Jim Bowen

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Jim Bowen
Jim Bowen, Edinburgh 2008
Born Peter Williams
(1937-08-20) 20 August 1937 (age 81)
Heswall, Cheshire, England
Occupation Stand-up comedian, TV personality
Years active 1971–2011 (retired)
Television Bullseye (1981-1995), The Comedians (1971-1993), Happy Since I Met You, From ATVLand in colour (2011), You Must Be Joking (1975-1976).

Jim Bowen (born Peter Williams[1] on 20 August 1937) is an English stand-up comedian and TV personality. He is best known as the long-time host of the ITV gameshow Bullseye, which he hosted from its beginning in September 1981 until the end of series 15 in July 1995.

Early life

Bowen was born in Heswall, Wirral in Cheshire, adopted by Joe and Annie Whittaker of Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire[2](who changed his name to James Whittaker)[3] and educated at Accrington Grammar School in Lancashire and Chester Diocesan Training College. At 15 he was a bin man in Burnley and then trained as a PE teacher at schools in Lancashire , before becoming a deputy headmaster of Caton Primary School near Lancaster.[1][4] Bowen originally gained a degree in mathematics and early years education at Lancaster University.[citation needed]

Beginnings in showbusiness

While teaching Bowen became involved with the local dramatic society which kindled his interest in showbusiness. In the 1960s he worked part-time as a stand-up comedian on the northern club circuit, balancing his comedy career with his day job as a teacher.[1] The advent of Granada TV’s The Comedians gave him the opportunity to appear on national television which ultimately helped persuade him to become a full-time entertainer.

Television opportunities followed and he made appearances on Granada’s The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club as well as Thames Television’s late-night chat show Take Two.[1] He also starred alongside Ray Burdis, John Blundell, Pauline Quirke and the pop group Flintlock in two series of Thames Television's children's sketch show You Must Be Joking in 1975 and 1976.


In 1981, Bowen was appointed presenter of a new ITV gameshow Bullseye. The format, devised by Andrew Wood, mixed general knowledge questions with darts. The show quickly became a popular feature of ITV's schedules early on Sunday evenings, and ran for 14 years until it ended in 1995.[5]

Bowen was the presenter throughout along with Tony Green as the darts commentator, and several of the catchphrases he used on the programme became well-known (though he claims he never once said "Super, smashing, great"). He would warn contestants that if they gambled and lost, all they would receive was their "BFH: Bus Fare Home". "Nothing in this game for two in a bed" referred to how contestants would win a prize by hitting the appropriate part of the dartboard, but would lose the prize if they hit it twice. He always asked contestants who lost the gamble to "look at what you could have won".

Other television work

Bowen in 2008

Bowen has also appeared in TV dramas and comedies. He played a crooked accountant in ITV's 1982 drama Muck and Brass, and later guest starred in BBC1's Jonathan Creek and Channel 4's Phoenix Nights.[1]


In 1999, Bowen began presenting on BBC Radio Lancashire but after working there for three years, resigned after referring to a guest on his show as a "nig-nog". He admitted that, even though he apologised for the remark almost immediately, he believed his showbusiness career was over.[6] On 27 August 2012 Bowen re-united with Happy Daft Farm co-presenter Sally Naden for a one-off in the 10:00-13:00 timeslot, an hour later than the show originally aired.

One-man show

Bowen returned to the limelight in 2005, when he performed a solo show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe about Bullseye, called "You Can't Beat a Bit of Bully". He returned to Edinburgh in the summer of 2006 performing at ‘Jongleurs’ from 8 to 28 August. He now takes this package around smaller theatres.

Return to radio

Bowen can now be heard presenting a mid-morning radio show on 106.6 Indigo FM in Cumbria.[7]

Personal life

Bowen previously owned Arkholme for Kirkby Lonsdale railway station, situated on what is now the Leeds to Morecambe Line between the current Wennington and Carnforth stations. Having been converted into a private dwelling, it featured under Bowen's ownership on the TV programme Through the Keyhole.[8]

On 22 February 2011 it was announced that Bowen was recovering in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary after having suffered from two mild strokes. He suffered his first stroke on Friday 18 February and the second one whilst in hospital.[9] Bowen suffered a third stroke in November 2014, which has left him struggling to walk and talk.[10]

Stand-up DVDs

  • Live (15 March 1993)
  • You Can't Tell These Anymore! (1 December 2003)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Comedian Jim Bowen on : Chortle : The UK Comedy Guide". Chortle. 20 August 1937. Retrieved 2009-05-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Book: Jim Bowen "Right Place, Right Time" page 2
  3. "How old is jim bowen?". kgbanswers.co.uk.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Sunday People (2 August 2008). "Jim Bowen - Lovely smashing superstar!". mirror.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Andrew Wood, David King. "The Bullseye Story". Bullseyeonline.net. Retrieved 2009-05-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Comedian Bowen quits over race gaffe BBC News, 8 October 2002
  7. Next up - Supertramp, smashing, great! Media Guardian, 25 March 2009
  8. Arkholme Station building, formerly owned by Jim Bowen Accessed 2008-10-17
  9. Melling Comedian Jim Bowen recovering from mild strokes BBC News 22 February 2011
  10. Jim Bowen, Former 'Bullseye' Host, Struggling To Walk And Talk After Suffering Third Stroke Huffington Post 23 August 2015

External links

Preceded by
Host of Bullseye
Succeeded by
Dave Spikey