Ricky Tomlinson's Royle variety show

RICKY Tomlinson picks up the phone and says all right kiddo in that familiar Scouse accent and, for all I know, he could be sitting in the front room with all the other members of The Royle Family, writes MATT TROLLOPE. It really is that difficult to s

RICKY Tomlinson picks up the phone and says "all right kiddo" in that familiar Scouse accent and, for all I know, he could be sitting in the front room with all the other members of The Royle Family, writes MATT TROLLOPE.

It really is that difficult to separate Ricky and Jim Royle, the armchair-loving northern dad who the nation have taken to their hearts since the award-winning show first hit our screens in 1998.

And when that familiar cackle of a laugh kicks in I expect "our Denise and Dave" to turn up with "baby David".

Ricky chortles as he talks about his forthcoming comedy show at The Broadway theatre in Barking on Sunday, explaining: "It's a good old-fashioned variety show. Since the popularity of The Royle Family I've been doing my one-man show, which involves me telling some stories and gags in the first half and then doing a Q&A in the second half.


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"But this show features a really good comedy show band called Black Onyx and a couple of great comedians, so I think this is much more value."

The fact that Ricky is touring at all, considering he had a four-way heart by-pass operation just 18 months ago, is amazing. But just you try to keep Ricky, 70, off the road.

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He says: "Because the other acts are involved, it does help share the workload. I love being on the road with the boys."

At the end of last month, Ricky jetted off to Las Vegas with his family to celebrate the "big seven-0", though it was difficult getting a visa after the well-documented two-year prison sentence that he served for his role in the builders' strike in 1972.

"It took us a while to sort that out, kiddo," he explained. "Then a few months ago Jack Straw gave me the all clear."

Ricky quickly moves on to Michael Shields, the Liverpool football fan recently released from prison following his controversial jailing in Bulgaria after the Champions League final in Istanbul in 2005, joking that "Jack Straw dragged his heels on that one too, kiddo".

He adds: "I did a couple of shows in Liverpool to raise money for Michael over the years.

"I love living in Liverpool and it's because of the people of Liverpool, the sense of community. So I'll always do my bit for people if I can."

Meanwhile, The Royle Family returns to our screens soon for another festive special, following last year's epic Christmas Day session at Denise's new house.

"I get at least 50 people a day shouting 'my arse' at me, and I just can't help laughing."

Tickets for the Ricky Tomlinson Variety Show are priced at �15.50 and �17.50 and available at www.thebroadwaybarking.com. Doors open at 7.30pm.

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