What are you up to at the Henley Festival?
We’re doing a live performance of two episodes of the Radio 4 show Radio Active we did in the 1980s using scripts from 32 years ago. We [fellow performers Helen Atkinson Wood, Michael Fenton Stevens and Philip Pope] did it at the last Edinburgh Festival. People liked it, so now we’re touring with it. I wrote it with Geoffrey Perkins, a comedy producer who is no longer with us. We did seven series on Radio 4, then it became KYTV on BBC2 for three series.
Has it dated? Do you need to explain things to younger audience members?
It’s a parody of local radio stations and it perhaps says a lot about local radio that we haven’t had to change it very much. It still resonates with the audience. The characters on local radio are the same now as they were then.
Are you nostalgic in general?
We spent ten years doing this originally so it’s nostalgic to get back together and perform again. I suppose I am slightly nostalgic. I’ve kept all my old CDs and VHS tapes. I don’t throw things away.
Do you have any favourite or least favourite radio DJs?
This came from a strange obsession I had in the 1980s with Capital Radio. It was in its formative stages and it was the only alternative to Radios 1 and 2. I’d listen to it for hours a day. Smashie and Nicey summed up the more annoying DJs of the time. In general, most DJs are the reason you’d want to switch off but there are some occasional gems. I like Greg James and Lauren Laverne is very good on 6 Music.
Bake Off Crème De La Crème has finished. Were you in the frame to present the new Bake Off?
That show was a laugh. I put on around six stone. I wasn’t allowed to taste the produce on screen but I dug in afterwards. Crème De La Crème was regarded as being very separate to Bake Off so I’m not sure if there was any overlap when it came to thinking about presenters. Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding are an intriguing mix — they seem to have gone for the safe middle England option and the Channel 4 option to cover all bases.
Have you worked with Noel Fielding?
No, but I know Julian Barratt, the other half of The Mighty Boosh — he lives near me. He and his wife have twins. I bumped into Julian as he was walking and he had one of the twins in a pram. I said, ‘Which one is this?’ and he looked into pram and held his hands up and said, ‘I have no idea’.
Is it easier to establish a career in comedy if you’ve done Cambridge Footlights or the Oxford Revue?
It’s a tradition that goes back decades — whether it’s because people who are interested in comedy and are good at it go to those universities or because people go to those universities then get a leg up is a moot point. These days people keep quiet about it as Oxford and Cambridge seem to be regarded as shameful places to have been. Half of The Inbetweeners were in Footlights, and Miller and Armstrong, and Mitchell and Webb.
Does that show there’s a problem with class mobility?
That’s a big leap. No, not necessarily. When the alternative comedians burst on to the scene in the early 1980s they proved it didn’t matter where you’d been to university, you could still be successful. That alternative set broke the mould and it’s still the case.
Richard Wilson is your son’s godfather. Why did he get the job?
He’s an old friend and I love and admire him. He’s a dear man and he’s been a fabulous godfather to my son. You have to choose someone special in your life for that role and he’s certainly that.
Have you got much in common?
We both support Manchester United, we were both in One Foot In The Grave, we’ve got a similar sense of humour and he works quite hard. So he’s a good role model.
What lessons has showbiz taught you?
I’ve learned I enjoy doing whatever it is I’m not doing — so when I’m writing I wish I was performing, when I’m acting I wish I was presenting, when I’m presenting I wish I was writing. So variety is important. It’s one of the reasons we’ve gone back on tour as I hadn’t trodden the boards in a while. It’s good to be doing theatre again.
Deayton and the cast of Radio Active perform at the Henley Festival on Juy 9. henley-festival.co.uk