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The Krankies

THEIR popularity peaked three decades ago but The Krankies - husband and wife team Janette and Ian Tough - are still at it. Summer seasons and pantos, in the main.
But when I catch up with the wee one, they're in Oz.
"We always come out here after panto then we go back to England for the summer," says the 61-year-old. "We used to work here a lot but for the last five years we haven't done anything.
"We just come out to enjoy ourselves, play a bit of golf, go to the beach, go cycling and it's very nice," she says, her voicing gradually rising in pitch as if she's taking in helium.
Hard life.
"Oh, it's tough. Tough by name and Tough by nature."
Is she surprised that they are still working after... 350 years?
There's no chuckle, so either she's misses the quip or resents it.
"Yeah, well that's it. As long as you don't do too much then you enjoy it when you do it."
Which doesn't really answer the question but one suspects she wasn't listening.
Didn't you semi-retire in the 90s?
"Well, you could still say we're semi-retired. We don't work four months of the year."
The September tour with Cannon & Ball, Frank Carson, Paul Daniels and co is a diversion from the usual Krankies work diary but it's not entirely alien to the pair, having worked with them all going way back.
"We know Tommy and Bobby well. We knew them when they were the Harper Brothers and did the clubs with them in the 70s. We've done summer seasons and panto with Jimmy Cricket and Frank Carson and summer seasons with Paul in Jersey. The only people we haven't worked with is The Brotherhood Of Man. Though we did know one of the girls, Nicky, when she was a singer in the clubs in the north-east in the 60s.
"I think it'll be a good show. I don't see us getting young kids there to see the show because they've got their own concerts but the age group that know about variety, 50-year-olds and upwards will adore the show."
The tour comes to Nottingham in September and it'll be their first performance here in 28 years, when they appeared in panto with Roy Hudd.
"It was Babes in the Wood and it ran until Easter. I think we did 13 shows a week. That's when panto was panto."
While the rascal schoolboy character of Jimmy Krankie has been their neeps and tatties since the early 70s, it was only created as a last minute fill for their shows in the working men's clubs.
"You had to have three different 20-minute spots in between the bingo. We did visual stuff and Scottish stuff but only had two [spots]. So we thought we had to have something else and decided I'd dress up as a little boy and come through the audience. The monster was born."
Their first TV appearance was in 1973 on ITV's Wheeltappers' and Shunters' but The Krankies' name was made famous on Crackerjack, after which they hosted their own TV shows for 12 years.
With the rising tide of alternative comedy during the 80s, Janette and Ian were washed away along with the rest of the old school comics. But Janette has reappeared of late on the small screen courtesy of French and Saunders (playing a diminutive pole-dancing Pamela Anderson), Absolutely Fabulous and DinnerLadies - after which the calls of "Fan-dabi-dozi" in the street became more frequent.
"You go through different stages of it. You can have three months where nobody bothers you then you'll think 'God, everybody's speaking to me today' and you'll find out there's been a repeat on UK Gold or something. You take it as it comes."
She was back in the news in 2004 when during a panto in Glasgow she fell 20 feet from Jack's beanstalk and ended up in hospital. She was 57 at the time.
"I didn't know much about it because I was knocked out but the injuries were quite serious," she says.
It took her seven months to recover.
"Everyone sent flowers but I got a fish in a tank from Jennifer and Dawn."
Ian and Janette first met in Glasgow in 1965 and married four years later.
"We both like the same things. The sun, the beach, the cycling and the golf. Ian cooks and I like eating it," she laughs, with Ian tittering in the background.
"I can't reach the cooker, that's my excuse," adds the 4'5" comic.
Is Ronnie Corbett taller?
"Aye he is. He's five foot. We met him at the airport once and I tapped him on the back. And he did exactly what I do, he turned round and looked up."

The Krankies, Paul Daniels, Frank Carson, Cannon & Ball, Jimmy Cricket and the Brotherhood Of Man are teaming up for a tour of the UK under the banner of The Best Of British Variety. It arrives at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall on September 18.

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