TIM Key is a renowned stand-up comic who blends pithy one-liners with theatrical flights of fancy. As an actor he has starred in television programmes Inside No 9, Peep Show and Detectorists and, most notably, as sidekick Simon alongside Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge. He also played the role in the film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and will reprise it in the new BBC series broadcast later this year. Before his Brighton Festival comedy show, Tim talks about returning to stand-up after a hiatus and his other work

In Megadate, you reminisce about an elaborate first date. Is the whole show based on your own personal experience?

I think this show is rooted in reality but blended with a lot of dreamy imaginings. There are moments, people, things that happened in real life. But I talk about throwing myself out of the Shard, so it can’t be entirely true. If there are moments on stage, however, where I look a bit wistful, that’s because I am a bit.

Megadate’s your first solo show in four years. Why did you have a break from live comedy?

Good point. To be fair I did make a TV show, Gap Year, that took ages and meant I was, weirdly, living in Kuala Lumpur for five months. It’s difficult to stay active on the live scene in those circumstances.

You didn’t attempt to break the southeast Asian comedy circuit while you were there, then?

I did do ten minutes at a Malaysian lady’s 40th birthday party one night to a fairly mixed reaction. But I have missed not having a solo show, I must admit.

This is your third UK tour. What’s your favourite thing about being on the road?

The best part is definitely the shows. You assume the show will only ever work in London, that you’ll travel to some other town and be destroyed. Then you suddenly realise that no matter where you go it’s more or less the same. Maybe better.

And the worst?

Hearing the applause die down as you walk to your dressing room and eventually you are sitting in silence staring at yourself in a mirror with lightbulbs around it sipping a warm Grolsch.

On stage you recently played the character Yvan in Art at the Old Vic. How did you find the role?

The most difficult thing I’ve ever done? God, I still have flashbacks. But, inevitably, it was also one of the most rewarding. That’s the problem, you realise that you really have to go out of your comfort zone to get anything worthwhile done these days. I’m glad I did it, but at times I did feel like I was going mad.

What do you mean, going mad?

I was part of a three-person cast with Rufus Sewell and Paul Ritter – two very well-respected theatre actors – and I remember, in rehearsals, seeing those two gradually getting better and better at doing their parts. It did feel like I was slightly watching a masterclass at times. Ritter going absolutely mental at my character, spit flying everywhere, Sewell watching on callously. They were exceptional.

Would you like to do more West End roles?

Yes. One day. I’d like to do some Pinter at some point.

Your TV acting CV is substantial. Does the writer in you want to change lines or edit scripts?

It’s case by case, I think. Ideally you take jobs because you like the writing. Sometimes the writing can be exemplary but it still might make the thing better if you just tweak a word or a phrase. I’m shooting Alan Partridge at the moment, that’s a pretty good example. Steve Coogan and [co-writers] the Gibbons brothers’ scripts are impeccable, but there’s always room for the odd tweak in the moment. To be fair, slightly more than the odd tweak with Steve. But he’s Alan Partridge.

What can you tell us about the new series of Alan Partridge?

It’s a bit like The One Show, so there are autocues around the place.

Does that mean you don’t have to learn your lines?

Well, it helps you stay on top of them, because they change a bit on the day. The trick is not looking like you’re literally reading your lines off the autocue. I’m desperately hoping my head and eyes aren’t drifting slowly from left to right whilst I’m talking.

You were a Partridge fan before getting the part. How does it feel to be involved?

If I wasn’t in this I would be counting down the days until I could watch it. It’s so odd. Steve shook my hand at the end of a scene the other day and said “thanks mate”. Not a great anecdote, but amazing how surreal that stuff is. Steve Coogan pleased with you. Feels good.

After shooting Partridge and this tour, what’s next?

Go to the Edinburgh Fringe, do the show there. Then I don’t know, maybe four years off? I was surprised I made this show, to be honest, so I’m interested to see what comes next.

Tim Key: Megadate Brighton Festival, Theatre Royal Brighton, tonight, 8pm. For tickets and more information visit atgtickets.com or brightonfestival.org