'There is a good reason why the Strictly dancers look like gods and goddesses... they're top flight athletes'
Ahead of his second appearance on the smash hit BBC dance show comedian Chris Ramsey speaks to Luke Rix-Standing about its physical demands and how he once got arrested by police while wearing nothing but underpants - a case of mistaken identity
It's hard to think of anyone, with the possible exception of Meghan Markle, who's having a bigger 2019 than Chris Ramsey. A 106-date tour of the nation, the first Amazon Prime special by a UK comic, and, of course, competing on Strictly Come Dancing - the Tyneside-born funnyman has been a near-constant presence on stage and screen.
In February, Ramsey (33), added another string to his bow with Sh**ged, Married, Annoyed, a chart-topping podcast in which he and wife Rosie air their marital gripes, and field queries from listeners.
And he and Rosie also have their little boy Robin, who will turn four in October, to keep them busy.
The comedian took some time out just before Strictly began to talk pre-performance nerves, getting fit for the dance floor, and why fatherhood can leave you less twinkle-toed, and more flat-footed...
Your schedule is packed to say the least - are you relishing every minute or wondering what you've let yourself in for?
It's a double-edged sword, because this was supposed to be my year off! I've been working non-stop since my son was born, with two series of my TV show and a tour last year. I've still been at home a bit recently, but it's one of those things - when you're in this game, you can't turn down stuff you want to do.
If someone says, 'Do you want to do an Amazon Prime special?' Yeah! I want to do an Amazon Prime special! Do you want to do Strictly - er, yes. And then after Strictly you've got to tour... it's an absolute blessing to be so busy, so you can't complain about it.
You're the first British comic to do a Prime special, and Strictly is obviously massive. Are these 'I've made it' moments for you?
I'll be honest with you, for me, there's never an 'I've made it' moment. I don't know if it's my mentality, but there's always more you can do - the next rung up the ladder. That's not to say I'm not happy with where I am, but I'm never contented to sit back - I think that's healthy in a competitive industry.
Even if I sold out every arena in the country, there's always other countries. I'm just knuckling down, trying to make each show or dance better than the last one.
You must be used to the performing, but the Strictly nerves are notorious. Do you get stage fright, and how do you handle it?
I think I'm normally scared of myself, rather than the crowd - will I be able to do it this time? We did a group dance for the launch and I can't remember being worried. You can hide in a group number, though. When it's just me and my partner (Strictly professional Karen Hauer, formerly known as Karen Clifton) dancing, I suppose it will be a different thing.
Do you ever struggle to get in the zone at the start of a set, or to switch off at the end?
Sometimes I'll be around the house and my wife will look into the middle distance and say, 'Marry a comedian, they said. It'll be great, they said'. That cuts deep.
I think in every job there are moments you're not as 'on' as you'd like to be, and I've done shows where I've felt a step behind. You can't smash it out of the park every time. I aim to, and normally I do the job the way I want to, but especially when you're doing new material, sometimes you just can't hit the rhythm."
Strictly is often more physically taxing than people expect - have you come across that yet?
I went to the physio four times before we even started! I had work done on my calf, I had acupuncture for a back spasm, and then in my groin... I wasn't warming up properly and that's a good lesson to learn early on.
At my first physio, there was a bit between my shin and calf that was really tight, and the physio said it was my 'balance muscle'. Great, I thought, I've already knackered my 'balance muscle'. They put me in for a massage - have you ever had a sports massage? It was horrible, I was nearly crying. I thought she was chopping my leg off.
It's crazy how physically taxing it is, and there's a good reason these dancers look like gods and goddesses - they're absolutely shredded. They're top-flight athletes, there's no other way of putting it."
Are you doing anything new for your fitness?
It's the recovery I'm worried about. I'm one of those people that can get off the sofa and bang out a 5k run with no training, but I can't walk for three days afterwards. I've had a message from my partner telling me to start doing cardio. She also sent a Photoshopped image of my head on a really muscly body -apparently that's what I'm going to look like!
My support act, Carl Hutchinson, is an absolute gym fiend, and he's like my unofficial personal trainer. I do what he does until I can't do anymore."
How tough is it staying healthy and performance-ready on tour?
It's really hard - you're always tired, and it's a different bed every night. Apparently, when you're in a strange bed, only half your brain goes to sleep, and my track record for sleeping in hotels isn't great.
Once - and this is genuinely true - I was arrested in a hotel wearing nothing but my underpants. The police thought I was someone else, so they kicked my door in and marched me down the corridor. To this day, if there's hotel furniture that can be put against the door, I put it against the door."
Sh**ged, Married, Annoyed recently charted at number one. What's the best advice you'd give to a new dad?
Just try and be patient. I know sometimes I'm not, and when you and your partner are arguing and the baby is crying, you think, 'Was that really worth getting worked up about?'
It's also important that couples don't just become parents - you were a couple before the kid came along, and you have to make time for yourselves. The podcast really helped us communicate - telling each other what's wrong, rather than pretending everything is fine."
What was your biggest misconception about parenthood?
That it wouldn't change my life. I'd thought I'd be basically the same - absolutely not. It's not bad, though.
I don't play Playstation as much as I used to, but I don't want to. When I've got free time, I like playing with my son - he's my little best mate. Your heart just grows inside when you have a kid.
Chris Ramsey: Approval Needed is available on Amazon Prime now, and the Chris Ramsey 20/20 nationwide tour starts on March 26, 2020. For tickets visit www.chrisramseycomedy.com