Lockdown and the loss of both parents have transformed the entertainer. He talks about the disappointments of TV, outgrowing his comic persona – and his move into the glamping business

I remember the buzz around Johnny Vegas at the Edinburgh fringe in 1997. Everyone knew a star was being born – but a star of what, exactly? No one had ever seen anything quite like this overweight northerner, screaming and sobbing at his audience, raging at life’s injustices – then breaking off for another bout at his potter’s wheel. Was this comedy, ceramics or a Lancastrian on the verge of a breakdown?

But the oddity – that defiance of categories – couldn’t sustain a career. A handful of years after becoming the first newcomer to be nominated for the Edinburgh comedy award, Vegas went mainstream as a man with a monkey sidekick in an ad campaign for the pay-TV service ITV Digital. People shouted “moonkeh” (St Helens accent not optional) at him in the street. He became – and remains – a well-loved household name, albeit for a brand of (hoarse, boozy) comedy that part-obscures what made him extraordinary in the first place.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021 - 10:35am