He was born in Surbiton and brought up in Teddington. He went to school at Ealing, where he suffered homophobic bullying. He studied English and Drama at Goldsmiths' College, University of London. He entered the alternative comedy scene in the early 1980s, first as "Gillian Pieface", and later as "The Joan Collins Fanclub". He wore heavy glam make-up and dressed in outrageous clothes, often involving leather/PVC and hinting at bondage. His pet whippet "Fanny the Wonder Dog", also featured in performances.
He became a well-know TV personality in the late 1980s with shows such as Sticky Moments with Julian Clary and Terry and Julian.
In 1993, while announcing one of the winners at the British Comedy Awards he made a joke comparing the set to Hampstead Heath and stating that he had just been fisting (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) Norman Lamont. The joke was met with uproarious laughter from the audience, but he was criticized by the tabloid press, and Garry Bushell of The Sun started an unsuccessful campaign to have him banned from television.
In more recent years he has regularly appeared in pantomime, and had parts in films and television programmes. In 2012 he was the winner in Celebrity Big Brother.
He has published an autobiography, A Young Man's Passage, and several novels.