Jim Bowen: A kind and hilarious comedian whose two jobs pre-fame will shock you

Richard Bevan
Richard Bevan
3 Min Read

Blast from the past! Ah, the 1980s was when Sunday afternoons were lit up by one show and one man – the inimitable Jim Bowen. The charismatic North West comic had us all glued to our screens with ‘Bullseye’, making us cringe, laugh, and cheer as hopefuls aimed their darts for that elusive star prize. Remember that caravan or speedboat always rolled out with a flourish?

Who can forget Bowen’s cheeky grin and his famous catchphrase? ‘Just look at what you could have won!’ That was classic Bowen, always with a twinkle in his eye.

Jim Bowen was a talented stand-up comedian but he was versatile, also doing acting and presenting too

With the legendary Tony Green by his side, Jim made ‘Bullseye’ the phenomenon from its smashing debut in ’81 right until ’95. Sure, there was an attempt to revive it in 2006 with Bolton’s Dave Spikey, but let’s face it, without Jim’s brilliant comic timing – honed alongside legends like Bernard Manning on Granada TV’s ‘The Comedians – it just wasn’t the same.

Despite his TV persona, off-camera, Jim was known for his big heart, always willing to lend a helping hand, making him one of the telly’s genuine good guys. Friends and colleagues often fondly reminisced about his off-the-cuff remarks and his heartwarming presence that made everyone around him feel comfortable.

And who can forget Bully, the show’s lovable mascot? Not just a cartoon but also a prize, alongside that iconic tankard and darts.

Away from the limelight, Jim’s roots were humble. Born in ’37, he was adopted and raised in good ol’ Lancashire. He even did a stint as a dustman before the glitz of TV beckoned. And while ‘Bullseye’ made him a household name, Jim’s journey started as a PE teacher. But, thanks to Ken Dodd, the lad ventured into comedy and British TV benefited greatly.

Jim with his stained glass Bullseye pane at his Lancashire home in 1993

Bowen wasn’t just about the laughs, though. He showcased his versatility, appearing on ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ and other shows. Yet, Bullseye remained his magnum opus, a delightful mix of darts, quizzes, and of course, Bowen’s infectious enthusiasm.

Later on, our darting hero channelled his love for the show into a beautiful stained glass window at his Lancashire home. And while the curtains finally closed for Jim in 2018, his memories and laughter remain etched in our hearts. Cheers to a man who indeed, was super, smashing, great!

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