Do you have any tricks for winding down?
Micky Flanagan gave me a good one actually. He told me what he does is he goes back to the hotel, and then before he goes to
Do you enjoy touring?
The hardest bit is getting to sleep after the show, because you’ve had, well hopefully, a brilliant time and it’s quite a high when you come oft stage. But everyone’s gone home and it’s just you bouncing around going “that was great, waheey, let’s go out” But you can’t do that, partly because you’re on your own and no one else feels like that, and also you’ve got a show to do the next day.
So Purple Van Man is a skewed take on the idea of the white van man – is that an aspect of your new show?
Not really. Basically you have to come up with a name for the show about six months before you’ve finished writing it. So you just want to come up with something that is mildly amusing, but that doesn’t put too much pressure on you. There’s always a chance of a misprint, and someone might think it’s purple vain man and it’s two hours talking about my knob – which it isn’t.
But you know, that might bring in a few punters as well the bar he has a bath. And it works, it sort of calms you down. Then when you get down to the bar you think “well, I’ll have a pint” and by the time you’re halfway through you just think “ah, I’ll just go to bed.” And that does actually work – maybe even play a bit of Radio 4. It’s not rock and roll at all.
What’s the worst show you’ve ever done?
My first ever paid gig was a bit of a disaster.
It was in a little pub in Stoke Newington and it was the day of the ‘free Nelson Mandela’ tour – Mandela was still imprisoned and there was a song out at the time, by The Specials, that went ‘freee, free, free, freeee Nelson Mandela.’ And my opening line was: “In tribute to the momentous events in Hyde Park, I’d like to do my own special tribute”
So I started singing the song and went: “Freee, free, freeee, free, free… Myra Hindley.” And there was just a silence and the crowd looked at me like ‘what the fuck…?’
I suppose I was dealing with one of the most noble humans ever to walk the earth and then one of the worst humans to ever walk the earth, I was. mixing ’em up! I thought that was quite funny, if lacking respect for his great achievements. But he’s had loads of pats on the back. I haven’t got anything against Nelson Mandela. I don’t want everyone giving me a hard time about it.
I don’t have any animosity towards Joey Essex. He’s playing that ‘I’m spectacularly thick’ card very well, which is kind of a well-trodden route for a reality star, isn’t it?
How would you describe your relationship with your 8 Out Of 10 Cats co-stars Jimmy Carr and Jon Richardson? feel like I’m trapped there with them, in a way that, say, if your mum had kids with different dads, and so I’ve kind of got to put up with them. I feel like I’m lumbered with them really, but I haven’t got any choice, ve got to deal with them. And we have odd moments when we pretend we’re a family -odd days out, when, for the sake of our mum, we’ll all appear like we get on. It’s tolerable.
Do you ever hang out outside the show?
Lot really, no. We all live very different lives. Jimmy’s virtually always working – he’s constantly touring and working. And Jon is a single man, so he leads a very different life. So no, we don’t go out to the dogs together, laughing like we’re in some kind of Guy Ritchie movie. We’ll have a quick drink after the show then go our separate ways.
What about other guests on the show? There are a few we can imagine you not getting on with.
Top of our head… Joey Essex?
Well, you’ve got to get on with Joey Essex. He’s not an unpleasant man. It does feel like he’s a sort of different species. But a likeable young chap, I don’t have any animosity towards Joey. He’s playing that ‘I’m spectacularly thick’ card very well, which is kind of a well-trodden route for a reality star, isn’t it? Like ‘I just literally don’t understand my hand’. I don’t know whether he’s doing some kind of post-modern ironic comment on the stupid celebrities and actually playing around with it as a notion in a very clever way, that’s how spectacularly thick he’s taken it, or he is that stupid. I don’t know.
He might be incredibly clever and it’s an art piece, his whole career is actually an attempt to win the Turner Prize. I don’t know. But he’s not objectionable.
What would you be doing if you hadn’t got into comedy?
I really have no idea. I do count my blessings that I’m a comedian. I worked for many years on building sites and in factories. I suppose I could have been one of those really pissed-off blokes you get at railway stations collecting tickets, shuffling around in an ill-fitting, gravy-splattered uniform.
Or maybe I would have been some digital entrepreneur – that’s what I would’ve done, yeah, I would have got into the internet and been up the very vanguard of that. I’d probably have invented some kind of social networking and I’d be a millionaire – we’d all be communicating by Lockee now. Comedy held me back.