Back on the road after four years...

I've been off doing telly and films, but I don't kid myself: My job is stand-up. When I'm working on something else, rather than lounging around on set I'll always be writing routines for my live act. I'm a workaholic - even when there's a power cut, I'll be writing material by torchlight. I feel there is still so much to do.

I've always expressed myself through physical gags. Whereas Jack Dee will say something funny, I have to act it out. It's quite cartoonish, but the audience seem to like it

I like it when you see a stand-up's whole soul come out. I love that passion, and that's why I try to give it absolutely everything on stage. If I don't, I'm not happy. After every three shows, I have to chuck my suits away because they won't clean them any more.

The beauty of stand-up is that you can take something and just run with it. It's such a creative experience. I try and get a roll going and have as much fun as possible. I change the material every night. You have to keep it as fresh as you can.

You also have to be prepared to take risks, you must be willing to take something and not mind if it turns into a dead end. Doing stand-up, your brain really starts to fizz. The whole process of creating something live is so thrilling. On stage is where I'm really at home.

I love the immediacy of the reaction, the sound of a whole auditorium laughing. Being on film sets for the past couple of years, I've missed that.

I'm fed up with just making a few lighting technicians laugh. They used to say to me 'we haven't laughed like that since Peter Sellers came on set hopping on one leg,' and I'd think, 'blimey, you've had a grim few years, haven't you?'

Stand-up gives you such freedom. It's the only place where it's just you. No one else can interfere or say 'wouldn't it be great if you swung across the stage on a rope?' I love the fact that on stage, I'm communicating directly with the audience.

When I left art college, I had crap jobs cleaning toilets and working on building sites. I dreamt of one day doing something creative - and now I've achieved that.

What I play on stage is an exaggeration of the real me - let's not beat about the bush, I'm an idiot.

I have trouble with normal things - like water, electricity, driving, visiting my parents, people knocking on the door, I'm a constant worrier. For instance, if I see someone in uniform, I start to get nervous and stutter. I always want them to think the best of me. It worries me for days afterwards. I know it's very unhealthy.

This anxiety is very tiring because I'm always looking at the contrary point of view. When I go out, I leave the light on to scare off burglars. But then I spend the whole time worrying that the lights will fuse and start a fire. This is the mental torture I go through every time I leave the house. It's exhausting.

But I've always found inadequate characters funny. Everyone can identify with a character when things start to go wrong. Basil would have a breakdown in every episode of Fawlty Towers, but everyone could still relate to him. Comedy is most effective when characters struggle and are at odds with one another. They should walk in and say 'what the hell are you doing?' rather than 'hello.' Conflict always creates a reaction.

February 2, 2002

Published: 6 Sep 2006

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