Paul Tonkinson is a straight talking, friendly family man, with children and a Ford S-Max. He is also, by his own admission, becoming increasingly interested in the mid-life crises that he has seen afflict men of a certain age.

So much so, that he has based his latest show on them.

"I'm not interested in those 'quarter life crises' that the 25-year-old comedians moan about," he insists. "It's about the real thing!"

And his account of how to avoid one, by embracing what you've got, is simply inspired.

"The show describes what happens around mid-life crisis time," says Tonkinson, 38, a plain-talking Yorkshireman, who is no stranger to Oxford, having performed at Jongleurs and various colleges.

"It celebrates what men are meant to want to run away from: things like wives, houses, children, cats and dogs ... the humdrum."

Tonight he brings his routine My Anti-MidLife Crisis to the North Wall Arts Centre in Summertown, as a preview of his forthcoming Edinburgh Festival Fringe show.

Tonkinson says the set was inspired by younger comedians at last year's Edinburgh Festival moaning about what was going to happen to them when they got older. A concept he scoffs at.

Usefully, Tonkinson has just been diagnosed as having a hernia, affirming and illustrating his mid-life destination. Although, when asked, he had still not named his new lump, he promised that he would christen his hernia in time for tonight's show - surely reason enough itself to head to the award-winning South Parade venue - a beautifully converted swimming pool next to St Edward's School.

And if that's not enough to tempt you, then the fact that he may well be wearing a corset surely is. He explains, between giggles: "It is perfectly possible that I will allow the audience to catch a glimpse of said corset device."

At this point, he laughed loudly, leaving me fearing about making the hernia worse, and I had to apologise for making him laugh (though secretly loved the fact that I made a seasoned comedian almost, literally, split his sides!).

Tonkinson hardly has time to draw breath these days, let alone have an operation for a hernia. He admits that, for him, a career as a comedian was an obvious one, and he has gone back to his roots in stand-up. This has drawn him away from high-profile jobs on radio and television - jobs he chose as close substitutes for the real thing.

"I always liked breakfast radio slots as there were always loads of people around. It is as close to stand up as you can get."

He also worked on TV's Big Breakfast after Jonny Vaughan, won the Jongleurs Comedian of the Year in 1992, and was named Time Out's Stand Up Comic of the Year in 1997.

Tonight's show is one of a handful of UK dates, which follow an acclaimed appearance at the New Zealand Comedy Festival. And it will be followed not just by August in Edinburgh, but by sets in Montreal ... and Iraq. He is, he exclaims, a busy man.

But, he says, it's when he gets to Edinburgh, that the serious work begins. "I am booked to perform some shows for children during the day and will try to take in as many different shows as possible, as well as perusing bookshops and fairs," he says.

"My family will join me for a week also, and - if the hernia allows - I'll be swimming and running to keep fit!

Though, he was quick to point out he would not be emulating one of fellow comedian Arthur Smith's athletic Edinburgh feats - running naked down the city's Royal Mile.

"It was one of the most bizarre things I have witnessed," he laughs, "But no, I will not be running naked!"

Tonight's Edinburgh Festival preview show takes place at the North Wall Arts Centre, in South Parade, Summertown, Oxford, and is the penultimate night of the venue's summer festival.

Tickets are £10 and the show starts at 9.30pm. Call 01865 319 450 for tickets.

Keep the laughter flowing by going to see Shazia Mirza afterwards, at 10.30pm. Tickets are also £10.

WE ALL know Truck Festival as a lively hotbed of musical talent. But did you also know it offers some side-splitting comedy?

Head to Hill Farm next weekend to experience sketch groups, a new act stand-up show, an improvised comedy musical and a headline set from Ray Peacock, organised by Oxford's formidable Free Beer Show.

It's all quite secretive, but well worth the trip to Steventon. And you also get to catch a load of great bands while you're there. As well as the vicar's ice cream and the Rotary Club's famous burgers.

The festival runs from 19-20 July. Get day or weekend tickets from LARRY Charles drops into Oxford on July 25 as part of the Britdoc festival at Oxford University's Keble College.

Charles, director of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Borat and Seinfeld, will be in conversation as part of the Britdoc 08 festival. This year's themes are Music and Comedy.

Other comedy events going on are an Oxford Union debate on comedy, and documentary and stand up with the ridiculous but addictive Tina C amongst other chuckle-inducing artistes. See for more details.

A MUST-SEE this summer is the Kill for a Seat comedy night on August 3 at the Bullingdon Arms, Cowley Road, and Le Royale in Banbury. Pete Johansson is a fast-paced realist and naturally talented comic, who'll leave you rolling on the floor with laughter.

It promises to be the perfect cure for the rainy summer weather! Ignore the fuel prices and see both: Banbury starts at 5pm and is £4, while Oxford's at 8pm and is £6/7.

THIS month's big event for lovers of al-fresco laughs is Latitude music festival, which also features comedy heavyweights including Mark Lamarr, Marcus Brigstock, Bill Bailey, Omid Djalili, Ross Noble, Frankie Boyle and Rich Hall, along with stellar poets Adrian Mitchell, John Hegley and Carol Ann Duffy.

Oh, and there's a cabaret - along with what promises to be an awe-inspiring Sadler's Wells production on a beautiful stage floating in the middle of a lake. For details go to