STILL OPEN ALL HOURS IS BACK FOR A SERIES. WHEN YOU FILMED THE ONE-OFF LAST YEAR, DID YOU THINK THAT WAS A POSSIBILITY?
No, not at all, I just thought it was a very special one-off, so I was very surprised. I shouldn’t have been, given the ratings, but it’s always nerve-wracking bringing something back that’s so beloved - people have such fond memories of the original. So, when we heard it was going to a series, it was a total surprise, but a great one.
WHAT ARE YOUR MEMORIES OF THE ORIGINAL SERIES?
It was one of those comedies you could sit and watch as a family. You only had the one TV, so you watched what your parents watched, but I am grateful I got to see all these classic comedies the first time around. We’d laugh at the more slapstick bits, and it was quite funny seeing your parents laughing at the innuendoes and realising they were reacting to it on a different level. Now [prime-time] comedies tend to be a lot more adult, and children have their own comedies aimed at them, and there’s fewer and fewer programmes that the family would all sit down and watch together.
YOU’RE ALSO RETURNING TO THE SITCOM BENIDORM. WAS IT GOOD TO BE BACK?
It’s so odd, because having been away for two or three years, there’s some new cast and some of the old ones have gone, but within a couple of days, it didn’t feel like I’d been away. When I went out there in the past, it was ‘work hard, play hard’, but I was lot more restrained this time around - I stayed out in Albir with all the pensioners. It’s great to be back on the show though, and it’s been really nice to see on Twitter how excited people are that I’m coming back. Without sounding egotistical, it’s nice to know that you’ve been missed. It’s a funny old job this, for a while you’re locked away in a room [writing a book] and then you’re back out in the limelight. I’m just very fortunate that good jobs seem to keep coming along.
WERE YOU PLEASED WITH THE REACTION TO YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY, BECOMING JOHNNY VEGAS?
I was delighted, if I’m honest, because that was probably the toughest thing I’d ever undertaken. Ordinarily, I try not to take too much away from what the critics say, but with this one, the fact that people liked it seemed to validate the amount of time and effort I’d put into it. I never wanted it to be a celebrity cash-in or a stocking-filler, and it was nice that people appreciated me being open and honest. I just wish it had sold more!
YOU’VE GOT A ROLE IN THE NEW SACHA BARON COHEN FILM, GRIMSBY. WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?
I’m in it, and that is literally all I’m allowed to say, but it was great fun and a real experience. I’m very lucky - I’m also shooting a taster for something that will hopefully become a series and I’m making a silent movie with Kevin Eldon. I’ve got lots on, but I also kind of want to carry on writing. I’ve also been getting back into stand-up, although I’d said never again, but it’s a much mellower Johnny Vegas - there’s more of a mix of Michael thrown in there, and I’ve enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.
WOULD YOU EVER CONSIDER DOING WHAT VIC REEVES DOES, AND TAKING ON SOME PROJECTS UNDER YOUR REAL NAME OF MICHAEL PENNINGTON?
It’s funny because coming on to a show like Still Open All Hours, you do wonder what preconceptions people might have based on the Johnny Vegas name. But then - and I don’t think this applies to Vic Reeves at all - I think some people want to re-invent themselves completely and ditch their former personas. I don’t think I’m Johnny Vegas as much in attitude anymore, but I’m still trading as him. I’ve no real desire to say, ‘I need to be seen as Michael’ - I know that I’m Michael in my day-to-day life now with my family, where it’s important, but I’m not too worried about changing that in public. I think I’ll always be Johnny in most people’s eyes.