"PEOPLE have said to me, 'On one level it’s quite clever, and on another level it’s not clever at all,'" says Milton Jones, analysing his own comedy.

"I think that’s a compliment," he laughs. "I’m not sure. You could take it either way."

Over the last 20 years Jones has established himself as the master of one-liners. The professor of puns. The king of the zingers. And nonsense has always played a crucial role in his streams of non-sequiturs.

Even Jones’s on stage appearance screams ‘absurd’: the wild hair, wide eyes and garish Hawaiian shirts. Put those alongside his beautifully constructed pieces of wordplay, and it has all helped the 52-year-old stand-up stand out among the t-shirt and suit-wearing comics on ‘Mock the Week’, which Jones has been regularly appearing on since 2009.

But, in his new touring show – ‘Milton Jones is Out There’ – we see Jones questioning the importance of his own nonsense in our increasingly divided times. Could we see an end to the silliness and pun-foolery?

"Well, the show does see me thinking that with all that’s going on in the world, maybe I should be doing something more serious rather than talking nonsense," he concedes. "I seem to have a crisis of confidence in terms of: is nonsense of any value? And of course that results in more nonsense rather than less. But it's all fairly jokey. There is one pseudo-political joke, which is as near as I get.

"And if my aim with the tour is to add in a couple of moments of pathos, really questioning whether I’m on the right track, with my stuff, people remember the joke rather than the point."

Is it difficult to mould a show in that way then– to include a message and a narrative – via lots of one-liners?

"Yes, it is. I end up with a massive bag of jokes which probably don't fit, which is really annoying.’

The on stage Milton helps of course, securing a distinct look: all hair and the shirts, by which to single himself out. Is it important for him to be visually distinctive?

"I didn’t set out to do it, but it’s been useful “branding”. If you don’t remember the name you go, “Oh that guy with the shirts and the hair.” Originally the whole idea was that it was a signpost to say where I was coming from: it was leftfield.’

"Besides, I think most comics are accentuated versions of themselves, to some degree. I am, apparently, quite clumsy and I don’t approach things particularly rationally. I quite often see the other side of things. The differences are, hopefully, I’m not socially obtuse! I’m quite conventional – I’m married, I have three kids, a house… – so it’s almost an escape from normality. I don’t have to be responsible. I don’t have to pay car tax.’

"So my stage persona evolved as I tried out things – he was working so I stuck with it. But there are levels to him. I can pull things back and talk about my real life, to some degree. Although I think if I was starting again I would give him a name. "

And yet, in terms of longevity, Milton Jones is cruising; now the third oldest person on Mock The Week in terms of appearances. "Yes, it felt quite odd. I think the BBC now uses “Mock the Week” to try people out, and it means there’s a whole new batch of people coming through, which is great so I feel like a senior statesman."

Does it mean that Milton has to stay permanently match fit? "I think it’s less competitive than it used to be. There’s more teamwork. It’s a more pleasant show to do. A lot of people think it’s a satire show, but it’s not, it’s a joke show – which suits me."

It obviously works on a subliminal level, as a joke he performed on ‘Mock the Week’ was the inspiration for the new show: "Yes, about Boris Johnson. “An idiot with stupid hair running the country?” Bing! That’s where it started. I feel like I’m destined to play Boris Johnson at some point."

And does he have to adapt his style depending on the show or catchment? "Very generally, the “Mock the Week” audience is more studenty, whereas on Radio 4 the average age is 54 or something ridiculous. So you can put in references for Radio 4 that I wouldn’t bother with on Mock the Week and visa versa.

He must have a vast archive of material by now then? So is the rumour true - that he actually has a file of his jokes?

"I have an “all my material” file on my computer, yes. You’ve got to wade through it, but it’s worth it because there’s loads of stuff in there I’ve forgotten off the top of my head.

"It’s like balancing equations. There’s an ideal format. It’s about getting the joke down to the lowest form of words, the minimal effort. That’s what really adds beauty to it."

‘Milton Jones is Out There’ is at the New Theatre September tonight. 0844 8713020 or atgtickets.com/oxford