Harry Hill set to appear at MK Theatre

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IT HAS been six years since Harry Hill last hit the road for a proper tour of these isles, and the charmingly titled Sausage Time isn’t about half measures – it’s a 40-date slog, running through to April.

“It’s a long time to have been away from it,” Harry tells leisure editor Sammy Jones.

“I did the occasional gig and stuff but not a proper tour.

“It’s a bit like falling back in love with a girlfriend!”

TV Burp became prime time Saturday evening viewing. Harry’s unique take on the week’s television spawned catchphrases and made stars of knitted toys.

It bagged three BAFTA awards, two British Comedy gongs and the Rose D’Or Award at the Montreux International Television Festival.

Audience figures regularly exceeded eight million.

It was ridiculous and wonderful.TV Burp ran for 10 years, and 11 series before he pulled the plug on the funny feast.

And actually not always fun, which is why Harry called time: “When we first started TV Burp it was fine, and while we were developing it – for the first seven years I suppose.

“But when it got popular it added another layer of pressure.

“You would start the week with nothing and had to have a show by the end of it...it was trying to make a silk purse out of a bucket of sow’s ears!”

So, what about the live show?

“It’s very different. You write stuff, then try it out, hone it up...it shouldn’t be any more of a longer process, but it just is.

“I talk to a lot of other stand-ups and they agree – Sean Lock reckons it takes him about a year to come up with an hour of material he’s happy with.

“The last thing you want is a bit in your act when you think ‘Oh God, it’s this bit now.’”

We can’t imagine Harry testing new material out and falling flat on his specs. But we are wrong.

“It does happen,” he argues, “It’s inevitable, unless you play it safe.”

It has been well documented before now of course, but before Harry picked up the comedy mantle and ran with it, he worked as a doctor.

Not a neurosurgeon as some online material would have you believe!

“That’s made up,” he says. “But I’m happy to take it if you want to put that in.

“I was the emergency doctor, so if you had a heart attack, an asthma attack or a diabetic crisis you could expect to find me looming over you ...like a glorified grim reaper!”

“I only did it for two years, and the best thing I ever did was leave, but it was a big decision at the time.

“My consultant called me in for a careers talk and said: ‘What are you going to do?’ I said I didn’t know and he asked ‘Will it be respiratory or cardiology?’

“I said ‘I think I want to be a comedian,’” he says, laughing at the memory.

And that’s what he did, working as a locum for cash while cultivating a career on the stage.

“I was just really enthusiastic and pushy, really...”

Switch on the small screen and you’ll see a lot less of Harry in 2013.

It’s his choice,, because Harry has never been busier: Work on a film is looming and you might have heard about X-Factor the musical, which is set for the West End.

Tell us more about that...

“Simon has seen it and is very happy with it.

“His team have had a lot of input and been really helpful actually.

“The tone of it is very much TV Burp...it’s going to be great.

“I tell you...If we can pull it off the way we hope to it is going to be knockout.”

For the moment though, Sausage Time is the priority: “The first half is stand-up, the second half is more visual and about silly things...”

And the finale?

“It’s a tribute to the Olympic opening ceremony, the bit with Kenneth Branagh doing the speech – we do that speech and have Jerusalem playing...and we launch this 20ft sausage into the audience. It’ll be someone’s lucky night!”

The show rolls into Milton Keynes this month and Harry is looking forward to it. Genuinely: “I always have a good time there, and it’s a really nice theatre. We go to all sorts of places and it’s a good building that one, and the staff are nice.”

Aren’t they everywhere?

“No, particularly on a Sunday for some reason, and at the council run ones...”

Comedy might come naturally to Harry but not every day can be a smile-athon. Is it hard being funny when you really aren’t feeling it?

“I’ll let you know in April – it’s a bit like having a baby, isn’t it – you forget how bad it is at the time!”

> See Harry at MK Theatre on February 22 & 23.

Call the box office on 0844 871 7652.