HARRY Hill laughs out loud as he recalls his first foray into broadcasting – silly, surreal, shows packed with improbable characters, banter with Burt Kwouk, a purple cat hand puppet and parading badgers named after Gareth Southgate and Tasmin Archer.

“That probably wouldn’t get commissioned now,” he muses, as we reminisce about the late 90s radio and TV shows which established the former doctor with the trademark bald head, glasses and oversized lapels as a comedy genius.

“It was great fun to do though.”

Harry is taking a break from watching clips of TV programmes. He’s used to it, having spent 14 years doing it for his hugely successful show You’ve Been Framed, for which he provides witty quips to the videoed pratfalls.

“It’s always fun. And variety is the spice of life!” he quips.

Instantly likeable and down to earth, Harry scoffs at any suggestion that he is a national treasure, but, of course, he is. Career highlights include Harry Hill’s Fruit Corner, Fruit Fancies, Shark Infested Custard, Fun Capsule, Tea Time and the multi award-winning TV Burp – which saw him dissecting the week’s big television shows with a typically leftfield approach.

Accolades include three BAFTAs, eight British Comedy Awards and a Golden Rose of Montreux.

At heart though, he insists he is just a comedian. And it is that love of a daft routine and side-splitting gag which has inspired his latest tour, which comes to Oxford on Sunday.

How To Be Funny – For Kids! is Harry’s first foray onto the road in five years and ties in with the release of his children’s book Matt Millz Stands Up, the sequel to his critically acclaimed Matt Millz, about the world’s youngest comedian who dreams of making it big.

The show, at the family-friendly time of 11am, sees him sharing hints, tips and anecdotes for children who fancy themselves as a bit of a joker – complete with Harry’s own list of dos and don’ts.

“I can’t tell you how many letters I get from children asking me how you become a stand-up comic, which is partly why I wrote the Matt Millz books,” he says.

“I have framed the show around how to become a comedian for kids. I get kids up to tell jokes and show them how to make custard pies and throw them. It’s old fashioned stuff.

“A lot is silly and slapstick – which is at the heart of a lot of what I do. You’ve Been Framed is a huge slapstick fest!”

It’s the perfect next step for a family-friendly comedian who has always kept his act clean. But, he says, younger audiences aren’t always the easiest to please. “Kids on their own can be quite a tough crowd because they don’t necessarily feel obliged to do what’s expected of them. They can be very unpredictable, which is part of the charm.”

So do his audiences remind him of his younger self? Had he too always wanted to be a comedian?

“Yeah!” he says. “I knew it looked like fun and I felt I had an aptitude. I went to see Ronnie Corbett on a family holiday to Eastbourne and remember looking around at people and thinking ‘this is great!’ I wanted to do that but I didn’t know how.”

He adds: “If you want to be an actor you go to a drama club and if you want to be a musician you learn to play an instrument – but how do you start off as a comedian?”

It was at medical school in London that he poked his head into cabaret and comedy clubs, and became hooked. The two disciples were not unrelated, he recalls. “Medicine is a profession with its own peculiar gallows humour,” he says thoughtfully.

Despite his oddball sense of humour, Harry’s career is notable for its longevity as well as the complete lack of controversy. His humour may be strange but it is wholesome.

“I am just trying to do things I like,” he says. “And there are still lots of different things I want to do.”

And that famous collar will stay with him. “It’s like a uniform,” he chuckles. “When I put it on I become silly, naughty and irreverent. It’s something that just works!”

  • Harry Hill: How To Be funny – For Kids, New Theatre, Sunday, atgtickets.com