Northumberland comedian Alexander Armstrong on coming home for Bonfire Night gig in Newcastle
The creative spark that drives comedian Alexander Armstrong will be on show when he returns to his home-from-home on Bonfire Night.
The Rothbury-born entertainer is performing at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre on Tuesday, November 5 as part of an 18-date national tour which will see him give an insight into the hilarious and sometimes bizarre world of his showbiz career.
“Yes, remember, remember that date,” laughs the Pointless presenter, classical singer and the voice behind numerous TV adverts and children’s TV characters.
Surprisingly, given his comedy background as one half of TV sketch show Armstrong and Miller, this will be the 49-year-old’s first solo stand-up tour.
“I do get nervous but I am really looking forward to it,” he admits. “I actually started out thinking it would be a one-man show but it has turned into a stand-up show which will be a first for me.
“It’s been a long time in the making but to have the opportunity to do a show on my own is a joy.”
He has plenty of material at his disposal given the range of work he has done since moving to London to pursue a career in acting and comedy after graduating from Cambridge University in 1992.
“The strange thing about my job is that I have never been in a position where I can afford to say ‘no’, so I’ve pretty much said ‘yes’ to all the jobs people have offered me,” he says.
“There has been some pretty weird stuff along the way like hosting programmes such as The Great British Weather. Then there’s the three classical albums I’ve done or being the voice of Toilet Duck!
“Of course I’ve hosted Pointless for 10 years, presented Songs of Praise and sung in front of the Queen so there have been some very strange and quirky things along the way.
“I also had a long career as part of a comedy double act and still feel that my home is there. There comes a point when you have to take stock and ask ‘am I a gameshow host’ or something else?
“It’s not what I set out to do yet Pointless is perhaps what I’m best known for, and I do enjoy it. I always wanted to work in entertainment but you have to sail wherever the wind takes you.
‘Live comedy is where my roots lie. It is where I come from, and it's still my great love. I'm so excited to be coming back to it. One thing I do know, it’s going to be enormous fun.’
He is particularly looking forward to ‘writing some naughty songs’ as he loved doing in his days working with Ben Miller.
“Half of our live show was music,” recalls Alexander. “I’ll be doing some more of that this time around with my piano.”
It will be a flying visit to the North East – he also performs at Darlington Hippodrome on Monday, November 4 – but he is looking forward to being back.
“Newcastle is very much home territory for me,” he says. “I still think of the North East as home. It’s where I pretend I am going to live one day. In fact, if we could move the world of television up to Newcastle I would be there in a heartbeat.
“My parents still live up here and I have millions of cousins up here so it’s where my roots properly still are.
“I remember reading ‘The Road to Somwhere’ by David Goodhart. He writes about ‘anywheres’ who are people who went to university miles away from where they grew up and then work anywhere in the world; then there are ‘somewheres’ who haven’t really moved away from where they grew up among family and friends.
“Under normal circumstances I would be an ‘anywhere’ because I went to university hundreds of miles away and now live and work in the south but I do feel that strong tie to the North East which suggests I am a ‘somewhere’ too.”
That bond brings him back to Northumberland for a fortnight every summer.
“It’s always where I return to,” he says. “I spend a lot of that time catching up with friends and family so it’s fairly low key but I do like going out on country walks.
“We always go to Cragside and we love Ros Castle and, of course, Rothbury and the Coquet Valley too. We also love the coastal stretch from Craster to Dunstanburgh and Low Newton.”
Alexander’s rich family background was documented in an episode of BBC One's Who Do You Think You Are? in 2010 through which he discovered that he was a descendant of William the Conqueror.
He is also distantly related to William Armstrong, founder of Cragside and whose family still own Bamburgh Castle.
“My father was a doctor in Rothbury and my grandfather was a doctor before him,” he adds. “In fact, I’m from a family of doctors on my father’s side which dates back to the 17th century. Our roots are deep in Rothbury as the Armstrongs have been in Northumberland for centuries. I feel it’s important that my family know that too.”
He is learning more about his fascinating family history all the time.
“I was recently reading the diaries of my three times great grandfather, Joseph Watson, who was a Newcastle lawyer,” he revealed.
“He celebrated his 78th birthday by walking across the new High Level Bridge across the Tyne. It was only two-thirds completed so he had to walk across the final third on planks.
“When he got to the other side he was greeted by his friend (Robert) Stephenson (the bridge designer) who told him who was the first person who had made that crossing!
“And his son, also Joseph, wrote the words to The Lambton Worm. The Armstrongs and Watsons were certainly a fascinating bunch!”
Alexander Armstrong, All Mouth and Some Trousers is on at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle on Tuesday, November 5, 7.30pm. Tickets, price £30 + booking fee. Visit: www.alexanderarmstrongontour.com