Back in the day, as a presenter of primetime TV shows Big Break and The Generation Game, Jim Davidson was a household favourite – a cheeky chappy comic with a colourful love life who could charm the pants off anyone he met.

Not quite so much these days.

It’s not ‘cool’ to like Jim Davidson anymore.

Like voting Tory if you live in Wolverhampton, finding Jim Davidson’s particular brand of comedy funny is something you keep on the down low.

With a string of failed marriages and divorces which have left him ‘skint’, reams of negative coverage regarding controversial gags about women, ethnic minorities and disabled people, and a highly publicised nightmare being investigated as part of Operation Yewtree – all charges were later dropped – it’s surprising the comic manages to keep up the jovial act.

But, rocking up into Weymouth Harbour on his luxury boat, the star is affable, polite and generous – reeling off gags and one-liners like a gatling gun - only some of them making you wince and think, ‘I’m not sure you can say that anymore’.

But that’s part of Jim Davidson’s schtick. And he ain’t about to apologise for it.

Love him or loathe him, there’s no denying that being in Jim Davidson’s company is a whirlwind.

He’s funny. Hilariously so at times.

Even the two 20 somethings with me who’d never heard any of his material – only that they were supposed to hate him, cuz he’s a racist, sexist bigot, right? – creased into belly laughs as he showboated with impressions and jokes that you know have probably been trotted out a thousand times but were delivered like he’d thought of them on the very spot.

Dorset Echo: Jim Davidson at Weymouth harbourJim Davidson at Weymouth harbour

Even his close friend, former Naval officer Brian Miar, and brother Bill, who were accompanying him on the boat trip, burst into fits of laughter ahead of the punchlines they already knew.

Jim Davidson – ‘I’m an OBE you know?’ – is the centre of his world and all that inhabit it.

You get the impression that failing to respond to a joke appropriately could potentially set him off on a foot-stamping tantrum like a toddler because his yearn to entertain and make people comfortable in his company is so strong.

Making people laugh is his drug of choice, and any lull in proceedings lasts mere seconds. When his small crew of trusted acquaintances break away for a chat, he walks on to the boat deck, courts passers-by, makes them laugh and hands out bottles of wine.

The only time the jokes stop rolling is when he talks about military matters. As a regular entertainer of the British armed forces and chairman of the British Forces Foundation, his OBE was given for his services to charity – for which he has raised millions – and there is nothing about the Gulf War he doesn’t know. He pours glasses of rum and toasts the servicemen and women who have fought for their country, of which he remains unapologetically patriotic towards.

He’s generous to a fault. Although the wealth he says made women flock to him has dwindled considerably. Four divorces would do that. A year of being unable to perform on stage due to the Covid pandemic has also played its part.

The three-deck luxury boat he’s moored up on – complete with stunning walnut fixtures and worth approximately £1.5m brand new – defies the cash flow situation he’s quite happy to chat about.

He states without hesitance that women only want him for the lifestyle he can provide – ‘they want this life and then after a while they realise they can divorce me and still have the life without having to have me’. But it hasn’t put him off, and he’s currently happily married to wife number five, Michelle, while speaking fondly enough of the others – including first wife Tracy, whose dad Bert he regularly visits when in Weymouth.

Despite being a non-stop entertainer, he presents as a man conflicted with the emotions of someone who isn’t quite sure what the agenda is.

One can imagine the hell of being publicly and falsely accused of sexual assault is enough to question who you can trust. Brian and Bill are undoubtedly two of those he can and does, with the protectiveness they feel for the man who’s had his fair share of knocks palpable.

After a ‘14-bottle lunch’ a trip to a quayside restaurant exposes the cruel reality of the fame game – one of the country’s most famous comedians who rubs shoulders with A-listers and royalty being told to sit down for not wearing a mask by a teen waitress who’d never heard of his name.

For a star so big, you get the feeling he’d rather have abuse hurled at him than remain anonymous – although he never sunk as low as to say so or question, ‘don’t you know who I am?’

So who is Jim Davidson?

A racist? A bigot? A sexist?

It’s fair to say there’s no subject matter off the table when it comes to his comedy, but isn’t that true of many other comedians who have escaped the same bad rap?

He’s never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever shed the reputation that has, rightly or wrongly, come to define him – but there’s definitely two more 20 somethings in Weymouth who have more than warmed to the real man behind the comedy façade.