LISTENING to the "bitter ramblings of a 40-year-old man" may sound like a night in with the other half . . . but it is in fact what is on offer as entertainment at Bolton Octagon.

Comedian Jeremy Hardy, best known for his quick witted comments, insists these days he tends to "shamble on" to the stage to deliver his "grumpy" observations.

He said: "My style has changed as I have got older. I think when I started I was more dead pan. It was not a planned strategy though -- I was just very nervous.

"Now I suppose my act is more the bitter ramblings of a 40-year-old man."

Jeremy is well known for his appearances on television and radio. But it all could have been so different had he found himself a place on a journalism course.

He said: "I think my ambition changed every six months as to what I wanted to be. I tried to get on to journalism but failed to get on the courses available. I then started script writing but was not getting very far and decided to try my hand at stand up gigs, beginning with the open mic spots in London about 18 years ago.

"I had done a bit of comedy in school, but from time to time wanted to be an actor or poet."

Jeremy is however able to indulge his interest in journalism. Until recently he wrote a column in The Guardian, and now writes a regular slot in The London Evening Standard's magazine.

In fact, his enthusiasm for writing almost tempted him to change direction. He explained: "Working with The Guardian it had got to the stage that I was investigating stuff, interviewing people in prison for example. Yet I was only producing an 800 word column. It got to the point when I had to make a decision about my future direction."

Jeremy says he is now happier writing his pieces for the Standard's magazine. He said: "It is very different from The Guardian. My column for the Standard's magazine is not news driven, and there is no particular deadline."

But does Jeremy have any regrets that he never made it into journalism?

He replies: "No regrets. It is something I think I could have done, but would have had to have been someone who went off and did his own stuff. I would not have been very good as a team member, but I do quite like investigating things."

With that approach it is not surprising to hear that when Jeremy next appears on screen hosting a holiday programme, it will be different from any other shown on television.

He said: "I have been doing a programme for the BBC called Paradise Lost about human rights abuses in tourist places. For the programme I was asked to open with a humorous section concentrating on the tourism aspects of the country -- Mexico. I was then sent to tour deeper into the country and was introduced to people whose families had suffered torture and other atrocities. I then had to go back and be funny again -- not quite so easy.

"The tales of torture were obviously depressing, but I would rather do something like that than a straightforward holiday programme. It is good to think you might possibly be having some effect."

Jeremy is more familiar lightening up the mood. One of his first appearances on television was with Rory Bremner, as Jeremy the boom operator.

He said: "I then did guest slots on shows like Wogan, or would appear on benefit shows which were then screened on TV. But I have to say that television is not the great love of my life."

However, he does concede to having "great fun" when appearing as regular team captain on the political comedy quiz If I Ruled The World.

Although popular with viewers, the programme was axed after its second series. Jeremy said: "It was great fun, not much work and also lots of money. But the BBC attitude was that they already had a comedy news quiz with Have I Got News For You, and did not need another. It was annoying."

Jeremy now is a regular on Radio 4 shows Just a Minute and News Quiz. However, he has cut back on his stage work due to family commitments. He said: "Bolton is just one of a few dates that I will be doing. I have just been doing sporadic dates to keep my hand in over the past two years."

And he warns that any close observers of his work might recognise one or two of his better jokes. He explained: "I am a great recycler. People who follow me closely might notice. I write a good joke and then I tend to save it. I collect them and build them into stand up material, helping them to evolve -- I just can't let go of a good joke.

"It is very difficult to sit down and think I will now write some stand up. Mainly I get inspiration from newspapers, but of course with that I can not recycle quite to the same degree -- otherwise I would still be doing 'topical' jokes about people who were in the news two years ago."

Jeremy appears at the Bolton Octagon on Saturday, March 2. For tickets, priced £12.50 and £10.50, telephone 520661.