With a new series of his BBC1 show, John Bishop’s Britain, starting on Saturday, the Liverpudlian comic talks fatherhood, touring and strange hobbies…

How do you write your material for a new series or tour?
“I use a Dictaphone to write the show. My stand-up is more stories than jokes anyway, and when I write it down it’s just not funny.”

You’re a Scouser but you live in Manchester. What happened?
“I went to college in Manchester, and that’s where I met my wife, Melanie. When we were reaching the point of cohabitation, I had a flat in Liverpool and she had a house in Manchester, and her house was worth more, so I moved in. I’ve never felt any antagonism in Manchester. The local rivalry is massive, but it’s driven by football. And to be fair we haven’t had that much to shout about. It’s a good time to be a Man City fan if you want to see somebody just buy the league, and cheat their way to the top in a way that really breaks the ethos of what football’s all about.”

People talk about you as an overnight success. Does that ring true?
“The change has been dramatic, the process hasn’t. The reality is I that first tried stand up in 2000, that was when I first walked on to a stage, but I didn’t really start it properly. For two years, I’d only do a gig a month and then I started to commit more time to it. Then it came to the point where I had to make a decision about leaving the job and really going for it. That was four and a half years ago and, two years in, we were struggling. I’d left a good job and I was thinking: ‘Am I going to be able to pay the bills?’ I wasn’t just necessarily seeking the good fortune that’s come my way – I just wanted to cover the bills.”

What gave you your big break?
“The breakthrough came after three things – Michael McIntyre’s show, Live at the Apollo and the Jonathan Ross show. After those three steps it felt like things had moved on dramatically.”

Are your three sons impressed with your success?
“If they are, they’ve not told me. One of my lads did his work experience on the series as a runner, getting the audience in and out. It’s a risky thing to have your son bringing the audience in because he might be saying to them: ‘I wouldn’t bother with this bloke, he’s crap!’”

Has fame changed you?
“I’ve still got the mates I had 20 years ago. Our lives have changed in the sense that we’re developing new friendships, but in my eyes I’m not meeting celebrities, I’m just meeting new people through work. It’s not turned my head. I’m very lucky because I’m in my 40s and the foundations of what you are as a person is well established by then.”

But if you wanted to, you could have a very expensive mid-life crisis…
“My midlife crisis was leaving a good, well-paid job at the age of 40 to try and be a comedian.”

Did you always think you’d end up on the stage?
“Nobody who’s a comedian can ever say: ‘Oh I just got up and I didn’t know if I was funny or not.’ You’ve got to think you’re funny, like everyone at karaoke thinks they can sing. But from the point of view of thinking I had something in me, I’m not sure I ever did. I’d done one best man’s speech when I was 16 – at my brother’s wedding. It’s not as though I was always the bloke that people thought would get up and do stuff.

“When I go out with my mates, I’m a long way from being the loudest. They can’t understand why anyone comes to see me. In their view I’m the same lad I used to be. I used to do sales meetings and stuff like that, in my job as the sales director of a pharmaceuticals company. But it’s not really the same thing. I was working in a serious industry. For instance, looking after a product that stopped your body rejecting an organ after a transplant operation.”

One of the subjects in your new series is hobbies, and Freddie Flintoff admits he collects soap. Are you a collector?
“I used to collect birds’ eggs and matchboxes as a kid. I collect children now! I’ve got three in my collection so far – I’m not doing as well as Madonna.”

You went to Glastonbury for the first time this year. Did you enjoy it?
“We went to Glastonbury because our kids had started saying they wanted to go to festivals, and I said ‘Them buggers aren’t gonna go before we have.’ We got married relatively young and we had kids young, so we haven’t done a lot of that kind of stuff. But the days of camping are well gone – we stayed in a motor home. We arrived at the main stage on the last night, and Mel looked across and said: ‘This is apocalyptic.’ There was a kid playing by a bonfire, rubbish everywhere, sewage running. I tell you, if it wasn’t a posh festival social services would be involved. You’ve got people there with prams.

“If your kid can’t stand up, don’t take it to Glastonbury! But as an event, it was absolutely brilliant and one of the best weekends we’ve had in years. It’s amazing what confidence, a fake radio and a high-vis jacket will get you backstage.”