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Danger mouth

Inspiration can strike in unlikely places and at unusual times but only the most cockeyed of optimists would expect to find it on the gaudy, football-kit festooned set of Sky TV's weekend sports programme Soccer AM - a place where the neon-lit coffee table pulses like a Sunday morning hangover and the sofas are the colour of cheap lipstick.

At least, that's what it looks like on YouTube clips. When I confess to South Shields-born comedian and sometime Soccer AM guest Chris Ramsey that I've never actually watched the programme, he fills me in on a few other crucial details as well as what happened on the second (and final) of his two appearances.

"I hate the phrase but it's sort of like a football banter show," he explains in his rich Geordie brogue. "I went on the first time and I was a little bit cheeky but I kept it fine. The second time - well, it's quite a laddish show so there's people in the back who are football fans shouting things like 'Woah! Go on Ramsey' and everyone's chanting stuff. You feel like you're in your mate's bedroom having a couple of beers and playing on an Xbox. So I slightly forgot where I was-slash-thought I was toeing the line … and I said something I shouldn't have."

It's true, he did. That's on YouTube too. But it turned out to be the moment of inspiration (and, if you watch him closely as presenter Helen Chamberlain brandishes a verbal red card, perspiration) which birthed The Most Dangerous Man On Saturday Morning Television, the stand-up tour he brings to Edinburgh and Glasgow next week. The title, he admits, is ironic because, in truth, the offensive comment was fairly innocuous. It involved what you might call a Class B swear word and a rather off-colour reference to a sexual act, albeit one being enacted by a four-legged farmyard animal.

"Anyone who knows what happened on the show knows, I am not that guy," he laughs. "The whole point of the ironic title is that I can't even get kicked off a TV show in a cool, edgy way." He didn't plan the stunt then? "I wish I could have planned it. I'd have said something worse and got on the news … But thankfully I've got a tour out of it."

Essentially, then, the title is a starting point for another journey into Ramsey's occasionally ribald but mostly warm observational humour. It's the same matey schtick he has delivered in the triple whammy of well-received Edinburgh Fringe shows that began in 2010: he tells a story with pauses for laughter (usually profuse) and audience interaction (often surprising). One Edinburgh punter he picked on turned out to be a professional wrestler called Bad Boy Liam Thomson, which is the sort of gift even a cockeyed optimist doesn't expect to have land in his lap during a stand-up gig. Ramsey didn't waste it.

What hits you first about him, however, is the accent, a reminder that England's north-east remains one of the great nurseries for the sort of stand-up comedy that trades on plainly spoken dissections of common human behaviour. It's no surprise, then, that it was a man from another of those nurseries - Glasgow - who most inspired him: Billy Connolly.

"He was the one who made me think of the idea of one man telling a story and just having a full room hanging on his every word," Ramsey says. "And that's what I try to do. I'm a storyteller mainly. I'm not taking anything away from your Cambridge Footlights guys and your well-spoken actor-comedian blokes who are doing really well at the moment" - I can't be sure, but I think he might be referring to Jack Whitehall - "but there's nothing as funny as real life. The funny thing about Billy Connolly was that he would say anything and go too far, but in a cheeky way." Sound familiar to viewers of Soccer AM?

Ramsay followed his 2010 Fringe debut, Aggrophobic, with Offermation, which got him an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination in 2011. In 2012, he returned with Feeling Lucky, which went on to tour nationally.

Last year was a fallow one - almost, anyway: he performed only a three-night recap of Feeling Lucky at the 1000-seater McEwan Hall - but he expects to bring this latest show north again in August.

What put paid to last year's Fringe plans was his continuing role in Hebburn, the BBC Two comedy series, set and filmed in the South Tyneside town of that name. Ramsey stars as Jack, feckless son of working-class parents played by Gina McKee and Vic Reeves, another hero ("I don't even want him to ever see me doing stand-up because I don't want to run the risk of him not enjoying it. It would be soul-destroying").

He'd never acted before when he landed the role, barring a few school plays, but the show's creator, Jason Cook, was a friend and the two had collaborated on Ramsey's Fringe shows. So Cook wrote a small part for Ramsey - a comedy character called, simply, Ramsey. "But they'd been having a lot of trouble finding a young Geordie lad to play the Jack character so I went down and auditioned for the Ramsey character. It went well but they said 'Do you want to read for Jack?'. Then I found out I'd got that."

It was a steep learning curve. As well as having to work alongside Vic Reeves, Ramsey had to learn a few dos and don'ts about how television works. The way he tells it, they were mostly don'ts: don't skateboard down corridors when you aren't insured against injury, don't rip off and throw away the two pages of script you've just shot because you're going to have to do them another six times from different camera angles.

"I just felt like such an amateur," he says. "Still, I've had a lot of insults on Twitter for other things but I've never had anyone say you're a rubbish actor, so I think I got away with it."

A second series of Hebburn aired last year as well as a Christmas special. Is there to be a third?

"That's the b****** question at the moment," says Ramsey. "The BBC are notorious for keeping their cards close to their chest when it comes to recommissioning, so it's a waiting game. Every time I ask Jason, I can tell he's getting more and more annoyed that I'm asking. But I really want it to happen again."

Right now the corporation may have more pressing issues on its mind where comedy is concerned, given the news that BBC3 has been axed as a terrestrial channel. The channel gave Ramsey his first television exposure; he recently made an unscreened pilot for it based on topical, internet-related stories.

Accordingly, he can see its potential and is happy to add his voice to those like Matt Lucas who are calling for a reprieve.

One thing he won't miss, however, is the temptation to appear on some of its more outre output, such as its hidden camera shows. Ramsey did a day of filming on one of these and then called his agent and asked to be sprung. He still seems traumatised by the memory.

"You have to be a d*** to someone's face to do one of these shows," he says. "You have to upset someone and ruin their day until you've got enough footage and then you go: 'Look it's a hidden camera show, it's fine, your kids aren't dead.'"

Not for him then? "No. I need to be liked."

He needn't worry. Dangerous or not, liked is what he is, and is likely to remain.

Chris Ramsey: The Most Dangerous Man On Saturday Morning Television is at The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh on March 19 and The Garage, Glasgow on March 20 (as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival (www.glasgowcomedyfestival.com)

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