Marcus to the four’

EMMA OUTTEN Marcus Brigstocke, staple of Radio 4’s comedy schedules and host of BBC 4’s topical news programme The Late Edition, comes to King’s Lynn Arts Centre next Saturday. Emma Outten asked him about what it’s like living on Planet Corduroy’.

EMMA OUTTEN

The number four must be marcus Brigstocke's favourite number. Not only has Radio 4 become a second home for the comedian, he is the host of BBC 4's topical news programme The Late Edition (think Newsnight with jokes).

Was four his magic number? “My favourite number is eight,” announced Marcus, before adding: “If you add Radio 4 and BBC 4 together you kind of get that.”

He began his comedy career at university, where he performed stand-up and character shows. He won the BBC new comedian of the year award a decade ago.

A blessing or a curse? “It has been a blessing,” he said. “When I won that thing there were all sorts of BBC people coming up saying 'welcome aboard'.”

But it was another five years before he did anything “significant” for the BBC.

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“Radio 4 is probably the most creative comedy outlet in the country,” said Marcus. And he added: “The reason I love BBC 4 is they leave me alone.” Otherwise, he's observed: “You get a lot of interference, you know?”

He believes The Late Edition to be “a bit different, a bit edgier” to shows of similar ilk, even if it is an “obscure show on BBC 4.”

If you don't do digital yet, you may have seen Marcus on the recent BBC2 reality TV show Excuse My French (he was the one who wasn't Esther Rantzen or Ron Atkinson). And if you are still struggling, he had a “blink and you will miss it” moment in Love Actually - Marcus played the radio DJ who interviewed Bill Nighy's character.

What Marcus really likes to do is set the agenda. And he said: “Stand-up is one of the few places you can truly do that.”

He is currently on his Planet Corduroy Tour 2006, and comes to King's Lynn Arts Centre next Saturday.

Corduroy seems to be Marcus's second skin. He is the company director of Corduroy Productions for a start.

So what is life like on Planet Corduroy? “It's idyllic. If we all lived on Planet Corduroy - this utopian place I think I inhabit in my head - the world would be a happier place.”

The comedian, committed to non-violence, explains: “You cannot fight in corduroy.”

But, without excusing the pun, he added: “I think I've had a patchy relationship with corduroy.”

As a child, he was almost in danger of being bullied, wearing cords when everyone else was wearing jeans, but ever since buying a corduroy suit as an adult he says he has felt nothing but confident and comfortable.

“I've recently been honoured by the Corduroy Appreciation Club.”

Yes, there really is such a thing: in fact, the club had its second annual meeting in Brooklyn on the 11th of the 11th (as it's the date which most closely resembles corduroy) and Marcus was nominated for exemplary use of corduroy as a comedic channel.

Marcus maintains that some of the nicest people he knows wear corduroy (including his kids, who wear cord dungarees).

Marcus is happily married to his university sweetheart, and is proud dad to Alfie, four, and Emily, 18 months. Fatherhood is one of the reasons Marcus has not toured for a few years (wife Sophie, incidentally, is trained as a baby massage teacher).

His tour coincides with filming of the current series of The Late Edition. “The two of them sort of feed off each other,” said Marcus.

This will not be the first time he has performed at Lynn. And in the summer he took part in the inaugural Latitude Festival, at Henham in Suffolk.

He described that event as “brilliant”, not least because there were lots of interesting things going on, and added: “It's such a beautiful part of the world.”

Marcus would like to be invited back. “If I'm not invited back there I will go into terminal decline,” he declared.

It was also an opportunity to swim in the sea at Southwold. “The first time I've swam in sight of a nuclear power station,” noted the comedian, who also actively campaigns for CND.

Around the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Marcus became disillusioned with his stand-up routine. So he had a rethink. “The new rule is if you don't care about it, don't talk about it.”

Although he added: “I'm not trying to preach to anybody, I'm not trying to convert anybody's way of thinking.”

He is known as the middle-class liberal of stand-up comedy. “I wring my hands on a daily basis, at how middle class I am.”

Marcus says he constantly “tortures” himself over things, for example his ambiguous relationship towards Tesco: “I don't like seeing Tesco taking over market towns where they've had a market culture for years and independent stores,” he said. “But, you know, when I'm in a hurry, I'll pop in!”

He likes to think of himself as being green. However, after the tour finishes, Marcus will be looking forward to taking the whole of January off, where he will be holidaying in St Lucia. Very nice but not very green, as he admitted.

Earlier this month he filmed Room 101 with Paul Merton, so watch out for that in the new year. Marcus revealed that he would like football to be consigned to the eponymous chamber. “That will be popular, won't it?”

t Marcus Brigstocke performs at King's Lynn Arts Centre, as part of his Planet Corduroy Tour 2006, on Saturday, December 2. Tickets are £12.50 from the box office on 01553 764864.

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