Making his television debut on the heavyweight talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1972 as part of a musical duo, calling themselves The Stewart Brothers, evergreen comedian and entertainer Billy Pearce began his career touring the club circuit of northern England. Unfortunately The Stewart Brothers didn’t make the finals of the legendary talent show and were forced to go their separate ways. Yet this experience encouraged Billy to realise his true calling to become one of Britain’s most enduring all round entertainers and he promptly made waves to do so.
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Despite only doing one season at Butlins, this experience proved invaluable for the young entertainer. It was here that Billy learned the wide ranging responsibilities attributed to the holiday camp entertainer: knobbly knees competitions, talent shows and beauty contests were firm staples of the Butlins itinerary and taught Billy the disciplines of making people laugh. Suddenly holiday camps were the new stepping stone to become a successful TV star and everyone from Michael Barrymore to Shane Ritchie owed so much to this unique route into the world of entertainment.
By 1986 Billy was once again ready to try his hand at television and promptly auditioned for ITV’s New Faces. This was layered with irony as by 1986 Billy Pearce was already into his second decade in showbiz and didn’t consider himself to be a “new face”. However he made it through to the grand final and this made him a recognisable face on television. The offer to tour with the legendary Danny La Rue was an opportunity too good to turn down and Billy was able to learn so much from this entertainment icon. Being the Robin Hood to La Rue’s Maid Marion was a total revelation for Billy and gave him the perfect grounding in live comedy. Despite his vast achievements Billy shall forever be proud to have worked with such a showbiz legend and remains grateful for everything he was able to teach him.
Television once again came calling in 1991 when Billy starred alongside fellow Butlins alumni Shane Ritchie with Annette Law and George Marshall in the BBC1 comedy Variety series You Must Be Joking; the show which combined sketches and Stand Up in a traditional Variety format. Unfortunately the series was hounded by critics which ultimately led to the show’s demise which was disappointing for both cast and crew. Yet in hindsight Billy is able to reflect on the show and admits that he struggles in a studio environment where you’re forever conscious of the camera and ensuring you’re in the right place. Whereas in a theatre the performance is able to flow much more organically and this is where Billy feels most at home.
Perhaps Pearce’s most celebrated TV work came during the late eighties and nineties when he became a regular guest on ITV’s Des O’Connor Tonight. As a performer, Des has built a reputation for being extremely generous to new generations of comedians and has created an ITV platform for emerging talent. Billy is the first to stress how significant Des has been in the development of his television career and cites him as an underrated, influential figure within the world of comedy. Irrespective of his many achievements, Billy shall always remain extremely grateful of Des’s influence over his television career and this is something that will forever unite these two supreme entertainers.
Now into his fourth decade in entertainment, Billy Pearce shows no signs of slowing down and despite a long hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic, is craving to return to the theatre to do what he does best. Celebrating forty five years in showbusiness, the unpredictable comedian shows no sign of slowing down and the task of interviewing such a ball of boundless energy remains almost impossible! It was a great pleasure to interview the unique Billy Pearce and long may he keep audiences laughing