Comic Ben close to home with panto
GIVING up an office job with a promised pay rise and company car to earn minimum wage as an entertainer in a holiday park was a no brainer for Bay comic Ben Nickless.
Ben (pictured), who is originally from Roachdale, entered a national talent competition when he was 19 as he was fed up with office work and has never looked back.
He won his heat and was offered his first summer season.
"I was bored and hated working in an office and love humour, so being a comedian was the only option for me," said Ben.
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He started on the comedy circuit in 2004 and worked as a red coat for a number of years.
Ben got his break on the BBC show Let Me Entertain You, where he won the show he appeared on.
Since then he's enjoyed many seasons at Babbacombe Theatre, at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre, Eastbourne, and toured all around the UK with his zany comedy show.
This Christmas, he'll be close to home as he's appearing in Dick Whittington at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, from December 14 to January 19.
He'll appear alongside TV personality Christopher Biggins and children's favourite Basil Brush.
"I've never worked with Biggins before," said Ben. "He's larger than life and exactly how he is on the television. When he's in the room, you certainly know as you can hear his cackling laugh wherever you are. It's going to be great fun working with him.
"The cast is amazing, it's going to be a great show. Qudos, who are putting on the show, are a big money company, who always invest in great sets and put in a lot of special effects."
Ben will be playing the role of Simple Simon where he'll get the chance to show off his funny side.
"My main aim will be to interact with the audience and get them involved," he said.
"I can't wait to get started. Usually I have to travel miles away for panto to a place I don't know, so it's nice to be able to go home on my day off," he said.
"I'll be able to spend Christmas with the wife and my family are also coming down, so it will be a proper Christmas for a change."
Dick Whittington is extra special for Ben as it was the first pantomime he was ever involved in.
"I watched it in Manchester when I was young and I ripped off the show and put it on in my school," joked Ben.
"I remembered every joke in the production.
"Interestingly I was quiet in school, I wasn't the class clown. I kept my head down and day dreamed.
"It wasn't until I appeared in the Wizard of Oz production at school and I played the role of the lion and I started ad-libbing that every one realised comedy was my passion."
He's been a regular at Babbacombe Theatre since 2007 and that's where he and met his wife Zoe Lee, who is a dancer in many of the variety shows at the venue.
As soon as he found love, he relocated to Torbay.
"The Bay is a stunning place to live and I think people who are from the area do take it for granted. It didn't take a lot of convincing to move here," he said.
Fans of the Babbacombe Theatre will already know he entertains the crowds with comedy, impressions and vocals and receives rave reviews.
"I think that the audience has changed from 20 years ago and they don't just want to see a comedian stand there for an hour telling jokes, they'll get bored," he said.
"My act is all about variety, but the one thing I can't do well is dance. I get home from work sometimes and ask Zoe for advice on my dancing, but I think she's given up on me now," he joked.
Following panto season, Ben will head back out on tour as he's booked to play in hotels in Torbay and at Warner Hotels.
He'll also back at the Babbacombe Theatre on March 16 for a charity night in aid of Rowcroft Hospice where a whole host of local acts will perform for the good cause free of charge.
For tickets to Dick Whittington, call 01752 267222 or log on to www.theatreroyal.com/panto