MILTON Jones, best known for being Mock The Week’s resident oddball, Radio 4 regular and star of Live At The Apollo, is back on tour with a new show Milton: Impossible, International Man Of Mystery.

He apparently decided on a spy theme for the show because he thought it sounded good.

“I came up with the title before the show. I thought ‘that sounds good’,” he said.

“So I made a rod for my own back by theming it. But sometimes it’s easier to write to a theme than have a completely blank page.”

The show is based on the blockbuster film Mission: Impossible but as Milton said: “Mission: Impossible has a huge budget and lots of special effects. My show is just me and some hats and about 250 jokes.”

His previous shows used similar narrative parodies Milton Jones Is Out There and Temple Of Daft.

For longer shows of more than an hour Milton says you can’t just tell “bits” as he does in Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo.

He said: “You want something with the

veneer of satisfaction, otherwise it’s too fragmented.

“This show’s got an interrogation scene, a car chase with a swivel chair and I end up escaping on top of a Vince Cable car. It’s not strictly realistic, but it’s as daft as ever.”

Before the tour he performs work in progress to road test his material on the comedy circuit, it’s a good way to gauge whether a gag is going to get the laughs.

He said: “Even after all these years, I’ll think I’ve written the best joke ever and it turns out to be one of the worst – but what I’ve improvised off the back of it stays in the show. So I would have never got to point B without going through the dreadful point A.”

Trial and error is part of the process and this makes writing the show a collaborative effort with the audience.

Milton starts off with a lot more jokes than he uses, about 250 jokes go into the show, but he reckons he writes as many as 350, and a lot of them are used elsewhere, on the next tour, radio, or Mock The Week – they’re never wasted.

He is characteristically deadpan about the art of telling jokes. He said: “When I’ve got an idea over in the minimum number of words, then I know it’s done.”

As far as he’s concerned if a gag works it “makes a cartoon in someone’s head – a very brief picture where they think they know where it’s going, and then you pull the carpet from under them and it was all about something else all along. It’s reverse engineering from an idea or a phrase”. Comedy as a magic act, the big reveal.

Going on tour with a live show has a very different set of requirements to filming TV sets and he enjoys both for different reasons.

Milton said: “Going to a small place on a Saturday night where they’re all determined to have a great laugh – I don’t think that can be beaten. With radio or television, you’re as good as the edit and it’s out of your control.

“That may work in your favour or it may not.”

He has appeared on Mock The Week more than 40 times. Sometimes when he feels the show didn’t go brilliantly, he’ll scrutinise the replay and be surprised when it looks OK but then there’s the flipside.

That’s not the only reason he watches the playbacks of his appearances, he checks what material has been used in the show, what’s been cut and what can be reused.

Several episodes go out in one series and the same subjects are likely to come back, he’s careful not to replicate anything that’s already been aired. This gives the performance a less than spontaneous feel, but perhaps the real craft is pulling it off as if it’s unrehearsed.

Occasionally, he’ll channel flick and come across himself endlessly repeated on Dave and he watches from behind the sofa.

He said: “I’m very grateful to Mock The Week for giving me a wider platform and also a slightly different audience.

“It’s a younger audience, and those people will come to a tour show, sometimes even bringing their grandparents or parents. My audiences are a motley selection of people, which I quite like, actually.”

On his last tour he played to more than 100,000 people. It must be difficult to reach different generations in the same audience.

Milton agrees. He said: “I am aware that if I make a reference to Instagram or something I’m going to lose everyone over 50.

“But that’s fine because overall my references are quite general, and even if you didn’t get it, the joke’s only going to last 20 seconds, so there’ll be something else along soon enough.”

It’s a practical approach.

After this tour he is open to the unexpected – other quiz shows, a corporate event abroad – who knows what is predicted.

He suggests a celebrity Mastermind. And his specialist subject? Potatoes.

Milton Jones in Milton: Impossible is at Brighton Theatre Royal on January 29 and 30, and The Hawth, Crawley, on April 15.