PHILL Jupitus, who after 23 series is the last man standing fromthe original line-up of BBC2’s widely adored pop quiz Never Mind the Buzzcocks, is an immensely popular comedian. He could easily have hit the road with a showcomprising “greatest hits” gags, and no one would have complained.

But he is a far more adventurous and innovative comic than that. So Phill has come up with a dazzlingly inventive three-part character comedy showthat will surprise and delight his fans.

You’re Probably Wondering Why I’ve Asked You Here… is a beautifully crafted act which the comedian plays three very different characters: The Late Vernon Herschel Harley, a legend of stage and screen who died at the age of 114 just last Thursday; The Late Kurt Schiffer, the ‘Korvettenkapitan’ of the U42B, part of the German Navy’s feared Wolf Pack, which was the scourge of the Atlantic shipping lanes during the Second World War; and The Late Phill Jupitus, who died on 24 June 2052 on the eve of his ninetieth birthday.

The showis quite unlike anything you ever seen before. It highlights Phill’s marvellous versatility and brilliant off-the-cuff comedy gifts.

When I chat to him, Phill is just as much fun in person.

He begins by explaining the inspiration behind You’re Probably Wondering: “I did a stand-up showtwo years ago that was just me telling jokes. It was great fun, but I didn’t want to do the same thing again.

“So this time I was looking for a way of keepingmyself interested in the job, and I wanted to approach it in more experimental way. That’s howthe idea of doing character comedy evolved.”

Phill was for many years the host of BBC 6 Music’s lauded breakfast showand has also enjoyed critical acclaim playing Edna Turnblad in the West End musical Hairspray and King Arthur in Spamalot.

He loves the element of the unexpected in the newshow.

“The great thing is that it’s a showwhere I knowthe characters, but I don’t knowwhat they’ll be asked. Every night is different – it’s entirely dependent on the audience.”

Phill proceeds to give an example of the inspired way in which the audience contribute to the show. “Recently, when I was playing Vernon, one guy fromthe audience said, ‘Tell us about your feud with Tony Curtis, which I knowyou don’t like to talk about’.

That was brilliant.

“On another night, an audience member shouted out to the German submarine commander: ‘Tell us about your secret mission to kill Winston Churchill’. I gave that a ten-minute answer.

You have to go deep into the character.

Something fires you up on stage. The more creative the audience, the more they are rewarded with the responses.”

Phill carries on by fleshing out the characters for us.

“I chose Vernon because I’m really keen on film and theatre. If anyone throws a particular film or actor at him, there is no way he has not worked with them. So if someone says ‘Tell us about The Lord of the Rings,’ Vernon will reply ‘That was one of the most difficult catering jobs ofmywhole career. As you know, Peter Jackson is dieting quite seriously’. It’s that great improviser’s maxim of never saying no to an idea.

Phill, who is also a regular guest on BBC2’s panel showQI, continues that “Acting is a quite trivial thing, but the way actors talk about it, it sounds like the most important thing in the world.

Phill derives just as much pleasure fromportraying Kurt. “As a kid, I was fascinated by the Second World War. I was born in 1962 and the War was very much part of the zeitgeist back then.My grandparents and parents would talk about the War and rationing.

I grewup with the comics Victor and Valiant – the Second World War was at the forefront of our culture.

“I had the terrible boy’s affliction of being obsessed with war. So it is cathartic to have this chance to get that out ofmysystem.

Compared to the florid Vernon, Kurt is quite taciturn. But I really enjoy telling his story because the War is so fascinating.”

In the final part of the show, Phill plays a deceased version of himself in the future, reflecting on his life. The comedian says that, “It’s a great device because the audience can ask me not just aboutmyself, but also about current affairs. I can spiral off, looking at the future of the world over the next 40years.

“The other day, an audience member said to me as The Late Phill Jupitus ‘Tell us about your first Budget’. I replied ‘A lot of people were very surprised when I was made chancellor by Prime Minister McIntyre in his all-comedy cabinet.’ The more the audience invest in the show, the more they get out of it.”

Phill can’t wait to step back into the live arena. “I love doing standup.

It’s that bond you have with an audience. Because you’re on the radio and television, you are aware that you have an amorphous constituency out there. But once you see them in a room, you can make that connection and it develops into a huge thing.

“I’m very thankful that I have a really loyal following. If Lee Evans is at the level of One Direction, I’m Squeeze. I’ve been around the same amount of time, and people regard us with a certain degree of affection. I’m very grateful for that.”

“I adore doing this show because I get to muck around with the audience.

“I’ve always loved the idea that there is one particular thing people remember from each gig.

People don’t necessarily remember your material. What people remember is the guy in the front row who dropped his drinks or the woman with the weird laugh in row H. I’m trying to make each gig unique to that night. I want each evening to be special.”

  • Catch Phill Jupitus at Monmouth Savoy on May 10, Call 01600 713007 for full details