Comedian and TV chat show host Alan Carr tells Roz Laws why he is going back on tour to prove himself again.
It’s the voice I hear first. He may be hidden away in the corner of a Birmingham hotel bar, but there’s no disguising Alan Carr as soon as he opens his mouth.
Actually, the camp comic’s distinctive high-pitched voice is beginning to go a little gruff, after an afternoon of talking about himself.
That’s when he’s not being approached by customers, eager to have their photos taken with him.
He cheerfully obliges, knowing it’s pointless trying to stay incognito.
“I’m not recognised if I put my contact lenses in and wear a hat, but I forget about my squawky voice,” he confides.
“As soon as I speak, everyone turns round. I might as well get some dry ice and come out and go ‘Hi, I’m Alan!’.”
That’s exactly what he’ll be doing on stage soon as he embarks on his first comedy tour for four years. Spexy Beast Live comes to Birmingham’s NIA in October.
That’s the closest the 34-year-old gets to a homecoming gig, as he grew up in Northampton. His father Graham managed Nuneaton Borough and Northampton Town in the 1980s.
He is expecting Graham and mum Christine to be in the NIA audience. But isn’t that a bit unnerving?
“I get embarrassed and terrified before I go on stage, but then you get into the zone. It’s what performance is all about,” he says.
“My last tour, Tooth Fairy, was all about my dad but Spexy Beast doesn’t really mention them, so it’s not too bad, I hope.
“If you only upset two people out of 12,000, it’s quite a good ratio. I’ll be a bit disappointed if I see my mum and dad at the refund booth demanding their money back because they’re so insulted.”
Alan, who also presents his Radio 2 show on Saturdays and is preparing for a new series of his Channel 4 talk show Chatty Man, is honing his act through a series of warm-up gigs.
They range from 60-seater pubs to Telford’s Oakengates, which holds 600. He’s working his way up to the 25,000 he’ll be playing to over two nights at the National Indoor Arena.
“I was worried when they told me all the tour dates for Spexy Beast,” he admits. “But I feel a lot more confident because of all the warm-up gigs I’ve done. I have changed the less well-received jokes and moved things round a bit.
“I would rather die on my arse in Bromsgrove than the NIA. It is surreal telling a joke in a huge arena. The laughter just goes on and on, by the time the joke gets to the people at the back, you’re halfway through the next one.
“Perhaps I should do a Sudoku while I wait for everyone to catch up?”
Alan admits he has not toured for so long because he’s been so busy making TV series like The Friday and Sunday Night Projects and Chatty Man.
But he wants to get back to stand-up before we forget where his true talents lie – and before he gets sucked into some of the more dubious reality television shows.
Don’t expect to see him appearing on Celebrity Big Brother, despite being asked.
He shares some of the more ridiculous shows he’s been invited to take part in, in the unlikely event they ever got off the ground.
Ten Gays On A Farm was one proposal he immediately turned down – and so was the one with the puntastic title Up, Up and A Gay.
Alan says: “That would have involved me learning to fly a plane and then flying around the world talking to other gay pilots. The other one wanted to put 10 gay celebrities on a farm. They just wanted me to be milking a cow squealing ‘Aargh!’.
“Really, come on! I have won awards for my stand-up comedy. I don’t want people to forget that, and just see me chewing on a crocodile penis.”
But if Alan was forced to do a reality show, which one would he choose?
“Maybe Strictly Come Dancing,” he admits. “At least you lose weight on that. There was a ridiculous story a while back that I refused to go on because I wouldn’t dance with a woman. Why would I want to dance with a man? I can do that at home...once I’ve got him out of the dungeon!
“We live in a culture where anyone can be famous because of reality TV. I just feel there’s so much crap about, I have to go back on tour to prove myself again.
“I got 10 GCSEs and that year they said those GCSE papers were the easiest there had ever been and anyone could pass. The same happened with my A levels.
“Then when I get a job on telly, suddenly everyone else can too! For God’s sake, if they say that anyone can do an arena comedy tour, I will kill myself!”
* Spexy Beast Live comes to Birmingham’s NIA from October 1-2. For tickets ring 0844 338 8000 or go to www.theticketfactory.com.