“Live at the Apollo changed absolutely everything,” muses Chris Addison.
“For years they tried to re-create the intimacy of a club – a thing you can never do on television. But when Live at the Apollo came along, they made it look like a big, exciting gig that you were looking in on. For the first time, stand-up looked not just cool, but appealing and entertaining across the board, rather than a grimy, late-night dive.
“And it has made megastars. Look at Michael McIntyre,” adds Addison, with the merest hint of envy. “His success is basically off the back of one appearance on Apollo.”
Although Addison regularly pops up on topical panel shows like Mock the Week, he’s probably best known for playing Ollie in Armando Iannucci’s coruscating cult satire The Thick of It – to his exasperation:
“After it came out I was always referred to as ‘the actor Chris Addison’,” he sighs. “It used to drive me nuts because I’m a stand-up. It’s where I came from. It’s how I’ve always thought of myself.”
Tonight Addison is hoping to prove he’s still got what it takes in One Night Stand – digital TV channel Dave’s answer to Live at the Apollo – where he’ll be cracking gags alongside newcomers Craig Campbell and Jo Enright.
Let’s hope it’s more successful than his first gig, way back in 1995. “It was an open-mic night at a comedy club in Manchester called The Frog and Bucket, which in those days was in a little pub,” remembers Addison. “And the first person through the door was Caroline Aherne and her then husband [New Order bass player] Peter Hook. I loved Caroline’s comedy and I’d grown up listening to New Order, so this was quite something…”
Here Addison pauses, the memory perhaps still too raw. “The gig was basically to silence,” he finally continues. “All I can really remember about it is Peter Hook with his chin resting on his palm looking at me like I was a murderer. That image will stay with me for ever.”
Tonight he’ll be playing a rather more prestigious venue: The Palace Theatre in Manchester, where Addison saw his first ever gig at the tender age of 18. “My sister took me to see Ben Elton,” he recalls, “We got the last two tickets and couldn’t have been further from the stage!”
When RT asked Addison for a joke to get us in the mood ahead of the gig, he confided his all-time favourite: “Two lions walking down the high street. One says to the other: quiet for a Saturday, isn’t it?”