Chris Addison does a nice line in shirts - and making people laugh, writes Roz Laws.
It seems impossible to believe, but at some point this year – it might well have already happened – Chris Addison turns 40.
The baby-faced comedian gets away with playing someone at least a decade younger in the political satire The Thick Of It. He hardly looks responsible enough to be the married father of two children.
And there’s a real air of juvenile glee about him as he talks about his latest job, appearing in his favourite TV show.
It’s not Mock The Week or Have I Got News For You, but the children’s sketch show Horrible Histories.
Birmingham graduate Chris explains: “I’ve been saying for months that it’s the funniest show on telly. When the producers contacted me to ask if I wanted a cameo role in the next series, it felt like a proper Jim’ll Fix It thing.
“I play two Georgian characters, a merchant and a man called Turnip Townsend. I get to wear proper costumes and a huge wig made of yak hair.
“It’s so nice to dress up, as I only wear a cheap suit for other acting work like The Thick Of It, Skins and the Direct Line ads.”
It’s taken 30 years for Chris’s showbiz wish to be granted, because when he was a little boy he wrote to Jim’ll Fix It but never had a reply from the late Jimmy Savile.
“We had these marionettes at home made by Pelham Puppets, and I asked for a tour of the factory in Wiltshire,” he remembers.
“It’s a shame I never heard back, but writing to Jim’ll Fix It was a rite of passage for people my age.”
And it’s not just recently, with Sir Jimmy’s death, that Chris has felt nostalgia for the TV of his childhood. He remembers how, when he began studying English literature at the University of Birmingham in 1991, he joined The Children’s Television Society.
“There wasn’t YouTube then, it was a pretty barbaric existence,” laughs Chris, who starts a new stand-up tour next week in Stafford.
“You weren’t able to go ‘Do you remember The Clangers?’ and then look it up online. We had to go to a room to watch the programmes and then we talked about them.”
If that sounds slightly geeky, Chris is happy to agree. And to admit to further nerdishness by revealing that was part of a barbershop quartet when he was at school.
“I was in a choir and they asked four of us to do this thing,” remembers Chris.
“We wore bow ties and looked like singing waiters, but we went busking on the streets of Manchester at Christmas and made a fortune.”
These days Chris is most often found wearing his trademark floral shirts. Not that he realised until recently that they were becoming famous in their own right.
“I’ve always worn shirts like this, since I was 17, but especially so on telly because you have very few options. You can’t wear stripes or checks because they strobe, and plain shirts are boring, so you’re left with florals.
“I didn’t realise that people associated them with me until a friend described something as being ‘a very Addison shirt’.
“And yes, I have lots of them, even though people keep sending me Tweets saying ‘Why are you wearing the same shirt?’.”
The floral shirts will be on display on his tour and he reveals that his pre-show ritual is to iron them.
This tour, called The Time Is Now, Again, is his ninth show but is not based around any particular theme.
“It will be general daftness and whimsy,” promises Chris, who is about to release a DVD of his previous show, Chris Addison Live.
“I’m always nervous before a tour. I’m a terrible one for working to deadlines, it’s always a scramble at the end to finish writing a show.”
Chris is an amiable, witty man to talk to, but he is unwilling to discuss his private life. That’s why we don’t even know when he celebrated his 40th birthday.
“No, I’m not going to tell you my date of birth,” he insists.
“Or my mother’s maiden name or the long number on the bottom of my card. So there.”
But he will, when pressed, reveal one piece of personal information – that he can’t remember meeting his wife for the first time.
“She was working on the production side of the first TV show I appeared on in 1996, called The Comedy Network on Channel 5.
“She was the ‘meeter and greeter’, who showed me to the dressing room. I was so nervous that I didn’t know where I was. I couldn’t tell you anything about that day.
“We met properly at a party 18 months later. It wasn’t until quite some time into our relationship that she said ‘You know, we had met before’.
“I have absolutely no recollection of her, though I have tried. Maybe I should try regression.”
* Chris Addison’s The Time Is Now, Again tour plays Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on November 16 and Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre next March. For more information go to www.chrisaddison.com.