Charlie CAIROLI (1910-1980)

Charlie Cairoli This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 270
  • Subject No: 272
  • Broadcast live: Wed 25 Feb 1970
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Venue: Euston Road Studios
  • Series: 10
  • Edition: 14

on the guest list...

  • Violetta - wife
  • Regina - daughter
  • Mary - daughter
  • Charlie Jr - son
  • Coco the Clown
  • Jimmy Buchanan
  • Paul Connor
  • Tommy Trinder
  • Gerald Palmer
  • Daniel Poitier
  • Mrs Cairoli - mother

production team...

  • Researcher: unknown
  • Writer: unknown
  • Director: Margery Baker
  • Producer: Robert Tyrrell
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
  • with thanks to Charlie Cairoli Jr for his contribution to this page
related pages...

The Big Top

the circus is in town

The Big Red Book

the programme's icon

Life Is Full Of Surprises

Producer Robert Tyrrell reveals some 'cloak and dagger' tactics

Coco the Clown

Tommy Trinder


Charlie Cairoli Jr, son of Charlie Cairoli, recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in an exclusive interview recorded in June 2012

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Photographs of Charlie Cairoli This Is Your Life - and a photograph of Charlie Cairoli's This Is Your Life book

The Journal Newcastle 17 December 1998

No tears behind the laughter for Charlie

BYLINE: David Whetstone Arts Editor

Inevitably there are those whose jaws drop when they are introduced to Charlie Cairoli. He tells me jovially: "I do get people who say, 'I thought you were dead'. And then they say, 'Well, you must be about 92 by now'. I hope I don't look it." This, of course, is Charlie Cairoli Junior [as the Americans would say, but he doesn't]. He is 52, the son of the famous clown who actually died in February 1980 long after becoming a household name.

It's about the most celebrated name a clown could be born with but this Charlie Cairoli, currently playing Baron Hardup in Cinderella at Newcastle Theatre Royal, was never under any pressure to don a red nose, baggy pants and outsize shoes.

"My father started when he was five because my grandfather was a clown but I went to school and wanted to do all the things most boys wanted to do. I did go through a phase when I was about 14 or 15 when the last thing I wanted to be was a clown."

"It certainly never bothered me when I was at school that my dad was a clown. He was a clown and that was that. There probably was bullying but I never had any of it."

"When I left school at 16 I asked him if I could join him and he told me to learn a trade first. So I went into engineering and did an apprenticeship."

"It was on This Is Your Life with Eamonn Andrews that dad finally gave me permission. It was supposed to be a big surprise. Eamonn said to dad, 'Charlie has got something he wants to ask you'. I asked if I could join the act and he said yes."

Charlie has fond memories of his dad and a fund of stories he knows by hearsay. He was born in Italy and in about 1934 did a special performance attended by Hitler who afterwards gave him an inscribed briefcase and cigarette case. When war broke out, he threw it into the sea.

For three months during the war he was interned on the Isle of Wight but was soon entertaining the troops. After the war his fame grew.

"It is only as time has gone on I realise all the stuff I'd picked up through watching him and working with him. He never said to me, 'This is how it should be done'." When Charlie Senior was offered regular work at the Blackpool Tower, a prestigious and steady job in showbusiness terms, he moved the family to the seaside town and that's where Charlie Junior grew up.

He is married to Claudette, who used to be an illusionist, and they have two sons, Charles, eight, and Alexander, five. So there's a Charlie Cairoli III. But there will be no pressure on him to take up clowning. It's not the easiest way to make a living and Christmas, when many people are relaxing, tends to be the busiest time of the year. Charlie reckons this must be his 28th panto.

He hasn't played Baron Hardup before and certainly has some reservations about him. "Cinderella is my daughter and I see the Ugly Sisters having a go at her and in a sense I don't do much about it. In this politically correct age this doesn't seem quite right to me."

"I'm trying to play him as a merry type of guy who isn't quite aware of what's going on until the end when I say that's quite enough. I don't want to be seen as condoning some sort of abuse."

Charlie Cairoli belies the old notion that behind the laughter and make-up, clowns are unhappy souls. He seems cheerful enough and he says his dad wasn't a manic depressive by any means. "He was always sad when he got his tax bill and he had flaws. But he was a great practical joker and loved happy people, which was nice."

Series 10 subjects

Des O'Connor | Bobby Charlton | Harry Driver | Twiggy | Honor Blackman | The Beverley Sisters | John Fairfax | Henry Cooper
Jackie Stewart | Jimmy Savile | Arthur Dooley | Wendy Craig | Tony Jacklin | Charlie Cairoli | Richard Evans | Alfie Bass
Jack Good | Joe Mercer | Ronnie Corbett | Colin Milburn | Frankie Vaughan | Lorna Ridgway | Val Doonican
Johnny Speight | Reg Varney | Harold French