James Cameron "Jim" Davidson, OBE (born 13 December 1953) is an English/Scottish comedian and television host. His highest profile roles came on the television when he hosted Big Break and The Generation Game. He also is a very successful stand-up comedian and writer developing adult pantomime shows such as Boobs in the Wood and Sinderella, both of which have played to sell-out audiences.
Despite winning many awards throughout his long career, Davidson has become known for his use of controversial jokes about women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals and disabled people, but he denies accusations that he is prejudiced against these groups.
The son of a Glaswegian father, Davidson was born in Kidbrooke, London, and attended Kidbrooke Park Primary School, Blackheath, and St Austen's School in Charlton. Having impressed some acquaintances of his father with impressions of celebrities, he was chosen to appear in Ralph Reader's Gang Show at the Golders Green Hippodrome aged 12 and appeared on television in the Billy Cotton Band Show. He also briefly attended a stage school in Woolwich.
Upon leaving school he was a drummer for pub bands and worked as a supermarket shelf stacker, a messenger, air ticket clerk for a travel agency, a cashier for Wall's ice cream, for Rank Xerox (having trained as a reprographics operator) and as a window cleaner.
Davidson found his way into show business when as a regular in a pub in Woolwich, he undertook an act after the regular comedian hadn't turned up. He then became a regular on the London comedy circuit, and first auditioned for Opportunity Knocks in 1975, unsuccessfully; he was told by Hughie Green to "go away". His audition for New Faces was more successful, and he proceeded to win the show by one point, and then to come second in the overall contest.
His success was quickly followed by many more appearances on television, including What's On Next and several series of his own show The Jim Davidson Show (1979-82) which ran for five complete series and won Davidson the TV Times award as "Funniest Man On Television".
Davidson appeared on an edition of the BBC1 show Seaside Special, shown on 20 August 1977, hosted by Tony Blackburn and David Hamilton. The Stage's reviewer, Martyn Wade, was not impressed: "comedian Jim Davidson had already won first prize for lack of taste with crude racist jokes tracing the adventures of a black man whose nickname was Chalky and whose other names included Toilet-Roll. "Day-light come and I gotta sign on" is a representative line from Mr Davidson's act."
He starred in TV sitcoms Up the Elephant and Round the Castle (1983-85) and Home James! (1987-90). His one man show for Thames Television, Stand Up Jim Davidson (1990), was recorded at London's Royalty Theatre.
Davidson became known for Big Break (1991-2002) and as the host of The Generation Game (1995-2002), as the successor to Bruce Forsyth. In September 2007, Davidson appeared in the third series of Hell's Kitchen (2007) in the UK, and in May 2008 he appeared in the BBC's Comedy Map of Britain.
On 2 January 2013, Davidson was set to become a housemate in the eleventh series of Celebrity Big Brother, but was arrested at Heathrow Airport by police officers working on Operation Yewtree. On 3 January 2014, a year after being arrested and with charges dropped, he became a housemate in the show's thirteenth series. On 29 January 2014, left the Big Brother house as the winner.
Davidson's touring is developed from his original London comedy circuit show, for pub and club audiences. Aimed at a very different audience from that of his television work, it contains a lot more strong language, which he promotes as adult entertainment. This has also developed into his adult pantomime work, including productions with titles such as: Boobs in the Wood and SINderella - both of which have played to sell-out audiences.
In 2006, for the first time in 14 years, he refused to play Great Yarmouth, stating that the resort was "full of overweight people in flip-flops and fat children of all colours and no class". The inhabitants of the town took this as a personal affront, although said he was referring to tourists.
Davidson is scheduled to go on a tour named "You Must Be Joking" in September 2013. In October the same year he is scheduled to go on tour with singer-songwriter Richard Digance, with whom Davidson has performed in the Falklands.
UK chart singles:
A Davidson mock Jamaican accent, most developed and widely known in his 1970s comedy character Chalkie White, was featured as a vocal throughout the UK garage single "I Don't Smoke", complementing a sample from a Marcus Brigstocke comedy sketch. Released in 2000, the single by DJ Dee Kline was popular on the underground scene before crossing over to reach No. 11 on the UK Singles Chart. Davidson had earlier appeared in the same chart under his own name with the double A-sided "White Christmas"/"Too Risky". It peaked at No. 52 in December 1980.
Davidson has several business interests. He set up a company which bought or leased several seaside theatres or piers, including the Winter Gardens building in Great Yarmouth, which was converted into a nightclub. He lost £700,000 on a pantomime production of Dick Whittington and after a meeting with the Inland Revenue in 2003, he sold the company. Davidson has been quick to take advantage of the video and DVD age, and all of his works are available in a back catalogue.
Forces and charity:
Davidson has put much effort into entertaining the British armed forces, and set up a charity to fund shows to provide entertainment for British soldiers living abroad. As well as touring extensively, he has starred in a number of his own TV specials for ITV and BBC, including one from HMS Invincible, Homeward Bound for Christmas and in 2002 he made the Jim Davidson Falklands Bound which was screened during the 20th anniversary of the end of the hostilities.
During the Iraq conflict he entertained British soldiers for no fee, and in 2003 Jim Davidson Basra Bound was screened on BBC One and further BBC TV specials of his live stand-up show followed. He has made five visits to the Falkland Islands, two to the Republic of Macedonia, and at least six to Iraq. He is currently chairman of the British Forces Foundation charity, which aims to promote the well-being and esprit de corps of service personnel. Davidson was awarded the OBE in the New Year's Honours List 2001 for his services to charity.
A former Master Freemason of the Chelsea Lodge (resigned), Davidson was the founding Master of British Forces Foundation (Lodge) No. 9725.
Taxation and bankruptcy:
On 27 August 2003, after a meeting with the Inland Revenue Davidson claimed he spent £10,000 a week on back taxes, commission to agents, maintenance and school fees, and a £2.2 million mortgage: "My problem is money - I used to earn five times as much as I do now, but I still pay the same maintenance, school fees and commission to agents," he told Radio Times magazine.
On 6 July 2006, after failing to keep up payments on a £1.4 million back tax bill that he had reduced to £700,000, Davidson was eventually declared bankrupt by the court.
Davidson has been known to make offensive jokes about women, ethnic minorities, homosexuals and disabled people in his stand-up act, which has made him a subject of negative media coverage and frequent criticism. The Shropshire Star reported that much of it has focused upon his divorce payments, income tax bills, and court orders for cancelled shows.
In 2002, Davidson was escorted from the grounds of the Marriott Bristol Royal Hotel, after it was alleged that he had become confrontational and abusive to staff.
In October 2003, Davidson refused to go on stage in Plymouth because he objected to wheelchair users in the front row. A spokesman for the Plymouth Pavilions, where he was performing as part of a national tour, said: "Jim Davidson apparently took exception to a number of wheelchair users in the front stalls of the Pavilions Arena. Mr Davidson cited the fact that a proportion of his act was aimed at disabled customers and that he would be unable to perform under these circumstances."
Laurence Clark, himself a wheelchair user, in response performed a show called 'The Jim Davidson Guide to Equality' at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2004. Clark refused to perform the show if Jim Davidson was in his audience.Martin Fletcher describes Davidson as "extraordinarily foul-mouthed, racist, and sexist" and a "throwback"; whilst quoting Garry Bushell describing Davidson as a "family entertainer".
Davidson has responded to accusations of prejudice by saying: "It is a difficult thing, comedy, and I'm on a loser. If I cured Aids and fed Africa and ended Ebola and found that missing aeroplane I'd still be that horrible racist, sexist, homophobic comedian. By people, with respect, who haven't seen me. Or are judging me from the past."
In 2004, comedian Jimmy Carr threatened legal action against Davidson, accusing him of having plagiarised some of his comic material. Davidson responded by saying the claims were 'ridiculous', and no further action was taken.
In October 2006, he was again accused of making insensitive jokes about cancer sufferers, blind people, a woman in a wheelchair, and the recent trial over the murder of Damilola Taylor, prompting a woman to walk out of the show in disgust. Davidson vehemently denied the charge, claiming that jokes about blind people and cancer sufferers would have merited a "mass walkout". He also said the comments about the Damilola Taylor trial were taken out of context: "My actual remark was that I thought the killers should be locked away forever. And if she objects to that then that is her prerogative. Davidson was also quoted as saying "If what I was saying was true I would have got up and left myself". There were no other complaints about his performance on that night.
In 2007, Davidson was called on as a character witness to drug trafficker Brian Brendan Wright. Despite Davidson's testifying to Wright's character, the judge concluded that Wright was in fact "a master criminal, manipulative, influential and powerful," and sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
In September 2007, Davidson participated on the celebrity reality TV programme Hell's Kitchen. During his time on the show, Davidson attracted negative media attention over what was identified as homophobic bullying towards T.V presenter and openly gay contestant Brian Dowling. Davidson asked Dowling, "Are you on our side?" when referring to whether or not he would be participating for the boys or girls team. Davidson called him a "shirt-lifter" in front of him, and was constantly asking if Dowling would like to try on one of "John Virgo's lovely waistcoats", which Davidson owns. Davidson later described himself as a "homophobic arsehole". The programme was broadcast on ITV on 4 September 2007. On 10 September, Davidson asked to leave Hell's Kitchen following further problems with Dowling. After Davidson's exit from the programme, the BBC reported that the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom had received 46 complaints alleging that Davidson had bullied Dowling. Ofcom concluded that nothing unacceptable had happened. ITV, the channel which had originally broadcast the programme, issued a statement, regretting Davidson's "unacceptable remarks".
In December 2007, Davidson again courted controversy when he made a joke about rape victims during a show at the Newark Palace Theatre, in Nottinghamshire. A local paper, the Nottingham Evening Post, stated that: "there were moments when he did stray too far over the line (most notably with a routine on rape)."
In May 2010, Davidson was found guilty at Newton Abbot magistrates' court of a driving offence.
On 2 January 2013, as Davidson was set to become a housemate in the eleventh series of Celebrity Big Brother, he was arrested at Heathrow Airport by police officers working on Operation Yewtree. On 20 March, he was arrested again over new allegations of sexual offences. On 21 August, however, it was announced that no further action would be taken in relation to the allegations of historic sex abuse, due to insufficient evidence.
In Davidson's first autobiography The Full Monty (1993), he frankly talked about his violent and abusive behaviour towards his wife in a light-hearted manner: "We're like a couple of boxers. On the first occasion, I poked her in the eye by accident. I actually went for the mouth. Thank heaven I missed, I'd have fallen in. I just took a playful punch. Unfortunately I caught her completely wrong. The second time I gave her a shiner. I threw a bunch of keys which whacked her in the eye. Just for a giggle she kept blackening it up to make it look worse."
In his second autobiography Close to the Edge (2001) he wrote tales of his four marriages and six-year battle against alcoholism.
Davidson's numerous marriages spurred Sir John Mills to send a Telemessage on the occasion of his fourth, which read simply: "Will It Last?" The marriage ended ten years later. Davidson subsequently returned the compliment to Mills and his wife on their 60th wedding anniversary, with a Telemessage bearing the same wording.
In March 2004, Davidson, an outspoken Conservative, publicly left the United Kingdom for the tax-free haven of Dubai in protest at the Labour government. At the time, he declared that "I may as well go to Dubai and be an ethnic minority there than wait five years till I become one here." He moved back to the UK after living in Dubai for five years.
Davidson is a supporter of Charlton Athletic, the local club in the area where he grew up. In the 1980s, he was a Director at AFC Bournemouth.
On 18 June 2014, Davidson attended the assault trial of former N-Dubz singer Dappy. "Dappy is a good friend of mine. I don't know what's happened in this case but I'm just here to show him my support," Davidson said. Dappy's legal team declined Davidson's offer to serve as a character witness for the singer.
Sue Walpole (1971-1972; divorced), 1 child,
Julie Gullick (1981-1986; divorced), 1 child,
Alison Holloway (1987-1988; divorced),
Tracy Hilton (1990-2000; divorced), 3 children,
Michelle Cotton (2010-current),
"Something Old, Something New,
Something Borrowed, Something..."
1 June 1992
The Truth, The Whole Truth...
1 November 1993
"Jim Davidson and 'The Boys'"
3 November 2008
1 October 1999
3 November 2008
1 October 1999
"Red, White & Very Blue"
13 November 2000
13 November 2000
"Uncovered and Uncensored"
12 November 2001
12 November 2001
"Jim's Silver Jubilee"
11 November 2002
11 November 2002
"Vote for Jim"
10 November 2003
10 November 2003
7 November 2005
7 November 2005
"In Your Face!"
6 November 2006
"The Devil Rides Out"
5 November 2007
"On the Offensive"
3 November 2008
"If I Ruled the World"
16 November 2009
"No Further Action"
1 December 2014
a. Only available in the "Bulging Package" box set which was released on 3 November 2008., b. Also available in "The Collection" box set which was released on 6 November 2006., c. Also available in the "Bulging Package" box set.
Stand Up Jim Davidson,
This Is Your Life,
The Generation Game,
The Jim Davidson Show,
Up the Elephant and Round the Castle,
Life's a Pitch,
What's on Next?,
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,
Celebrity Big Brother,
Davidson made his first feature film appearance in the Peter Greenaway directed A Zed and Two Noughts (1985).,
Colour Me Kubrick (2006) With John Malkovich.,
"Watching Over You",
"A Time for Remembering",
"Love, Please Stop Leaving Me",
Davidson wrote and performed in the "adult" pantomime Sinderella with '60s singer Jess Conrad, comedians Dave Lee, Roger Kitter, Dave Kristian, Mia Carla, Charlie Drake and balloon dancers The Oddballs.,
Boobs in the Wood 1999, an adult pantomime performed with Victor Spinetti.,
In 2004, Sinderella Comes Again toured again with a new script and was released on DVD and video.,
In 2009, Davidson announced on his website that he had begun to write part 3 of the Sinderella panto's, which he hoped to tour from February 2011.,
In 2006, Davidson played the lead role in the pantomime Dick Whittington at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford.,
In 2011, Davidson toured with a new play, Stand Up...And Be Counted. The play was about the failing career of a washed-up racist comic. This caused controversy and links made in the media with similarities between the main character and Davidson's own career. However, on 18 March 2011, Davidson announced the show was being cancelled because of poor ticket sales. It had visited only four of the 12 planned city destinations. Davidson added that he was still in talks to bring the show to the West End at a later date.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license