WHEN Alan Carr returns to Nottingham he’s always reminded of one of the worst gigs of his career. It was a New Year’s Eve show at Just The Tonic, then housed at what was the Old Vic (now Escucha) in Fletcher Gate.
“It was me, Ed Byrne and Justin Moorhouse – and it was just awful,” he says, sat in the lounge at Birmingham’s Malmaison, a hotel for “pleasure seekers and total exhibitionists” according to the glossy brochure I pick up from reception.
Alan Carr is both, although today he’s more of a distracted celebrity. Throughout our chat he often looks away and waves as members of the public recognise him and demand an acknowledgement. At one point he beckons a trio of ladies over for a photograph.
Carr isn’t being rude, just loving his job.
Once his attention is back on the task in hand, he gives me a broad grin and insists: “Right love, hit me with it!”
Nottingham? That appalling gig?
“Well everyone was paralytic. Darrell (Martin, the club’s boss) told me to give out some party poppers.
“But I gave them out too early and they were all popping them while Ed Byrne was on stage trying to do his set.
“So I got in trouble for that,” he adds, admitting that he ended up in tears after his own set bombed and the crowd chanted “you throw like a girl!”
It’s such a significant incident in his early career that Carr included it in his autobiography, Look Who It Is! My Story.
The book recalled his childhood in Northampton (although he was born in Dorset), where his family were obsessed with football. His dad was the manager of Northampton Town, while his grandfather played for West Brom and Newcastle.
After legging it to London to study drama, Carr made his stand-up debut in a pub in 1997 but it was after relocating to Manchester that he was spotted by Johnny Vegas’ agent coming second to Justin Moorhouse in the city’s annual Citylife stand-up competition.
Since then he’s become one of Britain’s biggest comedy talents but has been unable to tour for the past few years due to other commitments.
There’s been the Channel 4 chat show, Chatty Man, now in its sixth series, and his Saturday afternoon radio show for Radio 2 that he co-hosts with Melanie Sykes.
“I think me and Mel just really click,” he says.
“And she’s got the dirtiest sense of humour. I thought I was bad with double entendres but she sees stuff when they’re not even single entendres and she’s killing herself laughing.
“She comes out the studio after the show looking like Carrie, because her eyes are red with laughing so much.”
Added to that is his first arena tour that includes two dates at the Capital FM arena next month.
And he’s nervous about it.
“I definitely still get nervous,” he says.
“Even when I’m doing Chatty Man I spend the day swallowing sick, but I need that nervousness.”
Many comedians who’ve been to the arena this year, including Peter Kay, Lee Evans and John Bishop, have incorporated musical numbers, as if they are aware of the big space they have to fill.
Carr has no such plans.
“I’m quite a physical comedian anyway. I’ll probably be knackered by the end of the show anyway so I won’t have the energy for a song and dance routine.
“I’ll be eating a barley sugar off a St John’s Ambulance person.”
It’s his first tour in four years, since Tooth Fairy.
“I just needed to tour because Tooth Fairy is on every night on Channel 4... well, it feels like it... and I thought if I leave it any longer it’ll become a comeback tour.
“But I’ve never been away. I’m always on the telly.
“I suppose I’ve been a victim of my success really. They asked me to do The Friday Night Project but I didn’t realise we were going to do nine series of it.
“Then Chatty Man keeps getting recommissioned, which I love but it stopped me touring.”
And he wants to remind people that stand-up comedy is how he started.
“It’s what made me. My Edinburgh shows were critically acclaimed.
“I got chosen to go to Montreal to represent England and I’ve held my own against Daniel Kitson, Johnny Vegas and Lee Mack. I don’t want people to think I’m this gay, squawking stereotype.”
He’s in Birmingham when we meet up because he’s on a short tour of warm-up shows.
“You have to do them,” he says.
“I’d rather die on my (bottom) in Barrow-in-Furness than in front of 16,000 people in Nottingham.
“And people who don’t like arena gigs can see me at one of the warm-up shows. There are only 200 people in there.
“It’s ideal if you want to see me sweating, mumbling and getting jokes wrong.”
The 35-year-old, who now lives in London with his red setter Bev, has ambitions to write a sitcom and even act – whenever he can find the time.
The arena tour is 35 dates and his publishers are badgering him for another book.
“I don’t want it to be a bitter book,” he says.
“I’ve read a few of those second autobiographies and a lot of the time it’s them saying ‘that didn’t happen’, ‘so and so’s an (armpit)’, ‘BBC One are like this’... it’s like airing your dirty washing.
“I think the first book was so upbeat and optimistic that I don’t want the next one to be miserable.
“And unless I break America or get a terrible disease, it’ll all be about work, work, work.”
Again he is approached by a fan wanting his autograph and he obliges.
Once she’s out of earshot he admits: “My fans are lovely. They knit me jumpers and make me jam – oh and I get kisses in the street.
“Most of them are mingers but you get the odd good-looking one!”
Alan Carr brings his Spexy Beast UK Tour to the Capital FM Arena on October 4 and 5. Tickets are £30 from the venue, call 08444 124624 or go to www.capitalfmarena.com