TV presenter, stand-up, actor, musician, DJ and guest star in a return visit of sketch show spin-off Whose Line is it Anyway? Robert Garratt gets to know him.
We’ve had Whose Line... here many times – but you’re the new ingredient. What do you bring to the mix?
With me being known for being on the telly, a medium you can’t interact with, people get quite a buzz from [messing] around and making me do silly things. Also with me being big – let’s not forget that one of the great golden rules of comedy is fatty falls over. I think the audience quite often push for that.
So you’re quite prepared to be utterly taken the Mickey out of?
You can’t do a job when you are one of the nation’s renowned [grumps] and not expect people to take the [Mickey]. It’s part of the territory.
Does it happen out in public?
Of course – it’s the job, I’ve been doing this 30 years. I’m used to being recognised in all sorts of situations. The least favourite is always in a toilet – I don’t like people saying hello to me at urinals. Doctor’s waiting rooms, coming out of funerals.
How do you deal with it?
Because you are someone that’s appeared on the television the instant you are in any kind of normal situation it throws people a curveball and they act in really, really odd ways. If they start to wig out, they start shaking, the way I stop this is I grip their elbows – I got taught this by Pete Jenner, an old rock ’n’ roll manager – it’s called ‘the fear grip’ and it works every time.
Have you ever experienced it the other way around?
Oh yeah – I was walking down the corridor at the BBC and Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin was coming the other way. And I actually just fell to the floor and said ‘thank you’ in a really squeaky voice.
How was it recently returning to stand-up after a ten-year absence?
To say I don’t care isn’t right, but I’m stupidly relaxed because I’ve heard every heckle. I have been booed off at the Royal Albert Hall. If people want heckle me at some little gig in the Lake District, they’re going to have to do better.
It sounds like you’re a glass- half-empty kind of guy.
I have a dismissive attitude and sometimes that comes across onstage. But don’t ever think I don’t absolutely love it – to be paid to come over to Dubai and lark around in front of strangers: If you’d told me when I was 17 that someone would give me a couple of hundred quid [Dhs1,230] a night to go to the hottest place on the planet and try and be funny, I would not have believed you.
First time out here?
I stopped for two hours [at the airport] and I realised I was able to get a double espresso within ten foot of where I could also buy a Bentley. I quite liked that. Next level stuff.
Why did you quit Twitter?
The main reason is I was spending too much time on it, and I’d rather read books than strangers thoughts in 140 characters or less. It’s so seductive, I was doing it all the time. And what really annoyed me is Twitter wouldn’t let me shut down my account. I went back [later] and in the 18 months of me not saying one word on Twitter, I had gained 85,000 followers. That’s what’s wrong with it.
Whose Line is it Anyway? is at Madinat Theatre April 24-26. Tickets Dhs170-200. www.timeouttickets.com