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Griff Rhys Jones

Griff Rhys Jones is a man of many talents. The 64-year-old comedian, actor, writer, producer, and travel presenter has had a varied career spanning four decades. He became a household name alongside Mel Smith in Alas Smith and Jones from 1984 to 1998 and has presented several documentaries including Griff’s Great Britain and the Three Men… series. He recently embarked on his new solo tour, Where Was I?

What’s the show about?
Where Was I? is really me trying to remember interesting and fascinating events that happened in my life. But it also has a double meaning: that my brain has gone to mush and I can’t remember a single goddam thing! It’s a combination of me telling stories about travel, and how that can spoil you. It’s also a funny show. I like the unmitigated buzz. When I started doing comedy, I did it full on. Doing a sketch show every year for 13 years – it was tough stuff. So it was quite a relief when the BBC asked if I wanted to do one of their “middle-aged man travels around Britain pointing at things” programmes. Then, after a while you think: “I’ve been here, done that,” and “Hey! Wait a minute. People are forgetting I’m actually a funny man”. And this is where we’re at now.

Has it been well received so far?
The majority of my audience come to see if I’m still alive… No, I’ve been really heartened by the responses. It’s sort of a travel forum. I like telling different stories on different nights – sometimes they just spring to mind but it keeps the show fresh. I did one recently and we all started talking about where people had been, so the second half disappeared completely. My poor stage manager was having a tough time...

Do you enjoy being on the road again?
I love it. You see, I’m at that point in life now where my family actually want me to go away. So I find myself kicked out of the house and I’m off again. I’ve got 40 dates in all, and I’m rather enjoying it. Unlike back in 1973, when there was no comedy circuit to speak of and the working men’s clubs were closing down. Mel [Smith] and I used to go around with the likes of Clive Anderson and play in barns and theatres on a Sunday night, because no one else was doing it.

You’ve had such a diverse career…
I’ve tended to buzz about and try a little bit of everything. I’ve never really settled down and thought: “This is the one I must do, to the exclusion of everything else”. I’m always getting up in the morning and thinking: “What shall I do today?” I also have this thing about life. Recently, I thought: “Hang on a minute, look a me now? How did this happen? I can’t be 64 already. I’ve had whole levels of experiences that I haven’t even shared yet”. I’ve been very greedy for life…

Having travelled all over the world, are there still places you’d like to visit?
Many, many corners of the world. I do genuinely believe that the world is full of unexpected and beautiful things to come across. I like to get away far from the madding crowd, that’s my big thing. And sometimes that’s very complicated to achieve. However, once I was in Trollhättan in Sweden and I went for a walk and came across a wood. The floor was like a Persian carpet. I had never seen so many beautiful wild flowers just smothering the whole of the floor. It was completely and utterly natural, and it was a completely and utterly straightforward discovery. I find that the way in which human beings live on the planet, all over the planet, just fascinating.

Catch Griff Rhys Jones in Where Was I? at Epsom Playhouse on 4 March,