Rufus Hound takes his work seriously.

Given that the formerly flamboyantly moustached comedian (best known until recently as a panellist on Keith Lemon's abrasively smutty ITV2 game show Celebrity Juice) has just taken over the exhausting lead role in One Man, Two Guvnors, such dedication to his craft is probably a good thing.

After all, Richard Bean's 1960s-set adaptation of Goldoni's 18th-century comic romp The Servant Of Two Masters all but reinvented a tireless James Corden when he originated the role of underworld stooge Francis Henshall in director Nicholas Hytner's National Theatre production. Will similar doors open up for Hound now that he's appearing in the touring version of the play, which opens in Glasgow next week? Especially after he quit Celebrity Juice to appear in another stage play, Utopia, at Soho Theatre last summer on the back of doing a couple of films, Big Fat Gypsy Gangster and The Wedding Video? Perhaps, although Hound isn't taking being cast in One Man, Two Guvnors for granted.

"It's ridiculous," he says. "When I saw James do it, and then Owain Arthur [who took the Henshall role in the West End transfer], because of the audience interaction I thought it looked like the most fun in the world. I always approach each casting as if I'm not going to get it. There's this nagging doubt, like a man with a clipboard will come along and tap you on the shoulder and tell you you're not as good as you thought you were. Then when I got the phone call to say I'd got it, I jumped up and down for about 20 minutes."

Such sentiments could be lifted straight from the classic comedy stars' autobiographies that Hound laps up. Yet, while comedians wanting to be taken seriously isn't exactly front-page news, you get the impression it's something Hound has been hankering after for some time.

"From the age of six to 16, I said I was going to be an actor," he explains. "If you ever needed someone to say something at school assembly, always go to big mouth – I was that kid. There are videos of me re-enacting Rudolf Nureyev on The Muppet Show. Later I discovered Shakespeare, and learned that his plays are about things which haven't changed in 2000 years, but which have never been expressed so beautifully. A lot of us are given to believe that Shakespeare is impenetrable, but it was Shakespeare that made me love John Godber and Willy Russell and Brecht, lots of working man's plays."

The leap from Nureyev impressions to Brecht isn't an obvious trajectory, but neither is the move from Celebrity Juice to the National Theatre. Such seemingly contrary aspects of his personality seem to date from ructions during a childhood which was clearly the making of him, as it fuelled the anger behind Rufus Hound.

Born Robert James Blair Simpson, he grew up in Surrey, where he initially went to a fee-paying school. Then "there were a lot of changes in my life, when, after about nine months, the money ran out". Simpson went to sixth-form college, where a teacher who'd been an actress introduced him to political theatre. By that time, however, he was not only able to get served in pubs, but "I'd learned there were these things called breasts". He didn't go to university, but ended up meeting a girl who'd become a part-time comedy critic to subsidise her own career as an actress. "Through that I learned what it takes to say you're an actor," he admits.

It was also through that connection Simpson met Russell Brand, and ended up providing backstage and technical support on a play by Trevor Lock which Brand and his girlfriend were appearing in on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was Brand who convinced Simpson he was funny and, after briefly toying with the idea of calling himself Jiminy Biscuit, Rufus Hound was born.

In 2002, Hound was a finalist in So You Think You're Funny, and by 2005 was co-presenting Top Of The Pops and the BBC's coverage of the Glastonbury Festival. His style made Hound something of a favourite for TV panel shows designed with the student audience in mind. In the last couple of years, however, Hound has moved into more family-friendly waters. There was a CBBC sitcom, Hounded, and even a routine to Cheryl Cole's Fight For This Love on Let's Dance For Sport Relief. Then, after six series of Celebrity Juice, Hound's departure came suddenly.

"I didn't start doing what I do to be somebody else's sidekick," he says without rancour. "It was becoming more about making jokes about Holly Willoughby's t***, which weren't the jokes I was making. If you watch the out-takes of the series on the DVD, I'm in that almost more than the series. I won't lie about that show. I got to sit there drinking while Leigh Francis [aka Keith Lemon] was being incredibly funny. It became like a family. My wife was there, Leigh's wife was there, so it wasn't me throwing a massive strop or anything like that. It was like a night out, but if that night out is stopping you from doing other things, it's time to find the door."

That door led to Utopia, a compendium of short plays by the likes of Dylan Moran and Simon Stephens, in which six clowns try out different versions of a utopian dream. As an attempt to redefine political theatre, such a concept reminded Hound of his theatrical roots. "All the words the director Steve Marmion used to describe Utopia were the exact same words my teacher used about Willy Russell and political theatre," he says. "I knew I couldn't say no to it, otherwise I'm just Mr F****** Clown Shoes."

This reawakening had already fed into Hound's stand-up act.

"I was at the point where I was getting angrier and angrier, so I wasn't able to write jokes. Rather than churn out the same kind of bile, I decided to take a step back. It's very hard to make people laugh by saying positive things, so when you're looking for an angle, it's usually about things that are terrible. When you start thinking those thoughts, you can't stop. I'm aware that in etymological terms, cynicism and cyanide have the same root, and once you're on that train, you can't get off."

Hound's salvation came through domestic bliss. He married Beth Johnson in a Las Vegas wedding in 2007, and the pair now have two children. "We're all lying to each other about this impending apocalypse and are basically getting to this terrible point of human existence, and about how it becomes very hard to live day to day," he continues. "Then you get two kids, and you have to find somewhere to put all this stuff.

"I was quite happy to be drunk at work when I was on my own, but since having kids, you have to start being a grown-up. I went to wanting a full-scale revolution to make a better world for my kids. In a way Utopia was about where politics is now, and it's all about carrying on. The thing I want from my art is to get a holiday from how s*** everything is, and the people who can give me that holiday are the people I don't just like, but who I love."

Beyond One Man, Two Guvnors, Hound is in talks with ITV regarding a "big idea" for a new show.

"I'm not saying populist TV is beneath me," he makes clear, "because it's not. I'm not a high art guy. The books I buy are comedy books, and the albums I buy are generally by four blokes with guitars shouting at each other. But I suppose the thing I want to have in my work is a quality I can be proud of. Being a self-employed person, it comes as no surprise that I do some things for money, but that allows me to do Utopia, and it allows me to do One Man, Two Guvnors. I want to feel increasingly proud of what I do.

"But listen to me," he says, as if Robert Simpson had just decided to rein in Rufus Hound. "I've been going on like a schoolgirl in her diary. 'Ooh, listen to me. Look what I did -'"

One Man, Two Guvnors is at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, November 13-17. Visit