THE KRANKIES recall a time back in the early 1980s when they were starring in panto alongside variety legend Billy Dainty, a moment that highlights all they hold dear about the Christmas shows.

"We were doing the slosh routine, the time-served gag whereby buckets of paste are thrown around," Janette recalls.

"But just as I was about to throw the paste into the wings, Billy came on stage and it hit him right in the mouth. He swallowed the lot. And choked. Yet, he then kept on going as if nothing had happened. It was hilarious watching him."

The story makes two points; The Krankies, back on stage at the Clyde Auditorium in Jack And The Beanstalk, just love everything about panto - the unpredictability, the chance for actors to appeal to kids by behaving like them.

And it reveals how a pro such as Dainty will always carry on, regardless.

"We have been lucky to have worked with some great people over the years," says Ian Tough. "John Barrowman is with us again and he is fantastic.

"But pantos, especially in England ,don't always use the best people. We have seen some of the shows that employ people who have been on Big Brother or other reality shows, and they just don't work."

How have they coped when someone from TV has been crowbarred in?

"We have done pantos with people such as Denise Welch, and she is a good actress," says Janette.

"But the hardest time we had on stage was when we had to work with the Gladiators. One of them, for example, would talk right over the laughs. He had no idea when they would come. Night after night. He had no sense of comedy timing.

"In the end, I had to stand next to him and say: 'Don't talk until you feel this tug -' and I'd give his shirt a wee pull. It really had to be that mechanical."

Ian adds, grinning; "We played in Aladdin once and the girl who played the Genie struggled to say the line 'I am the Genie' with any conviction. It sounded like a robot speaking.

"One of the actors in the show, Russell Lane, came up to me later and said: 'Why can't she say the line?' And I said: 'Because she's a blinking acrobat, not an actor!'"

Or words to that effect.

"Gareth Hunt, who was also in the panto, said in his best RADA accent: 'My dear boy, four years in RADA, 10 years at the National Theatre, now I'm working with - an athlete'.

"Of course, these people should never have been given principal parts. They should have been limited to walk-ons."

Janette adds, "But there is no denying they were good box office. They got people in the doors – although that's when the disappointment started."

However, Ian adds that celebrities are not always awful to work with.

"We worked with Tessa Sanderson once in Robinson Crusoe, where she played Girl Friday. Every day she used to say to me: 'Does my bum look big in this grass skirt?'

"And I'd say: 'No, Tessa.' But one day she changed her white knickers for black knickers underneath the skirt and I had to say to her: 'Today you're bum does look big, Tessa.' But she was good fun."

Panto is fun time, every time for The Krankies. Except eight years ago, the last time they appeared in Jack And The Beanstalk.

That was at the Pavilion, when the beanstalk collapsed and Janette ended up in hospital with a fractured skull.

But the troupers were not at all concerned about reprising the dark memory.

"Well, we never got to finish that run," says Janette, smiling. "So now we have got the chance, in a different theatre."

Ian adds, grinning; "If you walk across the road one day and get knocked down it doesn't mean you'll never cross a road again. And the fact we're doing Jack again is good for public relations, isn't it?"

The Krankies certainly know. A variety act in the 1970s, they were TV stars by the 1980s. They are natural survivors in a business in which only the talented and the very determined survive.

"The kids don't know us from the telly any more," says Janette. "It's the mums and dads who know us. But what we have loved about these last two years coming back to Glasgow is we have got a new audience. What it shows is good humour still works."

The husband and wife duo admit it is tougher these days without the launch pads TV provided. The likes of Crackerjack, the variety show for kids, don't exist any more.

"It means you have to keep on working on stage," says Ian. "But we do love it."

Janette agrees: "People wonder if we get tired (they're both eligible for their pension), but we don't. The audience bring out the best in us."

Ian offers a knowing grin: "The difference is when we were younger we'd be out partying. But not any more. After the show it's home for a light supper and a glass of red. That's it."

The Krankies are clearly full of beans, and energised by the thought of returning to Beanstalk land. But they reveal there has been a cloud over their lives recently.

JANETTE and Ian were close friends of variety legend Max Bygraves, who lived a boomerang throw away from their flat in Australia's Gold Coast.

"He had been ill for some time and in a nursing home. The sad thing is we didn't see him this year because his daughter Christine said he didn't want us to see him as he was. It would make him too upset."

Close pal Frank Carson also died.

"They said he wasn't politically correct. But we don't think so. He was a legend."

The Krankies, it seems, are also the stuff of legend. "We can't retire," says Janette. "We love it too much. And as long as the kids love what we do we'll be back."

l Jack And The Beanstalk, Clyde Auditorium, December 15 - January 6.