Having just returned from a late honeymoon in the Maldives, after completing a gruelling schedule which included stand-up tours in the UK and Australia, a West End panto and his own wedding, Julian Clary is hoping for a quieter year.
“When you’re really tired and can barely speak to each other, the Maldives is the place to go,” the softly-spoken comedian observes.
In November, Clary – master of the double entendre, winner of 2012 Celebrity Big Brother, and all-round popular funny man – married his long-term partner Ian Mackley, in a small, private ceremony at Camden Town Hall register office.
Now the happy couple are back at their home in Aldington, Kent – a 15th century manor house once owned by Noel Coward – and Clary, 57, is busy promoting The Bolds On Holiday, his third children’s book in The Bolds series, about the adventures of a family of laughing hyenas who live in suburban Teddington, disguised as humans.
While Clary has no children of his own, he has a brood of great-nieces and nephews to test his novels on.
“My nephews and nieces have all now had children. There are about six children around between one and eight, so there’s plenty of scope,” he says. “We’re quite a funny family. We all laugh a lot. They understand my humour.”
Did he ever want kids himself?
“Not really,” he muses. “I’ve thought about it. I had a little pang the other day when I saw that Madonna might be adopting two more children. I thought, we could do that. But I’m a bit old now.
“My husband is younger than me and he’s quite interested in the idea, but I think it’s just talk, really. I don’t think we are quite committed enough to do it.”
But they were committed enough to get married last year – a celebration that Clary posted to his 215,000 Twitter followers, with a picture of the happy couple dressed in formal suits with floral corsages, as Clary signed the register.
The picture was accompanied with a tongue-in-cheek message, which read: ‘On Saturday he slipped his finger into my ring at last. #married.’
He and Mackley have been together 11 years, and Clary said it was a mutual decision to tie the knot.
“Ten years ago, I don’t think we could have got married. I was always interested in marriage rather than a civil partnership, which didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want a separate thing. If you think gay relationships are on a par with heterosexual relationships then we should have the same ceremony.
“I was always a great campaigner for gay marriage, then found I didn’t particularly want it for myself, and then it just came about,” he adds.
“We both made our wills and it came out of that, really. We both thought it would be a nice day out. No one popped the question. It was more, ‘When are you free?’ We both looked at our diaries. We didn’t tell anyone, it wasn’t a big thing. We only had two people at the wedding – my sister and my PA.”
Clary, who met his advertising executive beau in 2005 on a yacht in Ibiza, was adamant he wasn’t going to have a big bash.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of being the centre of attention in that circumstance. It felt like a very private thing between the two of us. And you know what weddings are like – it very quickly gets out of hand with the guest list, and, ‘If you invite them, you’ve got to invite them…’
“We had a party later. People thought they were just coming to a party, but we hung the ‘Just married’ sign up in the hallway.
“I didn’t think marriage would change our relationship, and I suppose nothing has actually changed, but I think we’re being nicer to each other since we got married. It’s a funny thing. You feel more committed, like you’re looking out for the person. It’s just subtle things. It’s more romantic. I’m being more considerate, which I never have been before!
“We are both very independent, emotionally as well. We’re not particularly needy with each other. We’re just being kinder.
“Before you’re married, there’s this thought, ‘Oh, I could always get rid of you and get someone more interesting’,” he quips with a laugh, “but now I don’t feel like that.”
He wants to devote this year to writing two further Bolds books: he always imagined there’d be five in the series.
Clary, who’s also written a memoir and three adult novels, says his mind’s in a different place when he’s writing children’s books, compared with performing live comedy.
“I’m not trying to squeeze innuendos and graphic sexual references into it. I like the innocence of it,” he explains.
Yet the panto he performed in at Christmas, Cinderella, was heavily criticised for being too rude for young audiences. Clary chuckles at the accusations.
“I did love one headline, ‘Clary unleashes a tsunami of smut’. That will be on my next tour poster.”
After two punishing stand-up tours last year with The Joy Of Mincing, he’ll give himself some time off from live performing, he says.
“I like fading away, and people thinking you’ve died for a while. Because of the nature of my act, it’s quite easy to have a bit of Clary fatigue, and if you go away for a while and then come back, people are ready for a bit of filth.”
However, it’s important he keeps performing.
“It’s imperative,” Clary admits. “It’s what I started out doing and there’s something very addictive about making people laugh. I can do that in the privacy of my own home, but there’s something about getting out there, the creative process of touring and things evolving and occurring to you in the moment. I like all that.”
However, he doesn’t crave the celebrity recognition he once did.
“Oh God, spare me that! I used to think it was terribly important, but I can disappear now and come back and it’s all fine. When you get to about 50, you think, ‘Well, I’m only really going to do what I want to do’.”
His TV appearances have dwindled in the last year, he realises.
“Television’s a funny old world. I don’t think I’m particularly good at it. I never quite feel like it’s the real me when I’m doing television. It’s not in your control. If I’m on tour, I’m centre stage and decide what I say and what order I say it in, and we all go home happy.
“With television, it can be edited and scheduled and all these things that are out of your control. I enjoy it once in a while, but I’m not desperate for it.”
He says there are a few things in the pipeline, but none which he can talk about. Will there be more reality shows after his successes with Strictly Come Dancing in 2004 and Celebrity Big Brother?
“How about The Jump?” he retorts, laughing. “And of course I’m still lamenting the loss of Splash. I would have been very good on that!”
“I think I may have made my contribution to that genre,” Clary continues. “I’m a husband now – I’m far too busy looking after my husband to swan off to the jungle.”
The Bolds On Holiday by Julian Clary, illustrated by David Roberts, is available now.