Close this search box.

The beloved Phoenix Nights character that took on a life of its own

We all wish Peter Kay would write another series of Phoenix Nights. He probably won't, but here's the next best thing.
Clinton Baptiste

Clinton Baptiste, the hilarious ‘clairvoyant’ is one of the iconic, but all too brief characters on Peter Kay’s Pheonix Nights.

With his hilarious readings and massively inappropriate and ill-thought-out visions, the character is now going back on the road for a huge tour.

We sat down with him to talk about the time he was nearly beaten up by ‘a Frenchman who didn’t get it’, an ‘en-masse walkout in Canterbury’ and being complemented by other spirit guides for his astute ‘spirit world’ observations.

It’s fair to say it’s been a colourful time going out on the road as Clinton.

The man behind the character, actor and comedian Alex Lowe, discussed what made him such an enduring character and has had people clambering for more.

Clinton Baptiste on Tour

“Phoenix Nights” has garnered a cult following over the years. What do you think it is about Clinton Baptiste that resonates so strongly with audiences?

I think it’s simple…for some reason, British people love to see the cogs working behind the facade. Maybe we like the honesty of that more than say, the Americans.

We like to know our heroes have feet of clay. That’s why we seem to prefer the ‘plucky loser’ like Clinton to the flashy ‘out and out’ hero like David Copperfield, or someone.

We can see Clinton is a trier.  We like someone who tries hard.

He falls short and that’s what endears people to him. Also, let’s be fair there’s an element of “Thank God that’s not me struggling up there.”

Plus people are amused by his hubris. It’s a guilty pleasure to see someone come unstuck as much as Clinton does. It’s a sort of safe enjoyment from afar of something that’s a bit of a car crash.

Clinton Baptiste has become a beloved figure in British comedy. How do you feel about the character’s enduring legacy and popularity?

I am totally delighted and amazed.

I remember a few years ago on one channel he was number 8 in the favourite TV sitcom characters of all time. It was only one of those silly countdown shows but it was thrilling.

I was barely in Phoenix Nights, so it’s a testament to Peter Kay, Neil Fitzmaurice, and Dave Spikey’s writing and sense of the absurd.

Some people might say I’ve flogged it to within an inch of its life, but I like to think I’ve added to the history of Clinton through my podcasts and live tours.

I am always so pleased when people quote stuff that Clinton has said on the podcast or on the radio or stage or wherever. It means they’re not just Phoenix Nights fans.

The character has taken on a life of his own beyond the show. How do you navigate the balance between staying true to the character’s roots while also allowing him to evolve in new contexts?

Well, as I say I wasn’t in it much, so there’s not a huge narrative for me to stay true to, but the cabaret scene and that feeling of being a small performer is something that any actor/cabaret artist knows well.

I’m from the London suburbs, but my dad was a sax player in a dance band and as a child my brother and I would go to gigs with him in a variety of working men’s clubs, church halls and scout huts, so that cabaret environment is not entirely alien to me….though I’m not from the North, of course.

Anyway, I make up for that now because I seem to spend most of my life gigging anywhere up beyond Birmingham.

Your upcoming tour promises to delve into Clinton’s extraordinary life. Can you give us a sneak peek into some of the hilarious anecdotes and experiences audiences can expect?

Firstly I can promise the audience lots of readings which is the thing they love the most. The spirits will be very very strong as ever and keen to impart advice and wisdom….and just rather funny observations.

But there is a mystery throughout the show which may or may not get resolved, there is a song from beyond the grave and the audience will finally get to meet Taruak, Clinton’s Icelandic spirit guide.

What challenges do you face when performing as Clinton Baptiste in a live setting, and how do you keep the character fresh and engaging for both new and returning fans?

The main challenge is to get the audience to accept a character act in what is usually a straight stand-up show. It would be a disaster if they were simply not buying any of it, but luckily that doesn’t happen and they are onside from the off.

I can’t pretend that’s not to do with an affection for Phoenix Nights and Peter Kay.

The other challenge is often getting to the venue and finding somewhere to put on my wig and outfit and get props ready. I can’t believe I’m still getting changed in the toilet at some places. I’m getting too old for that.

As for keeping Clinton fresh and engaging live, I like to drop in new material. Hopefully, after this tour, I will have a ton more material that I can take out on the road for stand-up nights.

For new fans, I think it’s a question of remembering where Clinton has come from and what his schtick is and not deviating miles away from it.

Clinton Baptiste often interacts with audience members during his performances. Can you share any memorable encounters or reactions from audience members that have stood out to you over the years?

I had a total nightmare once where I was chased out of a venue by an angry audience member and my agent who was there producing the gig had to rugby tackle him to stop him getting to me.

It was horrible…but he was a French bloke who just didn’t understand what I was doing and took it at face value. It wasn’t pleasant and I had PTSD for a couple of days.

I thought he was going to kill me. Genuinely!

Do you ever get people at the show who think Clinton is a genuine clairvoyant and not a character – if so – how did that turn out?

This happens quite a lot. At Canterbury, an entire row of about 20 people walked out after about 10 minutes and it turned out they thought the show was a real séance and Clinton a real medium.

Then I have had 3 times now, mediums coming into the dressing room after the show to tell me that I was sharing the stage with dead relatives, which is spooky and I want it to be true – but ultimately it’s a load of balls, I suspect. The truth is that I hope I don’t see anything supernatural myself because I am sure it will scare me and I will immediately have to stop taking the piss out of this stuff….cos to my horror…it’s entirely real!

Clinton Baptiste kicks off the tour of his new show Roller Ghoster at Chorley Theatre from 28 to 30 March with other dates in and around Manchester.

For full details and to book click here

Did we miss something? Let us know: [email protected]

Want to be the first to receive all the latest news stories, what’s on and events from the heart of Manchester? Sign up here.


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

Got a story worth sharing?

What’s the story? We are all ears when it comes to positive news and inspiring stories. You can send story ideas to [email protected]

Close this search box.