10 things you didn’t know about the comedian Jethro
PUBLISHED: 09:21 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:59 18 March 2020
He’s the Cornishman through and through… who lives in Devon. Jethro allows us into his home this side of the border to reveal the craft of comedy and some lesser known facts
It was a bleak icy morning, the rain horizontal, when I pitched up at Jethro’s once famous club on the Devon/Cornwall border. Although no longer a club, Geoff Rowe still lives there. But don’t imagine some faded Norma Desmond character living on past glories. Jethro may not be on television as much as he has been…but he’s no ‘has been’. He sells more than 250,000 theatre seats a year and does a roaring trade with his videos. It’s just that he’s waiting to sell the club and then, despite owning several properties, will probably buy what he calls ‘a modern little house’, explaining: “When you first have success, make some money you want to buy a big house and tell people how successful you are. But you get through that. I had two Rolls Royces at one stage what a ******** I was!”
What was the main bar of the club is now a comfortable sitting room with a huge blazing fire, television and well-worn leather sofas. At least ten pairs of boots line the entrance (he loves boots) and half a dozen flat caps hang from the coat pegs on a wooden pole, which is notched with the height of his grandchildren at various ages. The bar is still there, lined with bottles of Geoff’s home brew…damson wine. Moses, his devoted terrier, is the first to greet me but only because he’s seen the plate of biscuits laid out and knows I’m a soft touch when it comes to slipping him a custard cream!
A word of warning, confuse Jethro with Geoff Rowe at your peril. “We’re two different people” he insists. “If you watch the show I’ll go from that fella to this fella in the blink of an eye.”
Geoff is certainly no slow speaking, fey mangle worzel. He is a successful horse breeder and businessman and I doubt if there are many who have got one over on him. That’s not to say that when you meet him offstage there won’t be any jokes as it only takes a few minutes before he’s telling me he was one of twins who used to be identical…before his sister shaved her beard off! Somewhat surprisingly he is in his own words ‘a virtual recluse’. “I’m fine at shows. But to get me to go anywhere it’s nearly impossible. I haven’t got a passport!” Apparently many years ago he went to Portugal and was so bored after two days he ended up laying the paving slabs outside the hotel! He loves to mix with the audience before a show and during the interval and is happy to chat to people at a hotel afterwards. But Lord help you if you want to tell him jokes, are over familiar or want to monopolise him when he is off stage.
Jethro is the man who tells the jokes and Geoff Rowe is the one who analyses them. “In all the 41 years I’ve been doing shows I’ve never done a show that has ever been good enough for me.” It can be pretty destructive behaviour he agrees but maintains: “If you’re satisfied with the level you are at you’re never going to improve!” He re-writes his jokes continually whilst driving round his farm and often has to pull in laughing “Cos I haven’t heard them before either!”. His jokes aren’t complicated. He is the first to call them ‘silly’ and ‘daft’ but it’s the pictures he paints that have you, and him, laughing before he even gets to the punchline. Who else could tell the joke that made his name on the Des O’Connor show?
It was by pure chance he told it. He’d rehearsed and honed his act but because he was going down so well Des lengthened the interview. “The only thing I could think of clean enough for television was the train at Camborne.” He doesn’t tell that particular joke any more but says: “Anything you’ve ever heard me tell…any of my jokes I give you permission to tell them…and if you can make anyone laugh or smile you’ve got my blessing.” Good luck with that especially if it involves Denzil Penberthy or Slipalong Trevaskis!
10 things you might not know about Jethro
1. His real name is Geoffrey Rowe.
2. He is named after a Jethro Bodine in the ’60s TV series The Beverly Hillbillies.
3. He has one leg shorter than the other following an accident aged seven when a cartload of mangles went over him!
4. He is a carpenter by trade.
5. He worked in Levant Mine half a mile beneath the sea.
6. He played rugby for The Pirates for several years.
7. He has two sons Jesse, a stone hedge builder, and Lanyon, who runs Cornwall Cycle Tours.
8. He is an experienced clay pigeon shooter with his own shoot.
9. He is a highly respected horse breeder - seven times winner at The Horse of the Year Show.
10. He’d love to be in a sitcom with Dawn French.
Jethro is currently on his 2016 Tour - 40 Years the Joker. Jethro Live: 40 Years the Joker the video is available now