Sixteen years ago, Sean Hughes became the youngest comedian to win the Perrier Award.

Now he is touring for the first time in eight years. And among the jokes about bird flu and dog death you will find signs of a new maturity.

"Really, this show is about accepting I'm 41,"

remarks Hughes, "but when I'm drunk I think I'm 25 and when I'm lonely I think I'm eight.

"That's what I love about comedy - people know we're speaking essential truths."

In spite of publishing three novels, acting in the West End, and reading poetry around the country, Hughes is still best known for his role as team captain on panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks opposite Phill Jupitus.

It is a fame Hughes is uncomfortable with.

"That's why I left," says Hughes. "It was a great show, and not to belittle it, but it really required one brain cell and panel shows only get you into places you never want to go."

The legions of Never Mind the Buzzcocks fans, along with the new ones he has made from co-starring with Peter Davison in ITV's hit show The Last Detective, have done no harm to his ticket sales, although the range of people attending his shows is somewhat surprising.

"At my first warm up, there was an 11-year-old kid in the front row. I warned the parents - I'll take it easy in the first half but I'll go hardcore in second act. When I came back after the interval, they'd gone." He grins. "So I let rip."

The new show's occasional surreal outbursts recall Hughes' early Nineties television series Sean's Show, in which he played a fictionalised version of himself in a flat that, among other things, received regular phone calls from Samuel Beckett.

"After two series they wanted me to do more but I toured the show and the audience was all 14-year-old girls who knew I was off the telly," says Hughes.

"They'd scream and they weren't interested in the material.

"Autograph sessions lasted longer than the show. I hated it."

Hughes' material, although carefully tweaked and perfected, relies on a spontaneity that is rare on the comedy circuit nowadays.

"My favourite part of the show is the first ten minutes," he says. "I never know what my opening line is going to be. I just go on stage and see what happens. I tend to read the local paper, which gives me lots of material to kick off with."

The stand-up scene is an evolving place and it will be interesting to see how Hughes now fits in.

  • Starts 8pm, tickets £14/£12. Call 01273 685861