Jim Bowen

Jim Bowen

Date of birth: 20-08-1937
Cheshire-born Jim Bowen came into comedy while working as a teacher in Lancashire, balancing gigs on the northern club circuit with his day job as deputy headmaster of Caton Primary School.

He got his break on Granada TV’s The Comedians, which showcased such comics in the Seventies, and its follow-up The Wheeltappers and Shunters’ Social Club.

Various TV guest appearances followed, but it was his 14-year stint as host of the darts quiz Bullseye, from 1981, which propelled him into the public consciousness. In 2005, he performed a solo show at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe about the show, called You Can't Beat A Bit of Bully, which he occasionally tours.

Other notable TV appearances include playing crooked accountant Charles Sprowle in ITV’s 1982 drama Muck and Brass, opposite Mel Smith; a guest appearance in Jonathan Creek opposite Alan Davies; and a cameo in Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights. He was also the face of Tetley Bitter, playing barman Alf in 14 TV ads which aired in the north of England.

In 1999 he started hosting a morning show on BBC Radio Lancashire, but had to quit in 2002 after calling a woman a 'nig-nog' on air. He claimed he meant it in terms of someone who 'wasn't the sharpest knife in the box’, but its racial connotations cost him his job.

Bowen's autobiography, From a Bundle oOf Rags, was published in 1992 ; and another book of memoirs Right Place, Right Time came out in 2002, and was updated five years later.

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Jim Bowen dies at 80

Bullseye host gets his BFH: Bus Fare to Heaven

Comedian and Bullseye host Jim Bowen has died at the age of 80.

His wife Phyllis confirmed the news to BBC Radio Lancashire.

He  trained as a PE teacher and  later became a deputy head before giving  up teaching to become a comedian on the working men’s club circuit in the 1960s

His first TV break was on the Granada stand-up show, The Comedians, alongside the likes of Bernard Manning, Stan Boardman and Mike Reid.

But he became a  household name when he began presenting Bullseye in 1981. The show ran for 14 years until 1995 and attracted 17.5million viewers at its peak.  He said of the show: 'I always said the game was the star. It was downmarket, but accessible. Joe Public could identify with my fallibilities.

'I was so poor at the game show game. I'd say: "What do you do for a living?" They'd reply: "I've been unemployed for two years." And I'd say: "Smashing!"  It was just a word to give me a chance to think. '

He went on to host a live morning show on BBC Radio Lancashire from 1999 to 2003, and would tour a live show based on his Bullseye experiences. John Clayton, the station's editor, said: 'Every day was a joy as he took our listeners on a radio adventure where no-one was ever quite sure about the destination, least of all Jim. Sketches, competitions, interviews and even ‘talent’ shows, Jim handled them all in his unique, irreverent and delightfully shambolic way, but his humanity and his love of life and the people of Lancashire always shone through.'

Bowen also appeared in Phoenix Nights, playing Frank Cartwright, owner of the Hotel Le Ponderosa:

His other TV credits include Muck and Brass, Jonathan Creek, The Grimleys.

Two years ago he had his third stroke, which left him struggling to walk or talk. But he said: 'I have had a good life.'

Among those paying tribute today were Frank Bruno, who tweeted: 'RIP great comic we worked together many times had a lot of laughs together.' ANd Jim Davidson called him a 'great guy'.

His agent Patsy Martin said: ‘I will very sadly miss Jim. He was a very lovely, genuine man.’

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Published: 14 Mar 2018

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