When comedian Mark Trevorrow birthed his over-the-top, safari-suit-wearing character Bob Downe in 1984, the aim was to make people laugh but he has been delighted to discover Bob hasn’t just nailed that, he has also helped many young people to become comfortable in their sexuality.
‘One of the nicest things over the years has been if I'm out and about at a shopping centre or somewhere, I'll get approached by a mum with an obviously gay young person. It's either a son or a daughter, usually a son, and they'll tell me what a difference it's made to them and their family and their feelings about the kid being gay,’ Mark says.
Whilst some older gay people have criticised Bob for perpetuating a stereotype, Mark says they need to look harder.
‘Yes, he is a stereotype, but Bob is very powerful. He's very much in in control of the situation, and I think that's what young gay people see — for the first time they are seeing a gay person being very cheeky and in control and taking charge and not being a victim.
‘People have told me that when they saw me when they were in their teens, they knew everything was going to be all right... the most amazing example being (British actor and comedian) Matt Lucas, aged 13 watching me Live from Edinburgh on his bedroom TV.’
Of course, there have been many other highlights over the course of Bob’s illustrious trans-Atlantic career, including being part of a Royal Variety performance in London’s famous Palladium Theatre.
‘It was pretty wild. I did get to meet the Queen. It was amazing because her and Phil were really laughing, so that was delightful, and she stopped and spoke to me, which was really fantastic….she asked me if I had a valid work permit,’ he jokes.