As one half of a comedy double act, occasional straight actor and presenter of one of the most popular quizshows on television, Alexander Armstrong has long demonstrated his versatility.
But now he is showing yet another string to his bow by hitting the road as Alexander Armstrong and His Band singing a medley of jazz standards and rock classics.
This is not just a comedian yearning to be a rock star, though, because Armstrong is a trained baritone.
“A a boy I was a chorister and then a choral scholar at Cambridge but I steered away from that,” he says. “But I have kept up singing lessons and have continued to do it on the quiet, singing at friends’ weddings and there’s always been a music side to Armstrong and Miller.
“I also play the piano at home to the despair of my children,” adds the father of three, aged between three and six.
“The idea for this came out of a thing I did for Comic Relief, a live karaoke in the Cafe Paris, and the man who is our pianist was in the audience and came up to me afterwards and said, ‘you have to sing more’.”
This was the artist known as Harry the Piano who is the show’s musical director and put the band together. “We have a wonderful sax player, Simon Bates - no, not that one - Van Morrison’s drummer Jeff Lardner and Jools Holland’s bassist Dave Swift,” enthuses Armstrong.
In recognition that the audience is more likely to be comedy or Pointless fans than pure music aficianados there’s a fair bit of chat in between songs.
“As a show it’s much more honest and interactive than a comedy show which is inevitably tightly scripted,” he observes. “Funnily enough I am much less nervous than doing comedy, every evening takes its own path.”
Talking of which, are there future plans for more Armstrong and Miller TV comedy, now that Ben Miller is free of his Murder in Paradise commitments? “We have just delivered a pilot for a comedy drama and you never know quite what will happen but I hope it will be made,” he say.
The game show, Pointless, takes up four and a half months of Armstrong’s year. “Pointless is one of those extraordinary phenomena which appeals to all ages from grandparents to little children, even babies apparently because the noise of the column going doing is very soothing for them,” says the man whose easy charm and rapport with the nerdish Richard Osman is an essential part of its appeal to an average of 3.6 million people every day.
“When we started we thought we didn’t really look beyond those first 30 episodes which was rather casting a float on the water and had no idea it would become so successful,” says the host.
Alexander Armstrong and His Band are at the Lyceum Theatre on Saturday.