Why The Krankies turned down I'm A Celebrity

THE KRANKIES are back in Glasgow this week in panto, for the 18th time, the latest stage of a career that's seen the comedy pair enjoy almost 50 years of success.

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The Krankies with Dick McWhittington co-star John Barrowman
The Krankies with Dick McWhittington co-star John Barrowman

The famous double act, who met in 1966, star alongside John Barrowman in Dick McWhittington, at the SECC.

But if there are curious readers out there who wonder why the Krankies have lasted so long in a very fickle business, it's easy to work out.

"The thing about a lot of young people in the business is they don't appreciate you have to work hard to make sure you have longevity," says Ian Tough. "It's not about being famous. It's about getting laughs, but not at your own expense."

Janette agrees: "We were asked if we were interested in going on I'm A Celebrity, earlier this year. I said no, because you really can't control what goes out on television.

"In reality shows, it's all about the edit. Freddie Starr, for example, told me when he did Celebrity Wife Swap his wife nearly left him because he'd made been to look so bad in the final cut."

The Krankies are aware showbiz reputations can be destroyed in an instant.

"We didn't want to take that chance," says Ian. "You saw how one wrong radio interview almost destroyed us," he adds, referring to the BBC Scotland interview in which they revealed they'd taken part in swinging sessions back in the Eighties.

"It's so easy to be ruined."

The Krankies are to make a TV comeback with roles in hit series Benidorm, playing friends of the show's swinger couple.

It's a calculated tongue-in-cheek role, going out to an adult audience.

However, Janette admits the pair had to work out how to rescue their reputation after the 'swinging' story emerged.

"What we did was to go right back on stage and take the mickey out of ourselves.

"At least we took charge. With the reality shows, the editors determine your fate."

The Krankies are long used to the slings and arrows of press attack.

"There was a recent headline in one tabloid that ran; 'Biggins and The Krankies split my marriage'," says Ian, referring to former Corrie actress Shobna Gulati's relationship break-up.

"When we read the story it had nothing to do with us. It was all about the age difference between Shobna and her ex."

The reputation issues apart, the lure of big money offers wasn't enough to tempt the Krankies into the Australian 'jungle.'

"For one thing, its not really in the jungle," says Ian. "We've got a flat in Australia and we live just 20 miles from the I'm A Celebrity location, on the border between New South Wales and Queensland."

Janette agrees, smiling; "We took Chris Biggins up there last year to prove to him the Versace Hotel was only 26k away from the campsite.

"Biggins had told us it took three hours to get there, when he first made for camp. But it seems ITV take the contestants on a circuitous route, in a blacked-out wagon.

"I'm also a wee bit concerned about how you're looked after. When Brian Conley went into hospital, which was only 200 yards from our flat, he told us he'd been put in a padded cell, when all he'd been suffering from was a bit of depression and dehydration."

Ian adds: "The only reason you do something like that is the money."

It's not about money for the acts who go the distance; it's about keeping standards up, it's about work rate. And it's about taking calculated risks.

For example, the couple admit they were advised not to team up with panto co-star John Barrowman.

"A lot of people said they didn't think the idea of putting us together with John would work," says Ian.

"They reckoned we were too far apart in our theatre styles.

"But what a lot of people don't know about John is he is like us; he's a variety performer. When I first met John I told him he was the new Jack Buchanan."

Buchanan was a Helensburgh-born music hall star and song and dance man who went on to become a Hollywood star, appearing in the likes of the 1953 film, The Band Wagon.

"Jack had tremendous energy, and he could cross over from theatre to film, just like John," enthuses Ian.

Janette agrees her co-star has it all.

"And when he's working with us, he has a Scottish accent," she says, smiling.

Last year, the Krankies and Barrowman helped sell a phenomenal 72,000 panto tickets at the SECC and the success looks to be replicated this year. Which means the 66-year-olds will be back next year?

"We'll keep coming back as long as the fans want us to," says Janette.

"In this business, it's all about keeping the punters happy."

l Dick McWhittington, the SECC, December 14-January 5.

Arts and Entertainment

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