Chris mass

High profile: Chris Addison is a stand-up and has always been a stand-up but he enjoys doing other things too
High profile: Chris Addison is a stand-up and has always been a stand-up but he enjoys doing other things too
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WE can barely switch the telly on at the moment without seeing Chris Addison’s age-defying features.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” says the comic, who currently fronts adverts for Direct Line insurance. “Once you record things you’ve got no control over them.”

At least it meant the end of those annoying talking red phones in the adverts.

“That’s what I was going for. It seemed like a public service. They were around for 20 years. It made me feel very old when I was told how long they’ve been about.”

Chris steers his The Time Is Now tour to Sheffield’s Memorial Hall on February 8 having played Doncaster last autumn.

“Before you kick off the tour proper you do a preview evening. It does change, you take things out and other things expand. The first half is a lot more fluid in this show. Also things occur to you on stage that wouldn’t if you were sitting down at a desk trying to write.”

Originally from Manchester, Chris did plenty of his early gigs in Sheffield at The Lescar’s Last Laugh and Merry Hell comedy clubs.

With his youthful looks it is hard to believe he’s been doing stand-up for 17 years. For the past 10 years he’s been a radio and TV regular, starring in shows The Thick Of It, Skins as demonic Professor David Blood, hosting Show And Tell and as a panellist on Mock The Week. He also released his first DVD last November.

“I’m busier than I’ve ever been,” confirms Chris, “although stuff that already exists, that’s around, makes me look a lot busier.

“Mock The Week is constantly being repeated and the adverts are out there being repeated fairly heavily. I’m quite often aware I’ve had a couple of days in the house not doing a lot and people say ‘I saw you on the telly’. It does make me look terribly busy when in fact I’m sitting at home playing on the Wii.”

Certainly the 40-year-old’s career seems to have been blessed with variety since his debut solo show at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1998 earned a nomination for a Perrier award.

“I never really had a specific thing I wanted to do, a burning ambition. Whenever things came along I was able to take them up. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been offered tremendous things, fantastic opportunities. The great advantage of it is doing stuff that’s enjoyable to do. I’m lucky I get to mix it up a bit.

“But I am a stand-up, that’s my thing. That’s where I came from and before I did any of those other things I’d been a stand-up for 10 years. That’s who I am and everything else has come from that. That’s the root of everything.

“There are people who get into stand-up with a view to it becoming another thing, but I never did that. Things have just kind of happened.

“I’d never done any acting before The Thick Of It came along and have ended up doing a reasonable bit of it off the back of that.”

Also the author of a book, Chris’s live comedy ranges from views on current events to more personal insights, often smart, insightful and highly energetic. His funny ‘barometer’ is friend Carl Cooper, co-writer of the TV series Lab Rats and various radio shows with Chris.

“Ultimately the audience is the barometer.

“I’ve been a stand-up for the best part of 17 years and I couldn’t tell you what’s definitely funny and what’s definitely not. The main lesson you learn is you just cannot tell. You have to go out to an audience and it has to get a particular response. It’s not good them sitting there going ‘Well, that’s thoughtful and interesting’, it has to have the visceral effect of making them bark.

“And I have a lovely audience. I get kids of 12 and people in their 80s and everything in between, a really mixed bunch. There are people who’ve been with me before anybody had really heard of me and some since the radio shows eight years ago. As you go along you hope to grow your audience.”