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Portrait of Jon Courtenay with his head resting in his hand - credit Andy Hollingworth

Jon Courtenay Interview

It’s only a month to go until The Good Old Days returns to City Varieties. We spoke to Jon Courtenay ahead of headlining the first weekend of the 69-year-old variety show.

Written by Bryony Jameson.

Please introduce yourself. How would you describe your style of performance?

My name is Jon Courtenay, I’m a comedian who plays the piano and writes songs. I definitely hail from the days of variety having begun my career as a comedy magician before moving into more comedy-music.

How did you get into stand-up comedy?

I never think of myself as a stand-up comedian. I’m not that brave. So long as I have a piano on stage with me I’m fine. It’s my security blanket. If the stand-up material is struggling I know I have the music as backup. Any true stand-up would tell you that’s cheating!

Who are your biggest comedy influences?

I grew up watching Laurel and Hardy with my Dad every Sunday, and Harold Lloyd. Then my Dad told me about people like Victor Borge, Flanders and Swan and Dudley Moore who for years I thought was just that guy who played Arthur. Silly me! We also loved watching Morecambe and Wise and The Two Ronnies as a family. Today, I love all the big hitters like Michael McIntyre and Peter Kay but also some more quirky comedians that you may not have heard of: Mitch Hedburg, Emo Phillips…

A full length portrait of Jon Courtenay sitting on top of a piano

Credit PND Photography

You’re currently at the Edinburgh Fringe, what has it been like? Any favourite moments so far?

It’s my first visit and it’s pretty overwhelming! There are over 3,500 shows to see and I’m only here for two weeks. Some amazing talent, some not-so amazing, and some shows that are just very weird but it’s an amazing event. My show has been really well received and I can’t wait to come back again next year.

You’re headlining The Good Old Days this September – how does it feel joining the line-up of this 69-year-old music hall celebration?

It’s a real honour. My Mum and Dad both performed in an old-time music hall show when I was a kid and I used to help my Mum learn songs playing the piano for her. The Good Old Days was staple viewing in our home. It’s a tradition that needs to be kept alive.

Traditional Music Hall is well-known for its musical comedy, do you have any favourite songs/routines from those days?

Two that I remember very fondly from my Mum and Dad’s days treading the boards are My Old Man Said Follow The Van and Ta Ra Ra BoomDeAy. The glimpses of dancers garters was very exciting to a young boy, I just had to avert my eyes when it was my Mum!

Finally, what can audiences expect from you in The Good Old Days?

I fully intend to honour the tradition of music hall and try to channel my Dad’s stage presence when he used to MC the shows with his hammer. I shall be using some long words that I don’t know the meaning of and try to ensure that comedy music is kept alive in that environment. I can’t wait.

Jon Courtenay will headline The Good Old Days at City Varieties from 16-17 September. Basil Brush will headline from 23-24 September. For the full line-up, visit The Good Old Days.

Comedian Jon Courtenay smiling under the lid of a grand piano with confetti falling