Johnny’s gift for mathematics was not spotted at school until he got a rare 100% in his O Level, just before leaving at 16 as a failure. Over two years in the Aircraft Industry and three in the RAF, he excelled in anything mathematical and maths became a lifelong hobby.
He had a strong comic streak and became a successful stand-up comic in 1964, appearing in Val Doonican and Harry Secombe shows and compered the 1967 ITV Christmas Night Spectacular. Also in 1967 he began presenting BBC’s Playschool, but was soon writing comedy. He wrote Cabbages and Kings, (3 series) most of the comedy for Playaway and Star Turn as well as for adult TV shows.
Johnny conceived, wrote and presented “Think of a Number” for the BBC in 1978 winning a BAFTA. “Think Again” followed and won two World TV Awards and an International Emmy Nomination and over the next 10 years Johnny’s shows inspired a whole generation of children towards careers in mathematics and science.
The corporate world beat a path to his door and he wrote and presented the Sales Video of the Year and received the ITVA Craft Award as Presenter of the Year, both in 1986. He staged the DofE Exhibition Maths Stands, many National STEM Projects and became an Ambassador for British Engineering in 1995.
Between 1993 and 2003 he wrote and starred in five educational stage musicals which sold around 160,000 tickets per year. His Mind Zone Live Show in the Millenium Dome for 2000 was a Total Sell Out for the entire Year. In 2012, he became the oldest ever contestant on BBC TV’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Johnny was Lord Rector of Glasgow University 1993/6 and has Honorary Degrees or Fellowships from Glasgow, Salford, Sheffield Hallam, Liverpool John Moores, Bishop Grossteste Lincoln/Leicester, Brighton and The Institute of Teaching.
He lives in Buckinghamshire with his wife Di and dog Holly while their three children, Zoe, Nick and Dan are all doing well.