Jim Bowen

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Jim Bowen
Jim Bowen in Edinburgh, 2008
Born Peter Williams
(1937-08-20) 20 August 1937 (age 80)
Heswall, Cheshire, England
Residence Melling-with-Wrayton, Lancashire, England
Occupation Stand-up comedian, Presenter, Radio Presenter, TV personality
Years active 1971–2011 (retirement)
Television Bullseye (1981–1995)
The Comedians (1971–1993)
Happy Since I Met You (1981)
From ATVLand in colour (2011)
You Must Be Joking! (1975–1976)
Comic Relief (2005).
Spouse(s) Phyllis Bowen (m. 1959) [1]
Children Peter Bowen
Susan Bowen [1]
Website www.jimbowen.tv

James Whittaker[2] (born 20 August 1937), born Peter Williams and known professionally as Jim Bowen, is an English stand-up comedian and TV personality, after an earlier career as a schoolteacher.

He is best known as the long-time host of the ITV game show Bullseye, which he hosted from its beginning in September 1981 until the end of its 14th series in July 1995.

Early life[edit]

Bowen was born in Heswall, Wirral in Cheshire, adopted by Joe and Annie Whittaker of Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire[3] (who changed his name to James Whittaker)[4] and educated at Accrington Grammar School in Lancashire and Chester Diocesan Training College. At fifteen years old, he worked as a dustman in Burnley, and then trained as a PE teacher at schools in Lancashire, before becoming a deputy headmaster of Caton Primary School near Lancaster.[2][5]

In 1959, Bowen married his work colleague, Phyllis, who was also a P.E. teacher and they later had two children, Susan and Peter.

Beginnings in showbusiness[edit]

While teaching, Bowen became involved with the local dramatic society which kindled his interest in show business. 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.[2] 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 in Last of the summer wine as a library attendant, also on Granada’s The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club as well as Thames Television’s late-night chat show Take Two.[2] 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 fourteen years until it ended in 1995.[6]

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". Listen carefully and you will also hear him use the word "Well..." several times in most shows.

Other television work[edit]

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.[2]


In 1999, Bowen began presenting on BBC Radio Lancashire but in 2002, after working there for three years, he resigned after referring to a guest on his show as a "nig-nog"[7] a word derived from the cant slang "nigmenog"[8] meaning a very silly fellow, but which had been used in more recent times as a racial slur. He said that, even though he had apologised for the remark almost immediately, and afterwards stated "No racial connotation was ever intended".[9] 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[edit]

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 2006 performing at ‘Jongleurs’ from 8-28 August. He now takes this package around smaller theatres.

Return to radio[edit]

Bowen returned to radio in 2009, presenting a mid-morning radio show on 106.6 Indigo FM in Cumbria.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Bowen previously owned Arkholme for Kirkby Lonsdale railway station, on what is now the Leeds to Morecambe Line between Wennington and Carnforth stations. Having been converted into a private dwelling, it featured under Bowen's ownership on the TV programme Through the Keyhole.[11]

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 18th February and the second one whilst in hospital.[12] Before his two strokes, Bowen was performing on cruise liners and doing corporate after-dinner speeches. By 2012, he was recovering and regaining some mobility once more, and even started performing his stage show "You Can't Beat a Bit of Bully", but suffered a third stroke in November 2014, which has since left him struggling to walk and talk.[13]

Stand-up DVDs[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b Bletchly, Rachael (24 March 2012). "Jim Bowen is laughing his way back to health... and even dreams of bringing back Bullseye". 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Comedian Jim Bowen on : Chortle : The UK Comedy Guide". Chortle. 20 August 1937. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  3. ^ Book: Jim Bowen "Right Place, Right Time" page 2
  4. ^ "How old is jim bowen?". kgbanswers.co.uk. 
  5. ^ Sunday People (2 August 2008). "Jim Bowen - Lovely smashing superstar!". mirror. 
  6. ^ Andrew Wood, David King. "The Bullseye Story". Bullseyeonline.net. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  7. ^ Wiktionary.org nig-nog 
  8. ^ Oxford Dictionaries.com nigmenog 
  9. ^ Comedian Bowen quits over race gaffe, BBC News, 8 October 2002 
  10. ^ Next up - Supertramp, smashing, great! Media Guardian, 25 March 2009
  11. ^ Arkholme Station building, formerly owned by Jim Bowen Accessed 2008-10-17
  12. ^ Melling Comedian Jim Bowen recovering from mild strokes BBC News 22 February 2011
  13. ^ "Jim Bowen, Former 'Bullseye' Host, Struggling To Walk And Talk After Suffering Third Stroke". The Huffington Post. 23 August 2015. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Host of Bullseye
Succeeded by
Dave Spikey