It was a slip of the finger which cost Alan Davies dear.

He landed in court after accidentally retweeting a libellous message about Lord McAlpine.

Last month he agreed in the High Court to pay damages to the former Tory party deputy chairman after passing on untrue claims of child abuse to his half a million Twitter followers.

Now comedian, actor and QI star Alan explains that the whole thing was a costly mistake.

“It’s a warning to everyone to watch what you are doing with a touch screen!” he says.

“I didn’t even know I had done it, I certainly didn’t mean to.

“The ironic thing is that Lord McAlpine didn’t sue the person who wrote the original tweet, which is still online.

“I removed mine as soon as I was alerted to it and tried to make amends. I apologised and offered to pay money to a charity. But they were determined to take me to court and pursued and pursued me for a year, asking for huge sums of money.

“My lawyers told me I could try the defence that I didn’t write the tweet, but if we lost it would be wildly expensive and stressful. So I agreed to settle.

“It’s just one of those things that happen when you are in the public eye. Mostly it’s fun but sometimes it’s not.

“They were obviously using me to teach people a lesson, but it was much too late by then. The real problem was that the story was reported by the BBC and ITV – my retweet was blown out of all proportion.

“The court case was an attempt to stop scurrilous gossip online, which you are never going to stop.

“Twitter was fun at the beginning when I only had 2,000 followers and everyone had a sense of humour. Then it stopped being fun.

“Now I’m very careful with the retweet button.”

Alan, 47, is coming to the end of his Life Is Pain tour, with a date in Wolverhampton.

It is a return to stand-up after a decade away from the stage.

He explains: “I fell out of love with touring. I like the camaraderie of comedy clubs, but being out on your own got a bit lonely.

“Now I’ve got children, it’s a different matter. Going somewhere like Torquay is a nice day out, away from child care.

“Writing the material was the hardest thing, and trying it out at small gigs. I remember sitting in my kitchen with my head in my hands, telling my wife ‘I’ll never be funny again!’.

“It was awful at first, but with a bit of practice it came good. And then I took it to Australia, where QI is incredibly popular, and the response was overwhelming.

“I hope it’s funnier than the title suggests. That comes from something a little girl said when her mum was telling her off. She couldn’t understand where she had got it from, but it stuck in my mind.

“I do talk a bit about painful things – illness and bereavement plagued my childhood as my mum died of cancer when I was six.

“When I was in my twenties, these subjects were out of bounds but now I’m older there’s a bit more distance and I can find humour in them.

“My audience is mostly people my age who can identify, having been through the same things.”

Alan Davies with Sheridan Smith in Jonathan Creek
Alan Davies with Sheridan Smith in Jonathan Creek
 

Alan is married to writer Katie Maskell and they have two children, three-year-old Susie and Robert, two.

He’s been a permanent fixture on the hit BBC panel show QI, alongside Stephen Fry, for 11 years. He is often painted as the dunce on the panel, as he frequently loses points for saying the obvious but wrong answers which trigger the QI klaxon.

His favourite wrong answer is ‘blue whale’ – but this series he missed his opportunity to say it when it was actually the right answer.

“That was the ultimate humiliation,” he chuckles. “I was just thinking ‘could the world’s biggest animal really be a blue whale?’ then Marcus Brigstocke said it.

“The way I play the game is not to think too much and say whatever comes into my head.

“There was a time when I refused to say the wrong answers because I thought it was one note joke, that I’m the dunce in the corner.

“But they explained that all the research they’d done, which Stephen has to say, is triggered by wrong answers and someone has to say them.

“I’m enjoying QI, especially since it’s had a new lease of life.

“We did a live show of it on a tour of Australia, using local comedians, and it changed our perception of QI.

“In the early days people sometimes just didn’t get it, they went blank because they didn’t know the answers or didn’t even understand the question. But that’s not the point.

“We had a lot of the same people on and it became rather tired and jaded. But we’ve brought more international, especially Australian, comedians on and lots more women, which was a big issue, and now it’s in rude health. I would love to keep it going for the next 15 years, that would be an amazing achievement.

“I asked creator John Lloyd what will happen if we reach the end of the alphabet – we’re up to K now. He said we will start on numbers then, so we can go on forever.”

Alan is already writing his next show, Little Victories, which begins touring in Australia in March followed by UK dates.

And in the new year we will see three new episodes of Jonathan Creek, which will feature June Whitfield playing twins.

But first Alan is returning with Life Is Pain to the Midlands, where his comedy career took off.

He was a regular at the XXXX Cabaret at The Bear in Bearwood and when compere Frank Skinner left, he took over for a year.

“In the first week there was a lot of consternation and people saying ‘You’re not Frank, where’s Frank?’.

“But the Frank devotees stopped coming and we really thrived. I introduced lots of people who are household names now, like Jo Brand, and I got the chance to really develop my comedy.”

* Alan Davies’s Life Is Pain is at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on November 27. For tickets, ring 0870 320 7000 or go to www.wolvescivic.co.uk. The DVD of the show is released this week.