MILLIONS of TV fans know him as Boycie, but actor John Challis is much, much more than that.
And for one night only, you’ll have a chance to hear his story, straight from the Only Fools and Horses mouth.
John is preparing to bring his one-man show to the Kenton Theatre in Henley on Sunday, March 4 where he will unpack his life story. Witty, funny, touching and moving, it’s also an opportunity for people to learn more about the man behind the second hand car salesman with the annoying laugh.
But that’s not the only line on his CV. In a career that dates back to the 1960s, John has appeared in big hits including Dixon of Dock Green, Doctor Who, Coronation Street and the sitcom Green, Green Grass.
So his one-man show, Only Fools And Boycie, will cover a lot in a short space of time.
“It’s going to be funny and interesting,” he promises The Wokingham Paper. “You’ll learn things about what life is like as an actor.
“It’s about how I got to where I am, there’s stuff about my old headmaster at school and the people you meet along the way.
“It’s entertainment and entertaining conversations. People can ask questions – nothing too personal,” he quips. “And they can meet me afterwards.”
And people can take a bit of Boycie home with them. John has written several books, including his autobiography, comic novels about a man called Reggie and a new book Wigmore Abbey: The Treasure of Mortimer. This tells the true story of his home and its gardens.
All will be available to buy and John will sign copies after the show.
“I’ve written these books you see, I’ve got five titles to sell, this is a good way to do it,” he jokes. “I’ve published these myself and I’m getting out there telling my story.”
John, 75, has always had the acting genes in him. He admits that at school he used to do impersonations and enjoyed the attention.
“I suppose I’m someone who needs to entertain people really,” he says.
This is not the first time John has appeared at the Kenton, but only readers with very long memories will have seen him: it was right at the start of his career in the 1960s. He was appearing in a series of plays. Originally he was meant to do just one of the trilogy but after a cast member quit, he was snapped up to do a second.
“I spent two or three days trying to learn the lines,” he admits. The plays were some of the first to be produced by one Cameron Mackintosh, who went to greater things.
“He’s not employed me since,” John smiles.
But it doesn’t matter: in 1981, fame came calling with Boycie in Only Fools and Horses. The bit part became part of the ensemble family and with it, his annoying laugh.
John says he finds it hard to do on cue, but it came about by accident. “I did it one day and it made everyone [on set] laugh, so they said, ‘Keep it in’,” he explains.
Boycie, with his on screen wife Marlene, made such an impression that writer John Sullivan devised a spin-off sitcom for them, Green, Green Grass. But its genesis came from a weekend Sullivan spent with Challis at Wigmore Abbey.
“John saw me completely out of context and he saw the idea for Green Green Grass,” he explained.
The Reggie books came out of John meeting an editor who encouraged him to tidy up the notes he’d made and turn it into a finished piece of work. They are loosely based on real events but names have been changed to protect the guilty. The result is two books so far, with a third on the way. The reason?
“He said they were the sort of chapters that make you want to turn the page and see what happens next.”
And if you want to know what happens next for John, well, The Kenton Theatre in Henley on Sunday, March 4 is the place to be.
Tickets cost £18 and include a £1 theatre restoration levy. For more details call 01491 575698 or visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk