Ricky Tomlinson's life as a comedian

Best known for his role as Jim Royle and with a career spanning over 30 years, Ricky has become a comedic icon. Now he's back with his Royle Family co-star Ralf Little in the new UKTV original series, We Have Been Watching. We caught up with Ricky to see what he thinks of the new show, and his life as a comedic actor.

Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little

Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little

How would you describe We Have Been Watching?

I think it is just a good laugh. I think it's a chance for people to sit back and relax after a nice evening meal and watch the telly and get the family round and have a bloody good laugh. It's as simple as that!

Do you think TV needs more shows that are just a bloody good laugh?

I would like to see a bit more of it on telly, I really really would. I would like to see more Royle Family or Only Fools and Horses and some of the stuff like Morecambe and Wise. I would like to see some of the younger comics; there are some wonderful young comics out there but they are not coming through in that sort of way. They are on quiz shows but that's not really family stuff. And it is a pity because they are very talented and they have got a lot going for them and I just think they could do more of that sort of stuff.

On We Have Been Watching, you are paired up with Ralf Little. Do you stay in touch much in between jobs?

Do we get together? No. We share the occasional phone call but I keep more in touch with Sue Johnston and since Caroline passed away, I have been in touch with Patrick, her brother. He put a big fundraising event on in a little village pub that they used to go to, and I went to that, and it was absolutely heaving and he made a few quid. He had someone there from Macmillan Nurses to take the money at the end of the night and he did really really well.

Your career has been long and varied, but if you are always known most for being Jim Royle, will you mind?

Not at all. 500 times a week or say 50 times a day there will be either bus drivers, taxi drivers, courier drivers or if I'm walking past a school yard, the kids they will all shout 'my arse'. They are having a laugh with me, and they have given me all the adulation and it all belongs to [Caroline]. Really, it all belongs to her. Craig Cash did a lovely speech at the funeral, he was crying; I was crying. Thank god for Sue Johnston being there to help me. Craig was stumbling over his words and then he said, 'Bloody hell, we are struggling here and she'll be up there laughing her socks off at us', and I thought that was great because she would have been. She was amazing. She was a one-off.

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given by a fellow comedian?

I really don't know. I think probably just, 'Be yourself, don't try and be a smart arse'. If you've got a funny story to tell, tell it.

Is there anything that you would still love to do that you have not done in your career yet?

I have got a couple of things in the pipeline because I love to write. I have got five grandchildren. The eldest two are sorted out now, they have been well looked after, but I've got these three young ones and I would like to leave them a legacy when they could say, 'Well, that was my granddad'. Louis is 11, Maggie is four and Jack is two and we have the youngest two at least one day a week, and then every now and again we will have them for the full weekend so their mum and dad can go away and have a weekend on their own. Louis is 11 and he has got a band called The Baby Faced Beatles. He is the lead guitarist and he is amazing. I love the kids and I do ruin them and I spoil them ridiculous. That is what granddads are for.

But when you say you want there to be a legacy for them, you must feel you've achieved a lot in your career?

Yes. Listen, I am lucky. People say to me when they meet me, 'You are just like what you see on the telly, you have got no airs and graces'. And I say, 'Listen. I've got three brothers and if I started getting a little bit big for my boots, I would know about it in five minutes'. There was no way they would let me become a luvvie or have a big head or anything. When I did Loose Women recently, there were 20 or 30 people waiting outside there with cameras and I do the lot because I think I owe it to them, I genuinely do. And I don't like anyone calling me Mr Tomlinson. I say, 'My name is Ricky, please call me Ricky' and I mean it. Signing stuff and having pictures taken goes with the job. I've got no time for fellas who say, 'I'm too busy' or 'come back and see me after'.

We Have Been Watching starts Wednesday, 4 January on Gold