‘I spent all day in pubs before I met Reeves and Mortimer’

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How did you get into comedy?

I got into comedy really late, when I was 29. Jim Moir and Bob Mortimer had moved in nearby and they were doing Vic Reeves in the clubs. I got to know them and they put me up to doing a talent night, which I won. 

After this, they took me on tour with them. The first night was terrifying, but after that I wasn’t really scared of anything. I’d get thrown off-stage now and then, but that was all. 

What would you have done if comedy hadn’t worked out?

I had no choice. It had to. I was 29, with no real skills. All my friends had been to university and got careers, while I was just playing pool. I couldn’t afford to fail at comedy, God knows what would have happened if I did. 

How did you get involved with The Fast Show?

I entered and won the Time Out New Act of the Year award doing Tommy Cockles, a music hall bloke, and got a slot on the BBC stand-up series Paramount City as a result. One day, Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson came down and mentioned they were doing a new show, full of characters, and I’d be great for it. 

Did you think it would be a hit?

I had a feeling it would do well. Everyone was really talented, ambitious and Paul and Charlie knew what they were doing with the characters; short sketches. It was a good, intelligent show, and we knew we were on to something.

Who was your favourite character? 

Probably Billy Bleach because I can just relax into him, bothering everyone at the fruit machines. That was based on me sitting around in pubs. I spent so much time in pubs where there are so many clever, intelligent people who could have gone on and done something but they can’t get out of the pub. 

What is your biggest indulgence?

I could say I love a Mars bar or a pack of Haribos, and I do eat a lot of junk. I’m allowed to do that, you know, and eat lots of crisps too, but it’s the gig that’s the treat, they’re lovely.

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