He was, though, good at boy-things, the cadet force and football. After deciding against the army and civil engineering, he went to Sheffield University to study maths and financial accounting, although he actually spent all his time performing. 'I was putting on shows at college, taking them to Edinburgh, and my brother would say, "Hmm, not very good, is it?" I'd say, "You're not supposed to say that." What about, "Lots of energy"?
'Not very good' however, remained the general verdict for a long time. He dropped out of university to concentrate on comedy, but it was 10 years before he got a Perrier award nomination in 1991. His doggedness in the face of all the evidence is impressive. 'Cleverly, I did work out that if I got a degree it would be more difficult to stick at it. I'm 89-90 per cent certain that I wouldn't have fallen back on it because I've wanted to do this from the age of seven. But it would have been much more - it was accounting for God's sake, you can get a job with that no matter what the economy's doing. So I burnt my bridges with a flamethrower.'
He started out performing sketches, 'and that didn't get anywhere, so I tried street performing and I was awful at it. It came to the point I was performing in Covent Garden with a partner and I thought, everyone doesn't like this, I don't like doing it, we're getting no money, so ... I'll just carry on doing it.'
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