Born in Teddington, Middlesex, he was brought up in Teddington, London. His father was a traffic policeman and his mother was a probation officer. Julian Clary went to a strict Catholic school in Ealing, London. He studied English and drama at Goldsmith's College, in south London. He had a variety of jobs including a guard on the London Underground and a singing telegram.
At the age of 19 he had a girlfriend but after she left him he started a relationship with a barman at the Old Vic. He started on the London comedy circuit as "Gillian Pie-Face", wearing a kaftan, beads, and pink wig. He is best known for his camp television compéreing in outrageous costumes and his endless stream of sexual double entendres and puns. He provided the British public with an out gay man who was also upfront about sex and sexuality.
His début television appearance was on Channel 4 in Cabaret at the Jongleurs in 1988 as "The Joan Collins Fan Club" with Fanny the Wonderdog. But after a while got into copyright difficulties so had to revert to his own name.
In the late 1980s he fell for Christopher and they became lovers. They lost contact but then Christopher turned up diagnosed HIV positive. They lived together until Christopher's death three years later and Julian Clary scattered the ashes on a beach in Portugal where they had spent a happy holiday together.
In 1993 he was the compère of the British Comedy Awards which was being broadcast live on television. A sexual joke involving Norman Lamont, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, received uproarious laughter from the celebrity audience. Although there were only 12 complaints from a viewing audience of 3 million, the next day's press was indignant and called for him to be banned from television. As a result Julian Clary went on tour in Australia.
He returned to Britain in 1995 and took up acting and compéreing again.He was the subject of a biographical programme in the series First on Four, shown on Channel 4 television in 1998. Currently (2003) Julian is doing a voice over for a television commercial for Citrus Bloo toilet cleaner. The exact same commercial was originally voiced by Kenneth Williams.