TV comedian Bob Mortimer says many of his comedy characters are based on his formative years growing up in the North East.
He paid tribute to his roots on a visit to his home town of Middlesbrough, where he was made an honorary doctor in professional achievement by Teesside University.
He said working in a chicken factory, doing a bin round and observing local councillors in his youth had all fed into his comedy, providing characters for his double act with Vic Reeves.
He said: “I was here until I was 25, and the people that you meet then remain with you a lot longer than people you meet when you are older.”
One of his characters called Councillor Cox was based on a real local Labour politician he said, while the squeaky-voiced Davey Stott was a bin lorry driver he worked with, he said.
“This whole area does have a very distinct sense of humour. It is very dry,” he said.
He is currently filming a second series for the BBC of the warped sit com House of Fools.
“It’s the same as the last one, but we have altered the scripts,” he laughed. “We have moved it on a bit, we have some new characters in it. We were filming last night with Johnny Vegas and Sally Phillips. We have upped the ante really, I hope it will be more popular.”
His message to aspiring comedians would be to get out there and perform, as too many of them tell him they want to break into comedy but have yet to get on stage. And he remembered his first performance was mixed. “It was very frightening but I did okay,” he said.
“And part of the show did not go so well and that is the great lesson, it didn’t actually hurt, you survive the next day intact.”
Asked about the BBC presenter Steph McGovern being offered £20 by a viewer to remove her Teesside twang, Bob said: “I wish I still had mine I have lost it so much over the years. “I would like to get it back, so if she gets rid of it, she could give it to me, that would be great.”
Going home made him nostalgic, he said. “It always makes me sad when I come home, in that nice way, as I have so many fond memories of the place.”
Asked if his beloved Middlesbrough FC would win promotion back to the Premier League, he said he would not curse them with a prediction.
Asked what he will do with his doctorate, he replied: “I will frame it and put it above my son’s bed to prove to him that I did amount to something.
“Vic (Reeves) got an honorary degree from Goldsmiths University so he thinks that trumps me, but we all know that he doesn’t.”
Bob has a law degree and worked as a solicitor before turning to comedy and fame.
“I don’t remember studying for my original degree - you get a much fancier gown for this one,” he said.
Asked to give advice to graduates now, he said: “Make sure whatever you do, make sure you are passionate about it because life is very, very long and I certainly made the mistake of wasting 10 years after I graduated doing something I didn’t really have my heart in.
“Do what you want to do, not what people tell you you should do.”