■ The comedian, 47, talks hosting Blockbusters, rescuing a lost parrot and being picked on by Ann Widdecombe
Bob Holness, Michael Aspel, Liza Tarbuck, Simon Mayo… you’ve joined a legendary roll call of Blockbusters hosts.
The icons. I’ve worked with Mayo and Tarbuck so I feel I can sit with them. We’ve taken the show in a different format to Aspel and Holness — we favour gags more. Delivering a totally straight quiz show to Comedy Central might have raised contractual issues.
Did you aspire to be on Blockbusters yourself when growing up?
No, it was like it was on a different planet. Every so often an Irish person would be on and we’d be like, ‘Oh my God! How did they get on there?’ Apparently you just had to write in but I am not sure my parents would have been that pleased. Where would I have stayed?
What would your lucky mascot be?
There’s a teddy bear I had as a child that we passed on to our own children, who have buried it at the back of a box somewhere. They regard it with no affection so maybe it would be that.
Are you an asset on a quiz team?
Puzzles are where I excel. My dream format would be Countdown with all the word games removed. I’ve only done one TV quiz, Fifteen To One, as a favour to host Adam Hills, and I got burnt out by Ann Widdecombe. I teased her about something and she immediately nominated me for three questions, all of which I got wrong. One was about the title of the first Harry Potter film and I guessed Establishing Harry Potter, which I still think is a great working title. Then I had to stand in the darkness for 40 minutes while other people answered questions that were much easier than mine.
The Blockbusters contestants are very polite. No one ever says ‘please, Dara’ on Mock The Week…
I know! We’ve been very mean about millennials when they’re actually quite delightful, work very hard and know lots of things. They don’t just eat avocado toast and Instagram themselves on beaches.
Will you be presenting Mock The Week in your dotage?
Now it’s me and Hugh [Dennis], and occasionally Uncle Ed [Byrne], shepherding the next generation of young comedians on to greater success. Good luck, Rob Beckett! Good luck, Romesh Ranganathan! Keep in touch! And they never do. They never write, they never call. I just see them on their travelogues.
Bob Holness was rumoured to have played saxophone on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street. Have you ever been the subject of any urban myths?
Yeah, there were ‘facts’ about me on IMDb that a producer had made up so they could do a fake bio on a show I did. Interviewers would ask me if I was related to Michael Collins and if I flew Aer Lingus for free. The current one is that I once helped the RSPCA rescue a goose from a tile shop.
I think they’ve changed it — it’s now about you rescuing a parrot from your garden and housing it in your garage until the RSPCA came.
That’s actually correct! My wife found a domestic parrot and put it in our garage. It was lost and very angry. She called the RSPCA and they took it away.
What was your weirdest corporate gig?
I will always fondly remember the Corgi Gas Fitter Awards for plumbers from all round the company. One of the nominees in the Welsh section was for Leeks Plumbing, which everyone had a good laugh about, but they didn’t win. Then I found out the organisers hadn’t received enough nominations from Wales so they had made up this company, which was brilliant.
How is your Voice of Reason stand-up tour going?
Great. We are up to 136 dates and still in the UK at the moment. Then it’s Scandinavia. Norway in particular is like a bonus level you unlock if the tour is doing really well elsewhere. They are up for fun and really silly. They are amused you’re there in the first place.
Why are you big in Scandinavia?
BBC shows are broadcast over there and they have stunning English. I’m doing three nights in Oslo in a venue of the same scale I’d play in Manchester. And the internet kills DVDs but gets clips all around the world.
Blockbusters will run for a year and we’ve got Family Brain Games on the BBC in June. Stargazing is back — we’re going to Cape Kennedy in March to look at the next generation of space travel. Mock as well, but once this tour is done perhaps a little bit of normal life before my wife finds me sitting at home, drumming my fingers, and orders me out of the house.
Blockbusters is on Comedy Central at 8pm on Thursday