Comedian and actor Alex Lowe’s career certainly got off to an unusual start. His first film role involved a bedroom scene with Emma Thompson while her then-husband Kenneth Branagh directed them.

“It was in his 1992 film Peter’s Friends,” Lowe explains. “I was supposed to be having an affair with her character. It was not easy having her husband behind the camera while she bounced away!”

If Lowe, 51, owes his first showbiz break to Peter’s Friends, he owes his current success as cod-clairvoyant Clinton Baptiste to being a friend of a different Peter. In 2001 Peter Kay cast him as Baptiste in the third episode of Phoenix Nights. “He called me up and said” – Lowe does a perfect Kay impersonation – “have I got a part for you!”

Baptiste was only in a few scenes, which included him receiving a bloody nose after some particularly inappropriate mind-reading.

“He’s a hapless, careless, clumsy terrible medium who upsets his audience with his rather blunt assertions as to where their lives are going,” says Lowe. But the character clearly struck a chord because he is now heading out on his first national tour, and is coming to the Pump House Theatre in Watford on Friday, August 30, and Watford Palace Theatre on Friday, September 20.

Peter Kay has given Lowe permission to keep Baptiste going and Kay certainly knows what works in comedy; Baptiste is a classic creation. In his blonde wig and sparkly shirt he is the embodiment of somebody dreaming of success that will never come, explains Lowe. “I like him to look pristine but he is a tacky end-of-the-pier mystic. It’s bittersweet plucky loser comedy.”

The idea for the tour came when Kay and Lowe worked together in 2015 on the run of Phoenix Nights Live at the Manchester Arena in aid of Comic Relief.

“It was the biggest thrill of my life. Walking onstage in front of 14,000 people was like being in the Rolling Stones. I just said ‘ya alright?’ like I did on TV and the place erupted.”

Some people take the paranormal world seriously so Lowe makes it clear that Baptiste is always the butt of the gag.

“It’s a joke about a charlatan. If he wasn’t doing this he would be a second-hand car salesman.”

As an act that interacts with the audience, however, things can be unpredictable. At a gig in a school in Winchester someone took something Baptiste said the wrong way and started heckling him. When Lowe realised that the man was angry he decided to leave the stage only to see the man following him.

“I started running, my blonde wig trailing behind me! I had to hide behind a filing cabinet while my agent and the compere rugby tackled him.”

Lowe insists that there are not many similarities between his fictional alter ego and himself. “Baptiste is from the north-west of England, probably close to where the Phoenix Club was. I’m from the north-west of London, Pinner. Maybe Clinton and I both dream of escaping from a humdrum life, but I don’t think there is more of a similarity than that.”

Both work hard, though. Lowe, who is married with two children and now lives near Watford, decided to do his own comedy shows when acting parts were not coming through. “I’m very industrious. I cannot bear the thought of sitting around waiting for someone to flick me a few crumbs.”

As well as developing Clinton, he also created 80-something absurdist curmudgeon Barry from Watford, who has appeared regularly on Steve Wright’s Radio 2 show.

“He is an old style cockney who has moved out to suburbs. He’s been 82 for about 15 years! It’s interesting that Clinton is more popular in the north while Barry is more popular in the south.”

He accepts that Baptiste initially picked up a fanbase by association with Phoenix Nights and Peter Kay.

“When you have worked with Peter it’s like being somebody who has been near Jesus. People who remember Phoenix Nights have a huge affection for it but young people love it too. I wish I’d been doing this ten years ago.”

Lowe is also much in demand as a comic actor. Over the years he has appeared in TV hits from The Fast Show to The Thick Of It and Cold Feet, but Baptiste might make him a household name in his own right: he is filming a fly on the wall documentary pilot while on tour.

He is currently busier than ever. He recently filmed a part in the Idris Elba series In The Long Run and this summer he appears in a new Sky One comedy, Brassic.

He hopes to be Baptiste for a long time yet, but behind the onstage bravado and satin suit there lurks the usual actor’s insecurity.

“I’ve spent my entire life thinking sooner or later I’m going to have to knuckle down and get an office job.But it’s getting a bit late for that now!”

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