Jack Dee’s live tour, Off the Telly, was cut off in its prime when the pandemic hit but now he’s back on the road and heading to Blackburn on Saturday night.

“It’s been such a surreal journey,” he said. “ I had just got the tour started and was playing to bigger rooms, having spent the past six months travelling around Britain doing church halls and arts centres getting it right. Then the curtain fell on the tour because of lockdown.

“That was annoying. People just don’t think about people like me in the pandemic, do they? It’s all about the doctors and nurses!”

This is typical of Jack’s acerbic sense of humour, and you’ll be delighted to hear that you can enjoy plenty more splendid material like this as Jack returns to the live arena with Off the Telly.

Specialising in beautifully worked, brilliantly deadpan observational routines and memorable one-liners, Jack is a compelling stage presence. It is no surprise that after 35 years as a stand-up, he remains enormously popular.

His grouchy on-stage demeanour is something audiences identify with.

He said: “That persona has always chimed with audiences. People enjoy hearing me articulate things they’d been half-thinking themselves. That’s where the identification comes in.

“My job as a comedian is to locate those things, put them into words and make them funny for people who lead much more productive lives and don’t want to spend time doing that. That’s my silly job!”

After 18 months cooped up at home, we are all desperate for a rollicking good night out, and that’s exactly what Jack provides. The stand-up says, “it’s a way of life we all took for granted. When it’s taken away like that, it’s horrendous.”


Jack Dee (Picture: Aemen Sukkar)

Jack Dee (Picture: Aemen Sukkar)


Which is why Jack can’t contain his excitement about returning to the stand-up stage. “Before I did warm-up shows for this tour, I got really excited, but I was also daunted and mildly intimidated. I thought, ‘what am I going back to? Are we all going to be so beaten up by the whole experience of the pandemic that it will be hard to enjoy life again?’

”But people realised very quickly that this is what we need and this is what makes life worth finding vaccines for. Otherwise, if life is going to be rubbish anyway, why bother with a vaccine? As soon as I got back on stage, I was immediately re-energised. It was a lovely feeling to be back.”

As human beings, we all thrive on these shared experiences – and we have really missed them. According to Jack: “We get such a strong remedial effect from going out, whether that’s having a drink with friends or being able to see a live show in a theatre or a club.

“That is the lifeblood of what we do. It’s incredibly important and helps us cope with the harder things that are going on in life. We’ve had 18 months of not being able to do that, and the effect has been insidious. It has created a vacuum and the vacuum has been filled with hysteria and panic and less creative solutions to our worries.”

Jack, who has also enjoyed a TV career on programmes such as The Jack Dee Show and Jack Dee’s Happy Hour and Jack Dee Live at the Apollo, goes on to underline the therapeutic qualities of communal events.

“It is liberating and helps us remember something about ourselves that we’ve had to suppress for the past year and a half,” he said.

“It’s like when the Berlin Wall came down and we saw all these East Germans with miserable faces suddenly realising what they had missed. We were starting to get like that. It creeps up on you and you’re not aware of what you’re missing.”

Jack, who over the past 12 years has been a host on Radio 4’s antidote to quiz shows, I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue, outlines what subjects he will be addressing in the new show.

He said: “At first I thought everything would need to be seen through the lens of Covid.

“But I was over-thinking things. People are actually more concerned with going out and having a good time. So in the show I make references to Covid – it would be odd not to – but I move on relatively quickly. I am aware that every comedian will have material on Covid and I don’t want to be the guy who overdoes that. At some point, people will think, ‘let’s move on’.

“Of course, there is a very serious side to it, but that’s not really my remit. It was a very scary time. The most alarming thing for me was when ISIS recommended that their people don’t go to Europe because of the virus!

“It’s been very tragic,” Jack says, “but part of our coping strategy is to be able to pick ourselves up and laugh about it. Comedy is a great way of helping us put things into perspective.

“Comedy can also be a very good thing to help us rebuild and get back to something a bit more normal. There have been some farcical elements in the way Covid has been dealt with, and we owe it to ourselves to look irreverently at those.”

Jack doesn’t feel nervous about the approaching this subject in Off the Telly.

He said: “I’m not one for gnawing my nails and trembling about things. If an idea makes me laugh, I’ll share it with the audience, and usually my instincts are right.

“Of course, it’s a global tragedy. But so was the First World War and that didn’t stop us making sitcoms about it. That’s how we are as a species. We are sophisticated enough to take two views at once and know that one doesn’t insult the other.”

Whether something is funny or not takes precedence over all else in Jack’s show.

“The audience never misunderstand me.” he said. “They either find it funny or they don’t. I’ve tried every other way, but I know that if it’s not funny, it’s my fault. It’s not the audience’s fault. I can’t get away from that, and that’s very disappointing!”

The comedian has also found the time to write a new book “What Is Your Problem?” He explains: “It leads on from my Ask Jack shows. It’s me in agony uncle mode.

“I’ve done an online course in psychotherapy and I’m using my new qualification to help the nation. It’s a nice runway for me to talk about the things I want to talk about. For instance, when people ask me about their adult children not leaving home, I have a thing or two to say about that!”

Finally, Jack reveals why he has called the show Off the Telly.

“The title comes from my disenchantment with the kind of telly I get offered now. I really won’t do anything with ‘Celebrity’ in the title any more,” he said.

“Artists are known for doing things they’re really good at, whereas celebrities are known for doing things they’re really terrible at. They go on Bake Off and make an absolute prat of themselves, and that’s how they make a living.”

Will Jack be appearing in the next run of Celebrity Love Island, then? “Not this season. I’ll let everyone else get buffed up first. I don’t want it to be unfair. Other people have to have time to get fit so they can catch up with me. Otherwise I’d win too easily.”

Jack Dee, King George’s Hall, Blackburn, Saturday, April 30. Details from www.bwdvenues.com