Phoenix Nights, the cult series written by Peter Kay, Dave Spikey and Neil Fitzmaurice proved to be the launchpad for so many comedians.

But perhaps the most surprising success spawned by the show based around a failing working men’s club is that of Clinton Baptiste.

The character is a psychic medium whose ‘powers’ invariably involve trying to con his audience.

The Bolton News: Alex Lowe as Clinton Baptiste

For Alex Lowe, the opportunity to play Clinton in one episode of the TV series proved life-changing.

“I was really only in Phoenix Nights for about five minutes,” he said, “But Clinton is just one of those characters people seem to remember. What is amazing is that it has just got bigger and bigger. We’re now some 22 years on from Phoenix Nights and people still want to come out and see Clinton on stage - it’s incredible.”

Alex is about to embark on his biggest tour to date as Clinton - Roller Ghoster. After a series of sold-out warm-up shows at Chorley Theatre this week, he heads off around the country with shows in Burnley and Bolton among the April dates.

The show tours until June and then picks up again in September continuing to the end of November.

The public it seems can’t get enough of the white-suited conman.

“I think it’s partly because there is something about the British psyche that first of all we don’t like people getting too above their station, “ said Alex. “But we love a plucky loser. Clinton is a trier and I think the audience enjoys watching the cogs working as he tries to get himself out of situations he has created.

“We also like to see him floundering. We don’t like to think anyone is trying to put themselves above us. Clinton doesn’t know when he’s beaten; he’s a bit like Luton Town.”

Alex describes himself as ‘a jobbing actor’ before the character of Clinton took over his life.

“I met Peter Kay when I was doing a stand-up show about British wrestling at the Edinburgh Festival,” he said. “He came to review the show with Pat Roach who was in Auf Wiedersehen Pet and was a former pro wrestler. We hung around a bit during the festival and he asked me to be in his TV series That Peter Kay Thing where I played a character called Sparky in an episode about a bingo hall.

“Then one day he rang me up and said ‘have I got a part for you’. That was Clinton in Phoenix Nights.”

Alex was totally unprepared for the way Clinton has become so popular. Since Phoenix Nights he has been on several UK tours as the character and Roller Ghoster is the biggest tour to date.

“I genuinely think that the new show is the funniest thing I’ve done.” said Alex. “It’s helped that I have had two years to put it together.”

Alex has worked on the show with Brendan O’Hea, who is also directing the show.

“He has a really great eye and we get on very well,” said Alex. “Because of that there’s not been any need to skirt around issues. If one of us has come up with something the other doesn’t like we can say so and no-one takes offence.

“I think we came up with enough material for three shows.”

The Bolton News: Clinton Baptiste

Those ideas have led to a detailed script for the show being prepared.

“Brendan is a stickler about every last word,” said Alex. “Of course when I get on stage you know I’m not going to stick to it but for the time being it keeps him happy if I do.”

Anyone who has been to a Clinton Baptiste show in the past knows what to expect and Alex is conscious that that character is pretending to be an expert in an area which some people do take very seriously.

“I think people get it,” he said, “but I don’t want to upset anyone. If it wasn’t clairvoyancy and mediumship that Clinton was into, it would just be something else that he would be trying to pull the wool over their eyes with.

“I know that many people are coming because they liked Phoenix Nights but it is so gratifying when people remember stuff Clinton has done since either on tour or from characters from the podcast or radio appearances.

“It would be really awful if I was just there repeating catchphrases. I want to keep exploring and develop the character.”

Occasionally audiences do get more than they bargained for.

The Bolton News: Clinton Baptiste

“I did a show in Canterbury and an entire row was filled with smartly dressed people,” he said. “Apparently some in the audience had heard them asking why there was a stand-up comedian as a warm up for the medium and after about 10 minutes the entire row walked out. They didn’t realise it was a spoof.

“I really hope no-one takes offence and there will be a certain amount of mickey taking with the audience. But I am very careful to keep everything vague. I wouldn’t have Clinton going off and saying things like ‘I know your mother’s here’. I don’t want to upset anyone.”

Alex’s other claim to fame is that he was behind the character Barry from Watford, a mainstay on the Steve Wright show on Radio 2.

“I was trying to find a character to do stand-up with,” said Alex. “Barry is basically my old nan. My family come from South East London and they had a particular way of speaking and that became Barry.”

Steve Wright died in February and Alex has fond memories of working with him.

“I used to go into the studio and sit opposite him,” he said. “There was little old me doing stuff I’d written and he was laughing out loud. At one point his show was the most listened to radio show in Europe - I was thrilled to be part of it. It was so sad that we lost him.

“I’d had an email from him on New Year’s Eve saying that maybe we could do something together with Barry. I’ll never know what that might have been.”

But now the focus is on taking Clinton around the country.

“I just want to get into the groove,” said Alex. “It is a long tour although I do have my tour manager to drive me around. But I’ll have to be very disciplined. The last thing I want to do is lose my voice.”

Roller Ghoster is at Chorley Theatre until Sunday then at Burnley Mechanics on April 14 and Bolton Albert Halls on April 20. The tour takes in Lowther Pavilion, Lytham on September 15 and October 12; Bury Met on September 26 and Blackburn Empire Theatre on October 31. Details from