People always ask me about being a Blue Coat,” Brian Conley chuckles.

“I’ve been in the business for 45 years and won every comedy award under the sun, but everyone still wants to know about me being at Pontins for three months.”

You could say the same about his career, now 45 years in longevity, and as buoyant as ever, it is still currently overshadowed by his stint on Strictly Come Dancing at Christmas which endeared him to a whole new generation of fans.

Shambling about good naturedly around the BBC’s dance floor week after week proved him to be a generally good egg, nice bloke and funny guy.

His recent tour, enormous musical theatre career, early prime time comedy shows and current stint on Channel Four’s equivalent of Dragon’s Den Buy It Now, are still overshadowed by his Hi-de-Hi rendition of It’s Not Unusual.

Except that Brian’s not a traditional comedian. His brand of entertainment is different – always has been.

He likes talking to the audience, asking questions, singing, joking about, cracking a few jokes, letting them ask him some in return.

His shows are an immersive, interactive nights out. He calls it entertainment or variety, but it’s not stand-up as we know it.

“Most blokes these days just come on stage in jeans and a T-shirt with a mic and just tell jokes. I’ve never done that. I’m an entertainer, so that’s what I do,” he shrugs.

And does he ever feel threatened by this new wave of comedians? “I’m at an age now where I do not mind.

“I’ve been doing this for 45 years now and it doesn’t have to be about my career any more and I am enjoying my work much more.

“My shows are comedy driven and a lot of fun and I get them all up and dancing in the aisles, but I love the freedom they give me.

“It keeps them fresh and alive and I have the luxury of going where I want.”

Which brings him to Oxford’s New Theatre on Wednesday with his new tour, Still The Greatest Entertainer – In His Price Range, which is typically Conley – tongue-in-cheek, British seaside humour.

He’s been a hard man to pin down mind, firstly missing a train, then being unable to use his new mobile, so we had finally settle for a chat during his road trip to Crewe.

That distinctive cockney drawl is still there discussing why his long stint in musicals (Hairspray, Me and My Girl, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Oliver!, The Music Man, Barnum and Jolson) seems to have finally come to an end.

“Barnum nearly killed me, that’s why. It was so tough physically and mentally, plus I spent a year learning how to tightrope walk.

“It also meant I hardly saw my family and after a while all hotels look the same.

“Besides while I’m in musicals you always miss hosting your own shows, so now I’m just pottering around doing my own thing.”

A hard thing to give up? “Yes, it’s like a drug, but the best drug in the world.

“Think about how good it makes you feel when you make six people laugh in your kitchen. And then think about how it would be if you had a whole auditorium in front of you, paying good money to see you. It’s such an honour.”

Does the 56-year-old still get anxious then before a show? “That’s all part of it; the nerves beforehand match the euphoria afterwards. That’s part and parcel of showbiz.”

Bear in mind Brian has been doing this for 45 years now, and already fitted in an extensive annual panto stint as well as filming Buy It Now straight afterwards since Strictly, and you’ll realise how hard this London lad grafts.

“The miles do take their toll, but then I can’t have everyone over to my house can I? I’m like a long distance lorry driver with an act. And I love a live performance - the magic of the moment.”

It must be hard though leaving his wife and two daughters to go off on the road? “They’re used to it. It’s what I do.

“But the musicals were six days a week so sometimes it wasn’t even worth going home. They loved it when I was on Strictly though,” he admits.

Weren’t they immensely proud and excruciatingly embarrassed at the same time? “No, they know what I’m like. I’ll get up on stage and sing in a restaurant if I get the chance,” he laughs.

“It was a wonderful chapter in my life,” he says, “although I was getting worried about being able to star in my panto, six weeks in.

“But I spoke to my brother and he said ‘with the greatest respect that’s really not something you have to worry about’,” another huge laugh.

So did it change his perceptions of reality TV and talent competitions?

“I was 26 years old before humour properly clicked for me. I’d worked on the circuits, warmed up TV audiences for the likes of Wogan and Russ Abbot, learned from the greats and done the rounds. It was a gradual build from there, one step at a time.

“Which also means one step down at a time, and X Factor winners have no concept of that. They have nothing to fall back on if it doesn’t work out.”

“But also times have changed. There were only three TV channels when I started out and entire families would sit down together on Saturday nights.

“It’s just not like that anymore. Zero to hero.” And then he laughs and says: “I like that. I might have to copyright it.”

Never one to miss out on a comedy moment.

Brian Conley, New Theatre, Wednesday,