Chester's BGT finalist speaks of real-life 'nice guys' Ant and Dec
A finalist from last year's BGT described the show as an "incredible" experience - and says Ant and Dec are "exactly" the same in real life as they are on the telly.
Comedian and impressionist Ben Nickless, 41, had the judges in stitches as he impersonated everyone from Donald Trump and Alan Carr, to cartoon characters from The Simpsons and Family Guy.
And after securing his place in the series finale, he took to the stage to perform a round-up of all his performances from the show up to that point – as well as poking fun at presenters, Ant and Dec, with a spot-on impression of the Geordie duo.
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Ben, from Chester, Cheshire, described the experience as “surreal” – even celebrating his birthday on the same day he found out he had made it through to the final.
But he revealed that his big shot, appearing on national television to over seven million viewers, almost didn't happen at all – as he and wife Zoe suffered a personal tragedy just a year before.
After falling pregnant with the couple's first child at the end of 2020, Zoe, 37, lost the baby in March 2021, at just 25 weeks.
Ben said: “I was actually first approached around Christmas 2020 to be on the show for the 2021 series – which they didn't end up filming due to Covid.
“With everything that happened for Zoe and I that year, I probably wouldn't have done the show in 2021, I would have ended up pulling out.
“But when they came back to me at the end of 2021, for the 2022 show – I think they caught me at just the right time.
“I've been a performer for over 20 years now, and after everything that happened during Covid, with all the venues shutting down, I started to question whether I'd ever get a chance to perform to an audience again.
“There was a lot of fear and uncertainty in my mind. But I had always kind of had an idea of what I would do if I ever went on a show like Britain's Got Talent – I had just never wanted to take the risk.
“The whole process ended up being so amazing, and so impressive – it was like seeing the other side of the business that you're always chasing as a performer.”
And while Ben said it was “great” to be back on stage performing again after the pandemic, he admitted it was “nerve-wracking” to be performing in front of a crowd of thousands again.
He said: “The most nerve-wracking part of it was definitely my first audition, at the London Palladium.
“It was my first time in front of the judges, but also my first time in a while back in front of a big audience.
“You worry about whether they're going to like you, and whether you're going to catch Simon Cowell on a bad day – but he was actually really nice, and it all went in my favour.
“I got to spend quite a lot of time with Ant and Dec backstage during the show, and they're both really, really nice guys – they're exactly like how they come across on the telly.
“And after my performance in the final, David Walliams came out of his way to come and chat to me during one of the commercial breaks about my comedy act – because he comes from that comedy background, too.
“He said he'd never seen somebody do so many impressions in so little time, and that it was really impressive.
“I had such a positive experience from it all – the researchers and crew were amazing, and it really is impressive to see how quickly they can work to turn the stage around in between acts.”
Ben added that one of the highlights of his time on the show was winning the semi-final – on his 41st birthday.
He said: “It was so surreal. You're standing at the side of the stage, waiting to hear who's made it through that night."
At the beginning of the show, he commented on how his cheer was less than other acts - but he swayed the audience after his performance.
Ben said: “Before they called my name, they announced Flintz & T4ylor had made it through to the final, who had been Alesha's Golden Buzzer in the auditions – and the cheer from the crowd was massive.
“Then my name followed that, and it was quite funny how much the reaction died down. It was like people were like, 'Who?'.
“But it was definitely a highlight moment for me, as I had been so confident in my routine that night.”
Since appearing on the show, Ben says he has had his “busiest year yet”, keeping in contact with many of his fellow contestants – and preparing to welcome another baby with Zoe next month.
He said: “It's all very exciting. We've just started to have things like the cot and the pram delivered, so it's starting to feel very real now.
“And in the meantime, I've done a couple of shows with people I met on Britain's Got Talent.
“I did a ventriloquy show with Jamie, one of the other finalists – and a couple of them came to see me when I did panto in Manchester at the end of last year.
“I've also played a few football matches with Flintz & T4ylor, and I've had loads of gigs come through, too.
“I'm touring quite a lot at the moment, but also looking forward to having some time off with Zoe when the new baby arrives, so we can have some family time together.
“It's been my busiest year – but it's great to be back doing what I love.”
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