Simon Day at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival 2013
It's funny how you think you know someone, when you actually don't know them at all. At the height of his fame, The Fast Show's Simon Day was continually high on drink and drugs.
Competitive Dad liked nothing more than a line of cocaine and a can of Special Brew before he played the Apollo.
Suits you sir. And it did, at the time.
"Those were the heady days," he says. "It was great. One minute we were messing about dressing up, the next being paid enormous amounts of money with massive success.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
"We did 30 nights at the Apollo and I thought, what am I doing this for? I drank a lot then. We didn't have to work, we were making so much money. I'm grateful now. At the time, it was just a gig.
"It's true, you don't know what you've got til it's gone.
"Five years later, you're sitting in the audience watching Little Britain and all their new characters. It's weird. You've been replaced. And all of a sudden you're in 'that old show'.
"Now it's long enough ago, people have forgotten.
"People really liked The Fast Show, so many tell me it's 'their' programme, or the one that defined their university days."
And he's not wrong. Characters like Ted and Ralph, Swiss Toni and Jazz Club host Louis Balfour dominated the 90s, their catchphrases pattered round the pub.
Simon's creations were bitter, blazer-sporting Denis Norden-alike Tommy Cockles; Cockney eco-warrior Dave Angel; pub know-it-all Billy Bleach and probably the most popular, Competitive Dad.
"I wrote all my characters myself. Some were real people," he explains. "Tommy is based on a generic character, talking about famous people like he knew them. Dave Angel, well, I read Mike Reid's autobiography and thought to myself, what's the one thing he wouldn't be interested in? The environment.
"Competitive Dad was a guy I saw in a swimming pool with his two young children. He was racing them the length, the children half drowning as he waited at the other end, cheeks pushed out victoriously. One of the kids had water-wings."
Simon will be bringing back Tommy Cockles as part of his comedy festival show this weekend.
"He was my first character but I love them all – they're like my children."
So can we hope for some sort of reunion? All The Fast Show stars back together again?
"We did something for Fosters Comedy online quite recently but I don't think anyone saw it.
"I've got John Thomson staying with me at the minute. He's been through the addiction thing, the tabloids, the works – though we're both now over it."
Simon's show is slightly different to your average gig. It's a book tour, of sorts. There will be stand-up, there will be characters, but there will also be extracts from his biography, Comedy and Error.
"It's a warts and all," he says. "When you're in the AA you spend your whole time talking about stuff, so when I was asked to write a book, I wasn't sure about sharing.
"I spoke to the missus – I wasn't sure I wanted people knowing that about me. But she was very much, 'well it's you, isn't it'.
"When you start writing about those sort of things, you try to make it funny, but there were moments when I'd step back and think, woh, that was pretty heavy.
"I was in prison for a year, when I was 19. My parents had broken-up and I was addicted to fruit machines. I nicked off my friends, I was semi-homeless and upset.
"Some people don't 'get' addiction. For others, it's compelling. If my book stops even one person drinking too much, that's good. It's a killer disease. I couldn't do normal life."
Today, Simon's life is as normal as he's going to get, he says. But you won't catch him taking it for granted.
"My addiction hasn't influenced my comedy, it's made me realise how lucky I am to have a wife and two kids – who are the most important thing to me."
Call it luck, call it fate, but Simon was made for comedy. "I used to watch Harry Enfield on the TV and thought, that's what I'd like. And then Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer pitched up above my mate's shop – they went there to write – and it all fell into place.
"My mate convinced me to go to a talent night Vic and Bob were judging, I won and they took me on tour.
"Charlie Higson produced Vic and Bob, so that's how I met him, and Paul Whitehouse used to come and see me performing. 'You're a funny man,' he said. It was as easy as that.
"It's not like that now. Me and John are two prime examples of people who stumbled into comedy and ended up earning a lot of money. Now there are hundreds of comedians."
It's done Simon good to get back to his roots of stand-up, he says. "I write a lot more. I never used to. I was always hungover or couldn't be bothered. I hadn't got the desire to be number one. Now, I do.
"My show is a good night out - it's funny. I'm not just a man moaning about what used to be."
Simon Day comes to Loughborough Town Hall on Saturday. For tickets, call 01509 231914 or visit: