1 9 8 8 – 1 9 8 9 (UK)
12 x 30 minute episodes
1 9 9 1 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
Debuting on Wednesday 7 September 1988, lanky singing impressionist Joe Longthorne – a former rag and bone man from Hull – finally landed his own ITV show after guesting on other people’s shows – notably Les Dennis – for a decade or more.
Joe applied his uncanny musical mimicry to artists including Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, David Bowie, Barry Manilow, Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Johnnie Ray, Bryan Ferry, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Tina Turner, Judy Garland, Johnny Mathis, Barry White, Julio Iglesias, Engelbert Humperdinck, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Matt Monro, Neil Diamond, Freddie Mercury, Andy Williams, Risk Astley, the Pet Shop Boys, Pavarotti and Al Jolson. He also sang as himself.
He was supported on the show each week in the 1988 series by comedy illusionist Wayne Dobson and former Splash! presenter Lisa Maxwell. Dobson returned in the 1989 series, accompanied by American comedian Darryl Sivad and dancers, the Beaufort Girls.
After a period of illness when Longthorne was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic lymphoma, for which he received treatment and continued to perform on live shows in spite of his illness, The Joe Longthorne Show returned to television in June 1991 with Joe now being assisted by American comedian Kelly Monteith.
The third and final series also featured regular guest stars, including Marti Caine, Lulu, Dana, Australia’s Fabulous Singlettes, Welsh singer Iris Willims, and jazz singer Karen Kay (mother of Jamiroquai‘s Jay Kay).
Longthorne’s impressions were uncanny, and the show provided bright variety for three series, but it certainly didn’t push light entertainment boundaries in any way.
His lymphoma degenerated into leukaemia in 2005, and he underwent a bone marrow transplant. In 2014, Longthorne was found to have throat cancer but remained adamant that he would continue to perform after his operation. He died at home in Blackpool on 3 August 2019, aged 64.