in panto at the King's. Picture: Nick Ponty
Des Clarke is currently starring in panto at the King's. Picture: Nick Ponty

He's more in demand on the after dinner circuit than Abbey Clancey is for twirling in sparkly frocks.

And right now, he's starring in Aladdin at the King's Theatre, playing Wishee Washee,

But what's surprising, but rather refreshing, is his self-awareness.

Des still can't believe it's not so long ago he was staring out of the window on the 21st floor of his family's Gorbals high-rise flat daydreaming of a career in showbiz.

"My dad is a manual labourer who does paving work. Living directly across the road from the Citizens' Theatre was as close as I ever came to showbiz."

Yet, when shy little Des went to Holyrood High School, his confidence grew dramatically.

Somehow, "like in a scene from Quantum Leap", a confident, showbizzy, extrovert young man leapt into his body and took over.

"I don't want to say I've always had voices in my head," he offers, "but I suppose they were there in primary, when I'd think about impersonating teachers. And I guess in going to high school, and attending drama class, the voices emerged and the part of me which had always wanted to grab the limelight won out."

Aged 17, Clarke believed he was funny, yet, he'd been brought up to believe education was the route to success.

He lasted a year of his Film and Television and English Lit degree course at Glasgow University until one night the call of the comedy wild - an open mic spot at Glasgow Blackfriars - became too strong.

The following year, in August 2000, Des was runner-up in So You Think You're Funny at the Edinburgh Festival, and uni was forgotten.

Presenter work on Beat 106 followed and went on to win a national broadcasting award.

Inevitably perhaps, TV came calling and the impish Scot was signed to replace Ant and Dec on SM:TV, working alongside Tess Daly, Cat Deeley and Brian Dowling.

"I was 22 and doing live telly on a Saturday morning. And I couldn't believe it. I had since moved on to Capital Radio, was recording my morning show from the London studios, then being picked up by a motor bike to be raced to the SM:TV studios to interview Robbie Williams, Kylie or Madonna."

Des came up with a character, Eminemmerdale, based on the life of the rapper set in a soap, and his character went down a storm. Which is more than can be said for the fake door he was supposed to crash through when interviewing Britney Spears.

"It was meant to be made of foam," he says, but it was solid. As I burst through, dressed in rapper gear, I ripped my hand (he reveals the decent-sized scar) and the blood burst out.

"However, no one had told Britney's boucers, two giant black guys, that this Glaswegian nutter would be surprising her. And so they ran into shot to take out this stalker. Me. Luckily, a producer got to them before they got to me."

Life was all too surreal for the good-looking, charismatic young Scot.

"I had the gift of the gab and the cheek," he says, grinning. "I'd be talking to Britney or the likes of actress Jennifer Ellison and think, 'I'm in here!' I reckoned there was a bit of chemistry with me and Holly Valance as well.

"But the truth is I never got a single phone number. It's only later on you realise you had a 'chemistry' because they were trying to sell their new album."

lAladdin, The King's Theatre, until January 12.

Arts and Entertainment

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