Katherine MacAlister talks to the star of TV’s Storage Wars, Sean Kelly, about bringing his comedy and auctioneering talents to the county

People use the term 'living the dream' loosely, but for some it really is just that. In the case of TV star Sean Kelly you wouldn't believe it, if it wasn't true. Because while he's finally got round to becoming a full-time comedian, it's been a long time coming, as they'd say back in the States.

Born in America and moving to Germany, leaving home at 16, driving a forklift to pay the bills while attending college, moving to Italy with a girl where he worked as an undercover store detective before joining the army, being sent to Iraq, fighting in Desert Storm where he was injured, working for the military on classified intelligence, and all the while wondering when he would finally have the time and space, the freedom, to fulfil his lifelong dream and become a full-time stand-up.

The irony is that TV phenomenon Storage Hunters (auctioneering off the contents of people's garages) was his way into comedy, but became so successful it eclipsed everything else. But after a proper stint in Vegas, he is now ready to face the UK, culminating in a month-long residency at Edinburgh Fringe - the icing on the comedy cake - with a quick gig at Didcot's Cornerstone first.

"I started doing stand up comedy 19 years ago. I have always done it," the amiable 47 year-old tells me. "Storage Hunters was just a way of funding that. I didn't set out to be an auctioneer, but now that's eclipsed it, which is good and bad. Because everyone who comes to see me now says "What? You're not a comedian"" but it's never stopped me. I just did my comedy between series in California at various comedy clubs, and then spent three summers in Vegas doing stand-up."

"because In America you can't be a headline act until people know who you are. I think you have a different attitude to comedy in England, you have a genuine love for it and people will buy tickets to unknowns, but in the US they have to have seen you on TV or in movies for people to want to come and see you. You have to be famous."

He is famous now. Having made 136 episodes of Storage Hunters, which has sold to 138 countries. "Storage Hunters is like a cross between a WWF fight and Antiques Roadshow," he laughs.

Not that it was an easy concept to get off the ground. "Everyone said no, and I couldn't even get pitch meetings. But I refused to give up and eventually found a company willing to take the risk."

Presumably then he doesn't rely on comedy to pay the bills? "No, I do it because I love it, I love making people laugh and I'm incredibly lucky to have this opportunity. It's what I've dreamt of for so long."

Sean mixes his stand up with charity work, half his show dedicated to auctioneering goods brought in by the audience for Help For Heroes.

The military is one close to his heart, having served in Iraq and fought in Desert Storm. He was disabled with a groin injury and also suffered PTSS so understands how veterans are still struggling today.

"But then Sean's back story is an interesting as any show he's starred in.

Born in a cowboy town Red Bluff three hours north of San Francisco " where there's a population of 13,000 and 12,000 of them are related to me, "the most exciting thing every year was the rodeo."

His father, an insurance salesman with a penchant for all things European, managed to move his family to Germany to ply his goods to the military. After a weird and wonderful life which took him all over Europe, it was his wife Amy who encouraged him to do stand up.

All great material for his comedy one would presume? I think if I'd had a normal life I wouldn't be doing comedy because most comics have used comedy to get them out of difficult or stressful situations by making people laugh. I had abusive parents so lived alone from a young age so although I'm comfortable in my own skin I've had some crazy experiences.

"Being on stage and wanting to make people laugh all boils down to abandonment, The 'love me, love me' thing but in a positive way. I'm aware of that. I know how it started but I've learned to channel it into something positive. I'm not doing it out of desperation but because I love it. I have been on a journey but I have controlled my own path.

"So a lot of my comedy is self deprecating, and about my crazy and unusual life. I've been to 85 countries and I'm embarrassed myself in most of them. I'm the guy with no filters, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad, but always funny, maybe not at the time, but it's hilarious afterwards.

"Put it this way, I always know I can use it when something happens and that it will make great material."

Starting by going to open mic nights he first did three minutes, then five, then seven and gradually summoned up the courage to do it.

"So while I've never been to Edinburgh, I'm doing two shows a day there this summer, one interviewing other comedians and the other standup with an auction, 25 days in a row. I've always wanted to go but now it's about to happen and I'm thinking 'do I really want to do that?' he laughs. "But it will be fun."

But why here. Why not back home? "Because I've been doing that for years. I can do it with my eyes shut. This is a whole new challenge, a new show in a new country where they play by different comedy rules. So it's good to see what works and what doesn't and why," he says.

He always meets his fans after the show,something he remembers as a child and vowed to replicate if he ever got the chance.

"It's weird because I don't think of myself as famous. Even though everyone always acts as if they knew me because I'm very, it's just how I come across informal on screen."

He's spent a lot of time in the UK. He filmed 56 episodes of Storage Hunters over here as well as several of the spin off celebrity version. "I really like the UK and the people there. It's not just that the sense of humour is different because some things are universally funny wherever you are, and some things are regional, it's just trying to work out which is which. Every city has their own audience. Some like intellectual, surreal or clever, but while I'm an idiot I guarantee 'll make you laugh."

Sean Kelly - Comedy and Auctioning

Didcot Cornerstone

Tonight, Friday June 16

01235 515144