A golden year for Britain’s Got Talent winner Jon Courtenay as new tour kicks off in Blackpool with live audiences
“It’s pretty scary, yeah,” he laughs, as he contemplates the opening of his What’s it all About tour at the Blackpool Opera House on June 10.
The pianist, comedian and songwriter last graced the same stage for his appearance on the Royal Variety Show, held at the resort for the third time in its history late last year.
It was, he says, a poignant night for the entertainment industry and a real privilege to join a roster with Jason Manford, Gary Barlow, Spice Girl Melanie C, Sheridan Smith and Michael Ball appearing with the late centenary. fundraiser, Captain Sir Tom Moore on a live link.
Mrs. Brown’s Boys are set for the live show’s return to Blackpool next year
“My first audition for Britain’s Got Talent was back in January (2020) with a live audience and my last show was around March.
“So having the Royal Variety was great, in such an amazing theater and being a part of that story and working with all the other stars that were there, they all made me feel so welcome.
“It’s going to be so emotional to be back on this stage because it will be my very first live theater show on June 10th, back on this same stage where I did the Royal Variety and after no live audiences. for a year and a half, I will try to get by without being in floods of tears.
A feeling familiar to her legions of news fans for whom her words and the themes of her performances struck a chord during her time on the long-running ITV entertainment show which was filmed during the height of the pandemic.
It’s particularly humiliating for Jon, considering he was sent back to the semi-finals on his first audition after Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly honored him with their golden buzzer.
He’s the first golden buzzer number to win the series – getting back to those “pinch me” moments, he says it’s still weird after making the decision to audition.
“Honestly after such long deliberation my whole goal was to play at the London Palladium and not get buzzed with four red buzzers so the fact that the opposite happened and went so well meant that I immediately had to think about the semi-finals and start preparing something new for it.
“Again, I was focusing on that and I didn’t think I would have to worry about the finale, and then it happened, so it was an interesting time for me to sit down at the piano with the laptop and paper and having to write an entire song on something.
“It was pressure, but I suddenly found that I was working well under pressure, with a deadline. I knelt down and continued.
“It has always been about comedy for me – every time I sat down at the piano it was with the intention of creating something to make people laugh – which is a little disconcerting since I started. participated in BGT is the number of times I’ve been told I make people cry.
“Thirty years of trying to make people laugh and all of a sudden they’re all crying.”
This resulted in a trajectory that Jon himself hadn’t really envisioned when creating this new material.
“It’s pretty scary – it’s pretty much a whole new show.
“The show I have had for the past 25 years has evolved over time but has always followed a familiar format, the same songs, the same talks about family and relationships and on the back of BGT, I got the performances people expect to hear, but now this rich collection of fun stories that happened and the chance to talk about the experience and a bunch of new songs.
“I unearthed songs that I had written awhile ago but had never really played and after I shared them with the team they were like ‘this is amazing, we can write the show. around them. ‘
“And that’s one of the weird things, I never really considered myself a songwriter until BGT. I wrote little parodies, verses on hot topics, but When I Was a Boy, the song I performed and rewrote for the semi-final, was the only song I ever had in my regular show and that I played.
“But now I have a show full of my own stuff – which is exciting but slightly scary.”
Jon says if he had known how the year would unfold, with the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic, he likely would have delayed his application to compete in the 2020 series.
As it happened, the audition phase of the show had all been filmed and it wasn’t until later that the show had to be changed to comply with the lockout restrictions. Jon says, “It was incredibly hard but a show had yet to be done and honestly I can’t praise the production enough, it was just amazing.
“I hadn’t done a lot of TV before so the whole concept was pretty foreign with everything, all those cameras buzzing around your head – so actually without the live audience I guess that was one less distraction. to the extent that I had to focus only on public television, television cameras and that’s how I tried to see it.
“But of course, for artists, there is just no substitute for that buzz, for the energy that a live audience brings, and we all missed it sorely.”
Although not a household name, Jon has worked in showbiz his entire career. He has been playing the piano since the age of five.
An early interest in magic led him to tour hotels and theaters as a magician of comedy. He also took his act in Spain and Cyprus as well as on cruise ships.
He adds: “Talking with my friends about the same profession, none of us went into this to be rich. You hope you are successful but in my 30s I was struck by how passionate I was and even with all the traveling I loved doing it and the bonus I had enough to feed my family.
“It was the kids who made me consider BGT. It’s so strange to think with the lockdown on how different things could have been. I mean, I was honest about how the overdraft had turned out – we were at our last dime, so the £ 250,000 you can imagine was just a monumental relief in and of itself and I don’t not take it for granted, given how many the industry suffers and suffers.
“There was so much frustration that I was going through the highest and lowest times of my life at the same time – especially with all the health issues too (the doctors told Jon he had just cancerous growth. before his appearance in the semi-final. He underwent surgery immediately after the final.)
“But actually I’m so grateful for the show and the attention it gave me at that time and a distraction from all the worries. And everything went well – I have my own tour.
“Coming back to this post is so exciting and I’m so happy the opening is in Blackpool, it’s right after the Royal Variety and just coming back and paying homage.”
Jon Courtenay, What It Is, Blackpool Opera House, June 10.