WITH the pension age climbing ever higher, North-East stand-up Bobby Pattinson is an example to us all by again postponing retirement from showbiz at the age of 83 to host another children’s charity event at Sunderland Empire, in September.

“I’m lucky I’m still standing up and talking and I’m hosting an event in the future which is the art of positive thinking,” jokes Pattinson.

“My short-term memory is a bit dicky at the moment, but my long-term memory is great. So, the important things I did many, many years ago I can still recall. I’ve done six DVDs with about an hour-and-a-half of material on each. The last one was two hours with a pot pourri of my life and all the people I’ve worked with. I still have that recall using the bullet points I need now.

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“I can be on stage and the drummer will say, ‘Tell them about London’, and that’s 20 minutes worth. ‘Tell them about the first time you flew’, and that’s another 20 minutes,” adds Pattinson.

He’d announced that his November 2015 release was his last performance, but confesses that he’s been back on stage two or three times.

The Variety concert, which supports disabled and underprivileged in the region, takes place on Tuesday, September 5, and features G4 from the 2004 X Factor final and Sage Gateshead’s Inspiration Choir, which regularly appears with the Royal Northern Sinfonia.

Pattinson confesses it was easy to persuade him to act as host because “I suddenly realised that this was who I am. I have various big business interests such as hotels and care homes, and I employed 1,200 people at one time. Now it’s about 700. But if anybody asks me what I do I tell them that I’m a funny face comic. I’ve been a comedian since I was 17 years of age. Now, as you witness in care homes, there are residents who sleep all the time because it’s what you do when you get into your 80s. I could, after talking to you, jump in a car and travel to London and get there no problem

“If I went home and sat in front of the television, I’d be asleep in five minutes. That’s the way it is. You’ve got to keep active. There are times when I’m saying, ‘I’m tired’, but life makes you tired. I’ve worked at 100mph for what seems forever. But, I’ve got to keep doing it, otherwise I’d go to sleep... and I’ll be doing that for a long time when the day does come.”

The Gateshead-based comedian has raised well over £100,000 and financed Variety’s efforts to buy five coaches to transport youngsters to memorable experiences. The charity also provides specialist wheelchairs, plus sensory and recreational equipment for use in homes, schools, children’s hospitals and youth centres.

“I’ve got 184 thank you letters in a file about ten yards from my shoulder. I’m not patting myself on the back because I need to work and love to work. I don’t need the money now, so if someone wants me to help raise some money then I’ll do it. On top of that, I’ve probably raised around £100,000 more for other good causes. I have had phone calls of thanks, but I do treasure the letters. It helps me. I need to do it to keep me bright and, as you’ve discovered, I talk very fast and don’t let anyone else get a word in, which is unusual for someone my age,” Pattinson says.

Variety recognised Pattinson’s years of fund-raising with a silver award.

“I said to Bob Gladwin (Variety’s Northern Region vice-chairman) that organisations like Northern Rock had given lots of money. Bob told me, ‘But they are not private individuals’. It’s a silver heart which actually turned out to be gold, so I was a bit confused about that, but it’s really lovely,” he says.

Out of the many famous names he’s worked with, Pattinson picks out Bob Monkhouse as the best.

“He was my manager for three years. He was a brilliant comedian. I started summer seasons at New Brighton in 1979 and that kind of business has gone now. Years ago, playing the clubs in Manchester, the comedians would all get together for coffee and natter. At 11am, a lot of them would go off and play golf, and I can’t understand why people would waste four hours in that way, or go to the pub. I’m a non-drinker. So, I just write material. A lot of old comedians can do the same 40 minutes that they did 40 years ago, but I’ve got 12 hours to work with. And that’s not the material I had when I topped the bill at Caesar’s Palace, Batley and Wakefield, which were 2,000 seaters.

"The other big cabaret names at that time were the Black Abbots, the Grumbleweeds and Ronnie Dukes and Ricky Lee. They were the big names at the theatre clubs, but weren’t national names. They were booked on the strength of performance.”

Asked to compare the days of nightclub comedy with today’s North-East stand-ups like Ross Noble, Sarah Millican and Chris Ramsey, Pattinson says that there are a lot of people who can write good jokes appearing at comedy venues. “The first time I saw Sarah Millican at Newcastle City Hall, in a comedy festival, she was a youngster trying to become a comedian. She’s now developed into a good comic and I thought we hadn’t got many more, but people like Steffen Peddie and Gavin Webster are others who don’t get the credit they deserve.

“The circuit I knew isn’t there any more, but I always think I was born 40 years too early because London wouldn’t book people it considered were club comics. Ken Dodd has always said, ‘I’m not a Northern comedian, I’m a comedian from the North’. Now stand-ups have become the new rock’n’roll.”

n Variety, a special charity concert, Sunderland Empire. Tuesday, September 5, 7.30pm. Box Office: 0844-871-3022 or ATGtickets.com/Sunderland