After a three-year absence from the live arena, Michael McIntyre returns to touring this autumn with four North East dates – and he just can’t wait to see everyone again.

Michael is about to embark on a 71-date arena tour (Metro Radio Arena November 9/10/11/12), and his excitement about performing live once more is palpable.

“I am so excited about this tour,” he beams. “I want this to be the best show I’ve ever done!” And have no fears, it will be. This is a comedian at the very top of his game.

Michael has an uncanny talent for observational comedy and he excels at conjuring up an extraordinary comic universe from the ordinary facets of daily life. His act has connected with millions of fans and sealed his reputation as one of our best loved stand-ups.

The proof of the pudding is that Michael has already sold an astounding 550,000 tickets for this major tour. That is on top of two hugely successful DVDs, 2008’s Live and Laughing, which is the best selling UK debut stand-up DVD ever, and Hello Wembley, which in 2009 became the fastest-selling UK stand-up DVD of all time. Between them, these DVDs have sold an amazing combined total of 2,500,000 copies thus far.

Michael, who has achieved this incredible success at the age of just 36, begins by emphasising that he is quite simply delighted to be returning to his first love, stand-up. “At the beginning of this year, I said to myself, ‘I just want to focus on what I do best, which is stand-up.

“TV producers find stand-ups at the Edinburgh Festival and say, ‘Do you want to do a sitcom?’ But that’s a totally different thing. It would be like finding a good sprinter at a running track and saying, ‘Do you want to be a cricketer?’ Or, ‘You’re great at hurdling. How do you fancy putting together a property business?’ It just doesn’t make sense.”

He continues that he was more than happy to go back to his stand-up roots. “I thought I’d done enough TV recently. I have done three Royal Variety Performances, two series of Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, and a Christmas special, three episodes of Live at the Apollo and Britain’s Got Talent. I’ve also released two DVDs.”

So Michael threw everything into preparing for this tour, which includes an astonishing ten nights at the 02 Arena in London – the same number of shows Rhianna performed there last year.

He says that, “I have done mountains of warm-ups and I think my show is in really good shape now. The audience guides you – they let you know what works and what doesn’t. You are nothing without an audience.”

Michael, whose third stand-up DVD, Michael McIntyre – Showtime!, will be recorded at the 02 Arena in September and released by Universal Pictures (UK) on Monday 12 November, certainly enjoys a wonderful rapport with his audience.

The comedian reflects that nothing is more difficult than creating the show. The gestation can be a long and winding road. Always ready with a self-deprecating joke, he admits that, “I pride myself on always creating entirely new material. So the hardest part of the process is always the beginning – starting the tour in Cardiff should be the easiest part.

“The most difficult was walking on stage at the Pleasance Theatre in North London with a blank sheet of paper. People were paying five pounds to watch a comedian with no jokes. I imagined them spending all day boasting to their friends in the office – ‘Guess where I’m going tonight for five pounds?’”

But, he continues, “Then they turned up to watch a confused, babbling man talking rubbish and in desperate need of a haircut. One night I even showed up in odd shoes – that’s how unprepared I was to leave the house. Someone in the audience stopped me in the middle of a routine and said, ‘Excuse me, have you got odd shoes on?’

“There’s no comeback to that. All I could say was, ‘I’m sorry, you’re right, I’m a mess! I don’t have any jokes and I can’t dress myself.’

So I started as an odd-shoed man with no material, but then slowly but surely, I started to get laughs. That grew and grew, and now I think I’ve got a really good show.”

Quite understandably, Michael is reluctant to reveal all the subjects he will be touching on in this electrifying new show. However, he is happy to give us a few teasers.

For instance, he will be discussing what a remarkable year this has been for Great Britain. He muses that, “2012 is a huge year. It’s an amazing time for this country. We don’t usually have such massive events as the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. I always like talking about things that everyone is involved in, like Christmas or the weather. That’s why this year is such a good subject for comedy.”

It’s not all been plain sailing for Michael this year. For example, he recently suffered an unfortunate injury on stage. Michael recalls that, “I did a warm-up gig in Cork a few weeks ago. The Euros were on, and I was impersonating the England football team who never knew where the ball was against Italy. Suddenly, something just pinged in my knee. I thought it was all over. I’d torn my calf muscle and collapsed on stage. At first, people thought it was part of the show.”

Michael carries on that, “I ended up having to wear one of those Beckham orthopaedic boots, which was incredibly embarrassing. I usually feel very cool in my car. When I pull up in it, it’s a big moment which I really enjoy.

“But at that time, I would drive up and take half an hour to get out of my car. As I emerged with my Beckham boot on, it looked like I had been skiing, but had lost most of my equipment. People were thinking, ‘Has he been mugged while skiing? He’s only wearing one boot.’”

He jokes that, “The upside is that all these injuries have just given me more material. If someone said to me, ‘You will suffer this injury, but you’ll get a six to eight minute routine out of it,’ I’d probably take it.”

The great thing about Michael is that he is never content to rest on his laurels. He is continually striving to improve his act. He stresses that, “You have to keep coming up with better stuff. I am so grateful that people have enjoyed my show in the past, but I don’t want to test the water with a couple of dodgy shows now.”

Michael takes such pleasure in his work that it is truly infectious.

He carries on that, “My comedy comes from a joyous place. I love making people laugh. In fact, the only time I’m really relaxed and comfortable is on stage – I struggle a bit with the rest of life!

“I don’t think every comedian is like this, but I’d be very happy to be on stage all day long. When people see me in the street or wind down their car windows to talk to me, they are sometimes surprised by how much effort I put into entertaining them. I think, ‘Oh great, a chance to perform’. I come alive in those situations.”

He is a natural born comedian with an unerring ability to create laughter wherever he goes – and we should all be grateful for that.

Michael observes that, “Making people laugh is all I’ve ever wanted to do. The fact that I can now do it for a living is an incredible privilege.

“To play in front of an audience is special. It’s a real honour that so many people come to the show and are so happy to see you. Then it’s about making them even happier by the end of the show. I’m determined to deliver. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people’s faces light up. I hope I never take that for granted.”

Michael closes by underlining how much he is relishing the prospect of performing this spectacular arena show. He affirms that, “I’ve worked very hard preparing the show – as I should do because people are coming to see me. People are not slow to tell me that the cost of the evening all adds up – ‘what with the parking and the babysitter, before you know it, it’s £100’. So I have to give everyone an amazing night.”

He adds that, “When they come to see you, people want it to be the best night of their lives. Even if you are only meeting someone for coffee, in the back of your mind you’re thinking, ‘This could be the best night of my life”. Or if you go to the cinema, you want it to be brilliant – you don’t want it to be just a two-star movie.

“So I’m aiming as high as I can and hoping to give people the best night of their lives. You want them to go home, saying, “I had a fantastic night’. My intention is to make you laugh properly for two solid hours. But,” Michael concludes, unable to resist one last gag, “I must warn you, if I succeed, it’s going to hurt your face!”

James Rampton

There are still tickets available for the November 11 and 12 at Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Michael’s new DVD Michael McIntyre: Showtime! is set to be released on November 12.