The cruise ship circuit remains an area of entertainment which is constantly overlooked by the industry and is somewhat separate from the glamorous and enigmatic world of showbiz. For over twenty years, writer, musician and entertainer Jon Courtenay was a regular on the ships which disembarked from Southampton. This is probably the only arena where Variety is still very much alive and well, preserving that endangered art of family all round entertainment. The cruise ships created a bespoke community where Jon thrived as he enjoyed the positive comradery which it brought. Apart from corporate events and charity work, the ships dominated the early part of his career and offered him a stable income in order to attempt to take his career to the next level.
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As his family grew up, the appeal of the cruise entertainer lifestyle was moving further away from his ideal position. Being in the industry for over a decade, Jon was used to receiving offers to audition for Britain’s Got Talent as part of ITV’s insurance plan to ensure a decent standard of entertainment. Having previously been somewhat sceptical about talent shows of this calibre with their over glamorised backstories and emotional hooks, Jon had been invited to audition many times but had always turned it down. Yet having had changes to his personal life and knowing members of the production crew would change his perception of the show to the extent that the next time he received the offer to enter, Jon accepted.
Stepping out on the legendary London Palladium stage in January 2020 was a pivotal moment for Jon who had grown up watching the icons of television variety performing on Sunday Night At The London Palladium and similar shows of this kind. As soon as he reached the centre spot, he was overcome with reverential thoughts about just how many entertainment icons had trodden the hallowed ground where he now stood. As a professional entertainer, Jon instinctively knows how to gauge material for the right audience and used this to his advantage when creating material to showcase. Knowing that there had already been two golden buzzer acts in London, Jon assumed that his chances of securing another were pretty slim. Indeed when his act finished and Ant and Dec strode on the stage, he thought something had gone wrong with the recording which meant they would be forced to reshoot. Then the pair headed over to the judges desk and hit the now infamous golden buzzer which triggered the confetti cannons and for a second time stood still before Jon realised what was happening: he had been given Ant and Dec’s golden buzzer!
Obviously the start of the Coronavirus pandemic created a forced hiatus in the filming of the 2020 series of Britain’s Got Talent which meant a six month gap between the auditions and the live shows. In the meantime, Jon realised something strange on his neck and seeked medical advice which ultimately resulted in a cancer diagnosis. It seemed surreal that in the middle of such extraordinary bittersweet times that he would have his own very personal battle to overcome. At such a difficult time, Jon reflected on his own mortality and the pride of reaching the semi finals of Britain’s Got Talent was quickly replaced by the worry and stress of his serious illness. Being unable to work was really taking its toll on the supremely talented entertainer and with the added concerns over his health, these were dark times for the Courtenay family.
On Sunday 10th October 2020, a staggering ten months after his very first audition, Jon Courtenay was crowned the winner of the fourteenth series of Britain’s Got Talent. The first emotion which entered his head following hearing his name wasn’t one of elation, excitement or euphoria but one of sheer relief. Relief that with the two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, he could pay off the loans which had kept them afloat during what had been the most difficult and traumatic period of the family’s lives. In doing this, they could put the past year behind them and concentrate on a brighter future which was enhanced when Jon received a clean bill of health earlier this year. This was the perfect end to a remarkable story.
Still enjoying the status of being able to call himself a winner of Britain’s Got Talent, Jon is looking forward to his brand new Edinburgh show Against The Odds. As a performer, Jon’s versatility and gift for songwriting and comedy makes him one of the most exciting performers on the circuit with a constant nod back to the glory days of Light Entertainment. In a world where there’s much darkness, it’s reassuring to know that there are still acts who just revel in bringing upbeat positivity and unbridled joy to the masses. It was a great pleasure to interview the formidable Jon Courtenay and with a truly remarkable story behind him, it’s going to be fascinating to see where his career shall take him next.