Saturday Night Takeaway star Stephen Mulhern looks into the distance

Inside Stephen Mulhern’s rise to fame – from Butlin’s Redcoat to darling of Saturday night TV

His path to becoming a telly national treasure

TV fave Stephen Mulhern may be a super-popular fixture of weekend telly on ITV these days.

But are you familiar with the career path he took during his rise to fame that caused him to be so beloved?

The Saturday Night Takeaway and Dancing On Ice host – who is on screens on July 7 for a In For A Penny repeat – appears to have got bitten with the showbiz bug very young.

And even though Butlin’s was the site of some of his earliest performances, Stephen still returns there to show off his magic and illusions, and plays games with audiences. Indeed, his brand-new live show Beyond Belief is on during selected school holiday breaks in 2024!

Here’s how it all began for Stephen Mulhern as an entertainer…

Stephen Mulhern career highs

Stephen’s parents were market traders in London when he was growing up – and it has been claimed he first got a sense of how to play to a crowd when helping out on the family stall aged 11.

Additionally, his lifelong interest in magic began after his dad performed tricks for Stephen and his siblings.

But it was during his holidays to Butlin’s in Somerset where he started doing an act to amuse his relatives. Then, opportunity came knocking after a performer dropped out of the resort they were staying at.

Stephen is recalled about that fateful day when he was 17: “My dad asked a Redcoat: ‘Could my son do a little show?’ and they let me. The head of entertainment asked if I’d think of becoming a Redcoat and I said: ‘I’d love to.'”

A couple of stints at the camp in the mid-1990s followed. And before long, Stephen was the youngest-ever member of The Magic Circle!

Stage and children’s TV star

After leaving school, Stephen devised his Mega Mad Magic Show.

His big break on TV came as he won The Big Big Talent Show, hosted by Jonathan Ross. And thanks to this, he found himself a part of the 1997 Royal Variety Performance.

Within a year, another telly opportunity came about, and Stephen fronted CITV in Birmingham for four years until 2002.

The early 2000s saw Stephen’s TV credits pile up, and included Finger Tips alongside Fearne Cotton, SM:TV Live, and Holly & Stephen’s Saturday Showdown which he presented with his current DOI co-host, Holly Willoughby.

Stephen Mulhern and Danielle Nicholls presenting CITV in 1998
Stephen Mulhern and Danielle Nicholls presenting CITV in 1998 (Credit: YouTube)

Stephen Mulhern want to be ‘the next Bruce Forsyth’

Former ITV cameraman David King who worked with Stephen remembered him as determined to succeed.

He told the Mirror: “Stephen wanted to be the best presenter – not just a good one. I remember him telling me he wanted to be the next Bruce Forsyth, saying he could do anything apart from dance. But it was not in an arrogant way.”

He wanted to be the next Bruce Forsyth, saying he could do anything apart from dance.

There was a slight blip during Finger Tips when he was suspended from The Magic Circle for revealing how a trick was performed.

But the ban was soon lifted – and Stephen has had no regrets. He has previously said: “If you don’t show kids how to do a trick then you’ll never get a new breed of magicians.”

Stephen Mulhern on Catchphrase
Catchphrase has been hosted by Stephen since 2013 (Credit: ITV)

Britain’s Got More Talent… and more!

Within the next few years, Stephen was working more in light entertainment TV for all the family, not just kids.

His Britain’s Got More Talent gig began in 2007, and around that time he was also involved with DOI’s spin-off show Defrosted, as well as alongside Ant and Dec on Saturday Night Takeaway.

Stephen helmed three series of Tricky TV between 2005 and 2010. And his profile continued to grow as he narrated Animals Do the Funniest Things between 2009 and 2011.

Appearances on This Morning became more regular at this stage of his career, and he also hosted Magic Numbers.

Stephen was installed as the host of Catchphrase in 2013, and a few months later ITV’s Big Star’s Little Star also became associated with him.

By this point, Stephen was most certainly an established TV star with a big fanbase. And those TV jobs would just get bigger and bigger…

Stephen Mulhern following his Dr Stevil makeover
Stephen Mulhern recently underwent quite a makeover for the 2024 return of Saturday Night Takeaway! (Credit: ITV)

Saturday Night Takeaway star Stephen Mulhern is a telly treasure

In the last decade or so, Stephen has become a telly fixture. He’s been a lynchpin for the likes of Britain’s Got Talent: The Ultimate Magician, Text Santa, Rolling In It and the National Lottery.

Stephen has also thrived in pivotal roles on In For a Penny and the relaunched Deal or No Deal, arguably his biggest positions with Takeaway and DOI.

It seems his star can only ever shine brighter. But back in 2021, Stephen suggested he felt more than happy cast as support to telly kings Ant and Dec.

He reflected: “Somebody said: ‘You’re like the and in Ant and Dec.’ But my dad said: ‘You’re the Des O’Connor,’ because when Morecambe and Wise were at the height of their fame, Des was the fall guy.”

Read more: Inside Stephen Mulhern’s family life – including truth about siblings

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Robert Leigh
Freelance writer