Comedian’s journey from self-made millionaire to reclusive family man

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With his irreverent jokes and northern no-nonsense approach to humour, Peter Kay burst onto the comedy circuit in the early noughties and remained a firm fan favourite for over a decade.

But since 2017, Peter, who became one of the UK's most successful comedians of all time, has rarely been seen in public.

The Bolton-born funnyman went from one of the most ubiquitous faces on TV to shunning the limelight almost completely.

So as Peter Kay celebrates his 48th birthday today, we look back at his journey from top comedian to showbiz recluse.

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Peter Kay's breakthrough moment in the Amarillo video in 2005

Back in 2017, Peter announced that "unforeseen family circumstances" had forced him to cancel his latest tour, but the comedian stopped short of revealing any further details.

With the exception of a brief appearance on Strictly Come Dancing that year, Peter all but disappeared from the public eye.

Even his often-constant Twitter feed had fallen silent.

In 2018 he reappeared returned to social media to announce a charity special of his sitcom Peter Kay's Car Share to raise cash for The Lily Foundation, which helps children with mitochondrial ­disease.

Peter said he had "first hand" experience of the disease, which is a chronic illness that causes developmental and cognitive disabilities, including seizures and organ failure.

Comedian Peter Kay in 2006
(Image: Getty)

The same year The Sun reported that Peter had moved to Tipperary in Ireland, where he was rarely seen.

"Peter clearly wanted to keep a low profile and did everything he could to avoid attracting attention to himself while staying here," one local told the paper.

“You’d never see him in the local pubs or restaurants, and he always seemed to be alone. Most people only ever saw him passing through."

But there was one clue Peter was in town: "Everyone saw him coming a mile off because of that Range Rover. If he didn’t want to be noticed, he definitely picked the wrong car to drive around in.”

“We come here all the time," he told Ireland's Late Late Show of his home in Tipperary in 2017. "Whenever there’s a school holiday, really. We give Christmas a miss because the house is freezing. It takes ages to warm up.”

By January 2019, Peter was still shying away from the limelight.

When his show, Peter Kay's Car Share, won at the National Television Awards, he did not attend to collect the gong.

His co-star Sian GIbson picked it up on his behalf and told the audience – and fans watching at home- that Peter was "watching from home with a cup of tea."

Sian accepted the award in Peter's absence
(Image: James Veysey/REX/Shutterstock)

Three months later in April Peter made his first public appearance since announcing his break from the industry.

He surprised the audience at a screening of Car Share in Blackpool, in aid of the Lily Foundation.

Organisers revealed Peter had raised £34,000 for the foundation from the event, and founder Liz Curtis, whose daughter Lily tragically passed away from the condition, thanked Peter for his generosity.

"We can't thank Peter and his team enough for this incredibly generous donation. For a small charity like ours this is a very significant sum," she said.

Peter Kay makes a surprise appearance in Blackpool
(Image: Twitter)

"I know I speak for all our families in thanking Peter from the bottom of our hearts. He's shown once again what a real star he is."

Almost one year later in February 2020, Peter announced he'd be returning to touring. Again for charity, he'd be hosting six live shows in London, Manchester and and Liverpool for Cancer Research UK.

The coronavirus pandemic meant the shows were cancelled, but Peter promised a return as soon as was possible.

Peter Kay in his award winning show, Car Share
(Image: PA)

"Obviously this is disappointing news but well and truly justified given the circumstances," he said. "We'll get through this, together and then we'll all have a great big dance for life.

"Stay safe and look after yourselves and the people around you."

In April 2020, the Is This The Way To Amarillo hitmaker resurfaced for a BBC coronavirus charity special, called Big Night In.

Peter made a short video link-up appearance for the special, which was a collaboration between Children In Need and Comic Relief, to introduce a version of Amarillo updated for 2020.

"Hello everybody, I'm just sitting outside enjoying the very clement weather, very rare for Bolton," Peter said, wearing a tropical shirt and eating an ice cream.

Peter appeared on TV once for charity in 2020
(Image: BBC)

"I never imagined that it would go down so well and make everyone so happy, so I thought what a perfect time to recreate it again," he said of his iconic 2005 Amarillo video.

"We've asked a lot of you to film yourselves and send it in. Listen, if you can help tonight, there's a number on screen. If you can't, don't worry about it, you've got enough going on," he added, before introducing the updated version of the video.

Now things are slowly opening back up again, let's hope Peter finds time to reschedule those live dates.