Are you looking forward to the Balham Comedy Festival next month?
Yeah. I’ll do what I’m doing out on the Season Four tour now, and maybe try out a few little things for Edinburgh.
What do you talk about in this show?
The only [topic] that springs to mind is my fascination with double-decker buses. I’ll do all that in my usual way. And I have more imaginary people along, too.
Talking of imaginary people, your act has changed a lot since the early days when you started out …
What happened was I came back to stand-up having washed my hands of it for many years. My wife said, “You have to go back to it.” What I had been doing was being an emulator, I was like [Michael] Barrymore, that Saturday night type. Which is not what I wanted to do at all.
Now it’s based around vocalising the voices in your head to the audience …
It started with this one part where I talked about going to a bar in New York and them not understanding me. I said: “Can I have a medium white wine?” And they said: “There is only one size.” Then the voice would be me going, “Go on, give them some of that bulldog spirit.”
How did it change from there?
One particular night I started saying how bad my career was and going back to it again and again, slagging it all off. I came off the stage and [stand-up] Ben Norris said, “What are you doing?” Being the professional that I am I said, “I don’t know, I haven’t really done that before.” He said, “You have got to do that, it’s mental, but don’t be so bitter!”
Are a lot of your shows improvised?I’ll have an idea sometimes and go with it and turn it into a piece. I am like coral, I sway with what is going on – things grow and die.
Have you changed off stage as well?
I am a very different being myself, not just in the show. I’ve matured and let myself mature – I used to be frightened to let myself do that. Now I don’t fear anything. When you’re younger you’re always in fear, about what you’re wearing, what you look like or what you are saying. [Now] I’m at a point where I don’t care.
That must be quite liberating?
It is, just as a person when you get over yourself. I’m teaching stand-up at Colchester Academy school [in Essex] and trying to get them [not to be frightened] which is hard when you’re that age. So many comics panic about reviews or someone saying something daft on Twitter. They can be like, “How dare they?!” But I look at that and go, “That’s hilarious!”
You have a routine where you get on your back and perform the show through your talking shoes – how did this potentially risky bit come about?
It was not meant [to be dangerous]. It was me doing what makes me laugh. I was at The Comedy Store in London and I did the shoes. I got a standing ovation and came off stage and saw [Comedy Store owner since it opened in 1979] Don Ward, who went, “The fucking shoes! They’re fucking genius!” I said: “Well, that’s it – they’re staying in now then,” and it’s grown from there.
Is it tricky not being able to see the audience?
If the audience doesn’t dig it, then I will ram the car into the wall – I will crash that car. My rule is, if I am not making it funny then make it interesting. I will take it where I want to and then see where it goes, so it is a win-win situation.
Does it ever go wrong?
At the Greenwich Comedy Festival a few years ago I started doing the shoes [routine] and someone started heckling me quite angrily and aggressively – but I dealt with it all through the shoes. One of the shoes was pissed off, with the other going, “Woah-woah, just calm down!” And the other goes, “What did he fucking say?”
How did a meeting with Eddie Izzard affect your career?
I was at The Comedy Store in 2008, in the dressing room after the show and he [Izzard] was there. We talked for about 45 minutes and he said, “No one can do what you do, I can’t do what you do – that is the brilliance of it.” He said I couldn’t just keep doing the comedy clubs. “You need to go out on tour,” he told me. “Get out there on stage and they will come.” So I thought, “If I don’t do it now I won’t do it.” And that was what got me doing it.
Balham Comedy Festival. July 5-13.
Terry Alderton plays July 6. 9.45pm. £16.
The Bedford, 77 Bedford Hill, SW12 9HD
Tube | Balham