THE plan was to take a year off after last year’s Sunshine tour, which played to more than 400,000 people around the UK, including three shows at the Capital FM Arena. But it didn’t quite turn out the way he had intended.
“I was gong to take a bit of time off after the last tour but after two months at home the missus was like: ‘do us a favour and just get out. Just go and do a gig for Chrissake, you miserable get.”
He jests. The former medical sales- man, who came into comedy just five years ago, may have taken a couple of months off the road but he has been filling his time with appearances on Sky One sports quiz A League Of Their Own, raised £4 million for Sport Relief by running around the country, reached a peak of 6.5m viewers with his BBC One show, John Bishop’s Britain and most recently cropped up on Jimmy McGovern’s TV drama Accused.
He’s also appeared on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Road Show, Live at The Apollo, guest-hosted Have I Got News For You and wrote, directed and starred in a short film in the Sky One series Little Crackers.
He’s on his way to the studio to record A League Of Their Own when we catch up.
“I’m mates with the lads,” he says, referring to host James Corden and team captains Freddie Flintoff and Jamie Redknapp. “I’m mates with them outside of work, so when someone says ‘look, do you want to get together with your mates for a night out and I’ll pay you’ you think ‘yeah, all right’.”
“I’m looking forward to Nottingham. It’s a great place.”
He knows it well, having played Just The Tonic numerous times in the past as his comedy career developed.
He repaid the early bookings by returning there in July to warm up for this tour, a show which sold out before word had even got around beyond club regulars.
“It made me feel like Take That,” says the 45-year-old father of three.
Warm-up shows are necessary for any comedian heading out on a major tour, he says.
“You are always wary that what’s funny in your head may not be funny when it leaves your mouth.”
He adds: “I can’t sit in a room on my own and write stand-up so I do it on stage. It kind of evolves on stage.”
Which means that no two shows will be the same on this tour.
“The whole thing with my comedy is that it’s always based around what’s going on. Let’s say that by the time I get to Nottingham something mad happens... like, we find out that John Terry is actually a really nice bloke. Something staggering and earth-shattering like that. It has to figure in the show.”
The Olympics, Euro 2012 and the Jubilee will be given his comedy twist during each show:
“You can’t ignore them. This year is such a big year for everyone really. There’s just loads and loads of stuff that’s been going on and you end up talking about all of it by default.”
Although he’ll be in the city for four shows, he won’t be staying over. Not just to get back home and see the family but because it stops him indulging.
“When I’m on tour, I don’t drink,” he says. “If I’m in Nottingham I’ll drive home after, which takes me about an hour and a half. If I stayed over and got back to the hotel to start drinking, I’d be up until 4am.”
On last year’s tour he closed the show with a song and dance routine, dressed as John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever.
And he’s got something similarly bombastic for this year’s tour.
“The only thing about arena gigs is that you are putting on a show. You have to put money into the set so the punter is getting value for what they’ve come for but also in order that the space gets filled. If you just stand there against a black curtain and tell jokes, it doesn’t work.”
The name of the tour, Rollercoaster, is again just a name and no indication of any theme.
“It came about because I was telling my kids I was going on tour and thinking about what to call it,” he says.
“They said ‘What’s it about?’ and I said ‘Just stuff that’s gone on this year... all the ups and downs’. And my 14-year-old said ‘There you go, call it Rollercoaster’. I thought ‘yeah, that’s brilliant but I’m not paying you’.”
Bishop has three sons, aged 14, 16 and 18.
“To me they’re teenagers, to their mother they’re babies but to them they’re men and they can’t understand what I’m doing in their house.”
They were all a strong source of material for his Sunshine tour and there’ll be more about the Bishops this time as well. “There’s always going to be a bit of the family in it because that’s the biggest thing in my life.”
There are plans for an autobiography next year but he isn’t sure where to end it.
“I had another life long before I got into showbusiness,” he says, meaning time as a semi-professional footballer before moving in to medical sales.
“That was a laugh a minute that,” he says of the latter. “I basically want the book to be like my stand up – I want to do it up to yesterday. I don’t want to get to 18 when I left school and then finish it, ‘now go and buy my next book to find out what happened next’. I don’t want that.”
Outside of comedy, we saw Bishop making his first attempt at serious acting in Accused.
“I watched the first one which was a massive relief. I just didn’t want to be the one who made the whole thing not worthwhile.”
Accused was actually his second serious role, after appearing in Ken Loach’s film Route Irish.
“So far my acting career has been two pantos, a bit in Skins, a Ken Loach film and a Jimmy McGovern play. That’s it, done, finished. I don’t have to do anything else, do I?”
“If the opportunity arises and it’s the right thing but right now I’m 100 per cent focused on the stand-up.”
Besides, there is a danger of spreading yourself a little too thin. Particularly in comedy.
“Yeah but that’s your job. And you’ve got to remember that I came to this late. I’ve spent more of my life looking at sales charts and graphs than doing jokes, so every day is a day out for me.”
John Bishop comes to the Capital FM Arena from October 15 to 18, at 8pm. Tickets are £30 from the venue, call 0843 373 3000 or go to www.capitalfmarena.com.