Mark Thomas described him as "the light at the end of the British comedy tunnel" but Wil Hodgson, a former wrestler, hardly considers himself to be a stand-up comedian. SIMON WILSON spoke to the Perrier winner...
HE has a tattoo of Barbara Windsor on his arm, used to be a wrestler, won an award for his comedy but can't even explain why he is doing stand-up and likes Benny Hill.
Meet Wil Hodgson.
Some may have seen his show at Just The Tonic over the past five years. Or if you'd have turned up on time, you'd have caught him supporting Mark Thomas at the Playhouse earlier this month.
"It was a brilliant experience," he says of the tour with Thomas. "It got me a lot of exposure."
The sort of exposure he prefers. Even though he'd reach millions by doing the usual TV panel shows like Never Mind The Buzzcocks or 8 Out Of 10 Cats, he's not a fan.
"I'm not really the sort of act that does a lot of telly. I'm more into writing."
He doesn't even consider himself a stand-up comedian.
"I'm more of a storyteller. More in the tradition of someone like Attila The Stockbroker. A stand-up comedian I class as someone like Michael MacIntyre or Peter Kay, someone who does gags. I'm much more of a punk spoken word performer.
"I grew up listening to punk even though I was too young for it the first time around," says the 30-year-old who has a strong West Country accent.
"I wanted to do something that people who are into bands would like. Jello Biafra was a big influence. Henry Rollins would be another one. "
Which begs the question – why is he a comedian by trade?
"I just sort of fell into doing it. It was a funny period in my life. I did a lot of things I can't really explain. I was a fan of wrestling but what possessed me to actually attempt it is somewhat beyond me. The same with stand-up."
Watching the film Man On The Moon, a biopic of US comic and wrestler Andy Kaufman, seems to have been the catalyst.
Growing up, his comedy preferences were outside the norm as he favoured the likes of Laurel & Hardy and Monty Python but also the antithesis of alternative comedy.
"I was a big Benny Hill and Carry On fan. I think things like Benny Hill and Kenny Everett have been unfairly done down. There's almost a feminist quality to Benny Hill. I think he really loved women."
"I've got Barbara Windsor tattooed on my forearm. A picture from when she was in the Carry On films not when she was in EastEnders. Though it will look like Barbara Windsor in EastEnders when I'm 60, probably."
He started wrestling in 2001 and spent a few months at wrestling school but quit after a few dozen matches to go into comedy.
"You can get really badly hurt doing wrestling. It was the fear of breaking my neck and having no insurance."
The career change was rewarded in 2004 when he won the Perrier Award for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe.
The show that he'll be doing at Just The Tonic this weekend is a preview of what he'll be taking to Edinburgh in August. Called Chippenham On My Shoulder, it's another stab at the small town mentality of his birthplace.
"It's not all negative," he insists. "I still live here."
Hodgson will also be pondering My Little Pony, big women and the Spice Girls. And telling a few true stories – such as the time he and comic buddy Al Pitcher met the notorious Australian gangland killer Chopper Reid at a comedy club in Australia.
"He did a Q&A after the comedians had been on.
"It was all blokes, like rednecks, and the comics were borderline racist. Then Chopper comes out and he's utterly charmless. Which is a funny thing to say about a mass murderer.
"When it came to taking a photo with him at the end, he wouldn't shake my hand or anything.
"He thought we were a gay couple, which judging by the disgusting comments he was making about gay people and AIDS, was something he had a problem with."
Wil Hodgson, Just the Tonic, The Approach, Friar Lane, Sunday May 31, 8.30pm, 0115 910 0009.