IF you happened to listen to Radio 4’s drama The Diary of A Nobody over the summer you may have been forgiven for fiddling with the tuning dial when Johnny Vegas’ character began speaking.
This was Johnny, but not as we know it.
Gone was the instantly recognisable Thatto Heath accent, replaced by altogether more plummy vocals as the character of Mr Pooter in a dramatisation of the 1892 comic novel by George and Weedon Grossmith.
The story goes that he recalled voice exercises he had years ago for the film The Libertine, in which he played an aristocrat alongside Johnny Depp, to get himself ready for the part.
The Diary of A Nobody won praise from the critics and came on the back of Vegas’ Woolyback Productions securing acclaim for radio works, including On it, which scooped a Gold Sony Award for Best Drama.
His success in areas that perhaps attract a higher brow of audience are testament to the versatility that has ensured his stock has not fallen since he broke through as a stand-up comedian in the late 90s.
A role as a boy’s imaginary friend (the delightfully named Crunchie Danger Haystacks) in the forthcoming Sky Two series Moone Boy, featuring Irish actor Chris O’Dowd, is further evidence of his continual appeal to audience and directors.
It is certainly a far cry from shows such as 18-stone of Idiot and the film Sex Lives of the Potato Men, in which Vegas’ Guinness-swilling, motor-mouth persona came to the fore.
On Sunday, when he hosts a comedy show for Saints’ Jon Wilkin testimonial at St Helens’ Theatre Royal, don’t expect anything other than those trademark, gravelly-voiced Sintellins tones.
But what he has got up his sleeve for material should be interesting.
Johnny Vegas and Friends includes some outstanding emerging stand up talent.
On the bill is Pete Emmett, a regular entertainer at Langtree Park and big favourite of Wilkin’s, and Celia Paquola, who has impressed Vegas.
Completing the line-up is Luke Montague, star of C4’s The Undateables, and Patrick Monohan, winner of ITV1’s Show Me The Funny’.
Tickets for the show on Sunday are £15.
They are available from the box office – on 01744 756000 or at sthelenstheatreroyal.com.