Jim Bowen born Peter B. Williams (upon adoption his name was changed to James Whittaker and upon marriage to Jim Bowen) in Heswall, Cheshire, England on August 20, 1937 is an English stand-up comedian and TV personality. He is best known as the host of the ITV gameshow Bullseye which ran for 14 years and was watched by over 12 million viewers.
Early life and career
Bowen was educated at Accrington
Grammar School, Lancashire
and Chester Diocesan Training College
Jim spent a stint as a dustman in Burnley aged 15.
He was then a teacher at schools in Lancashire and became deputy headmaster of Caton Primary School near Lancaster.
While teaching he became involved with the local dramatic society which kindled his interest in show business. In the 1960s he worked as a ‘stand-up’ comedian on a part-time basis on the northern club circuit. The advent of Granada TV’s The Comedians gave Jim the opportunity to appear on national television which prompted him to leave teaching.
Television opportunities followed and Jim made appearances on Granada’s Wheeltappers and Shunters’ Social Club alongside Thames Television’s late-night chat show ‘Take Two’.
Central Television's Up For the Cup
featured Jim together with Summertime Special
and Noel’s House Party
. (He was “Gotcha’d” by Noel
as part of his Saturday night programme). Many other guest appearances followed including “Celebrity Squares”, “Pebble Mill”,” Family Fortunes”, “Des O’Connor Tonight” and numerous Christmas television specials. Bowen has also played in situation comedy and straight roles, including “Foxy Lady” with Diane Keen
, 1981's Happy Since I Met You
with Julie Walters
and (written by Victoria Wood
) and several cameo roles in Last of the Summer Wine
. He played a major character as a crooked accountant in Central Television’s prestigious 1980s six part film drama “Muck and Brass” starring Mel Smith. He was very familiar to northern audiences as “Alf”, the long-suffering barman in 14 very successful commercials for Tetley Bitter. In 1986 he was the subject of “This is Your Life” with Eammon Andrews, and in 1988 Sarah Kennedy caught him by surprise as she revealed his schooldays in Central TV’s “Classmates”.
More recently Jim appeared in “Jonathan Creek” with Alan Davies, “The Grimleys” alongside Brian Conley and as ‘Hoss Cartwright’ in the second series of “Phoenix Nights” starring Peter Kay as well as the music video for "Is This the Way to Amarillo?" with Kay and singer, Tony Christie. Sarah Lancashire cast Bowen as ‘Norman’ in “The Bingo Hall”, one of 6 afternoon dramas for BBC 2 in October 2004. Bowen recently appeared as a guest on ITV's "The Mint". 2006 has seen a resurgence of interest in ‘Bullseye’ as it is shown four times daily on ‘Challenge TV’. This has resulted in numerous guest appearances on BBC 2’s “Weakest Link” in which he appeared 4 times (twice a winner!) , ‘Des & Mel’, ‘Richard & Judy’ and 'This Morning' with Phil & Fern.
From 1999 to 2002 Jim worked for BBC Radio Lancashire
, presenting and creating a hugely popular live morning magazine programme. In 2002, Bowen used the outdated term "nig-nog
" on his BBC radio show The Happy Daft Farm
. Although an old Lancashire term for "silly person", many people deemed the remark to be racially offensive and he handed in his notice the same day, remarking that the incident would probably spell the end of his showbusiness career. However, he continued to tour comedy clubs and made a guest appearance on a #1 hit music video with Peter Kay
He performed a solo show at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
, called "You Can't Beat a Bit of Bully." He returned to Edinburgh in the summer of 2006 performing at ‘Jongleurs’ from August 8th to 28th. He now takes this package around smaller theatres where he often indulges his audience with two hours of banter and a effigy of Tony Green.
Jim is one of the hosts of the E4 laughs at Edinburgh podcast, showcasing comedy talent from the 2008 Edinburgh festival.
Bowen's autobiography “From a Bundle of Rags” was published in 1992 in hardback and went to paperback the following year. Ten years later he wrote an updated version of his life entitled “Right Place, Right Time”. Jim currently acts as 'agony uncle' for the University of Central Lancashire
's Students' Union newspaper Pluto
, which he started doing in September 2005.
After Dinner Speaking
The popularity of Bullseye led to Bowen attaining ‘cult’ status among university students. This led to regular appearances at both the Oxford and Cambridge Unions. Bowen's after dinner speeches highlight the frailties and shortcomings of show business and its trappings.
Since his early years he has been an avid jazz fan and is probably the most frustrated trumpet player in the world. This has led to almost two decades cruising on QE2 with “The Hot Rhythm Orchestra” several times a year.
Famous for singing "Rock Around The Clock" at the Bullseye Christmas wrap party every year until 1992.
Jim Bowen's Bullseye Catchphrases and common phrases
- "Are you asking me or telling me?"
- "All for the throw of a dart!"
- "Let's have a look at what you could've won!"
- "It'll take me two minutes to count this money out, see you in a couple of minutes"
- "Take your time"
- "Let's check it with Bully"
- "(Faces, Places, Sport, Spelling, Britain, Books, Showbiz, History, Words, Affairs) we'd like"
- "You can't beat a bit of Bully!"
- "Wouldn't be the same without a bit of Bully on Sunday, would it?"
- "Sunday wouldn't be Sunday without a bit of Bully"
- "Remember lads, if you fail to reach a hundred and one or more with six darts, you get your BFH, Bus Fare Home"
- "Thanks for saving us some time"
- "(Ladbrokes Version) Take your Time please! See you soon!"