Peter Kay is officially the world’s biggest-selling standup. The portly British comedian sold 1,140,798 tickets for his “Tour That Didn’t Tour” between February 2010 and November 2011, which won him a place in the Guinness Book of Records. His live act and DVD sales contributed to estimated earnings of more than $32 million last year, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. He popped up at Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations dressed as a beefeater.
Kay’s popularity rests on his old-fashioned love of a great gag, delivered in a heavy Lancastrian accent with just enough of a knowing modern twist. His cleverly crafted observations about family weddings and the perils of biscuit dunking create an exceptional rapport with his audience of all ages.
That widespread appeal gives Kay an enormous commercial power, which benefits not only himself, but also any cause or performer he endorses. His mimed video of Tony Christie’s cheesy yet irresistibly catchy 1971 hit “Show Me the Way to Amarillo” for Comic Relief in 2005 not only earned millions for the charity but also rescued Christie from obscurity and thrust him back into fashion.