HE has starred on a clutch of big name TV shows, but comedian Matt Richardson is about to take on the biggest gig of his life.

The Didcot funnyman, who found fame through his acclaimed stand-up performances and through presenting reality TV spin-off programmes The Xtra Factor and Big Brother's Bit on the Side, will tomorrow appear before millions of viewers as a contestant on hit show Dancing on Ice.

Matt, 29, was taken on as a stand-in and has been honing his skills on the ice since October, but says he never expected to appear on the show.

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He takes the place of fellow comedian Rufus Hound, who has tested positive for Covid-19 and has been forced to quarantine.

"It's such a shame for Rufus but it's so exciting to be in," says Matt, speaking from the home in North London he shares with his fashion model girlfriend Sam Rollinson and their cat Achilles – who is a bit of a social media star in his own right.

Matt takes to the ice tomorrow with professional dancer Vicky Ogden, and has been busy polishing his technique.

"We have just been dropped in, but have done the same amount of hours as everyone else in the contest," he says. "When I agreed to be a stand-in, I thought it was the best job on the show as being on TV is a stressful experience. But being trained to ice skate by athletes and being paid to play has been a joy.

"I didn't think I'd have to do the stressful bit! But it's a huge show and I've wanted to do it for years – though it has been a bit of a hectic few days."

Despite his celebrity lifestyle, former St Birinus School pupil Matt has not lost touch with his Didcot roots. His family and many of his friends still live in the town and he has fond memories of growing up in the area – and going to Saturday discos at Oxford Ice Rink as a teenager.

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He says: "When I was 14 or 15 I used to bomb around the rink. It wasn't until I was older that I realised it's actually terribly dangerous.

"I'm covered in bruises. I've injured my knee have a sore ankle, and have had concussion and a black eye. I look at the professionals and think 'how do you do it?' It's like they float through the air; it looks so effortless.

He said his ambition was to be able to show off like "that guy you see showing off at the ice rink". "I want to be that guy!" he laughs.

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He is grateful to Dancing on Ice for giving him something to focus on in lockdown, saying: "It's been such a lifesaver. I'm terrible in my own company and found the first lockdown difficult. I have OCD and it pops up when I am worried. Ice skating has saved my sanity.

"If a year ago, someone had said said 'ice skating is going to save your mental health', I'd have said 'what are you on about!'."

It's a change of pace from shows like The Xtra Factor, which he co-presented with his close friend, the much-missed Caroline Flack.

He says: "I've never been a 'celebrity' on a show, so this is a whole new world! It's the first time I've been given the opportunity – and I'm not going to waste it!"

* Dancing on Ice airs on ITV tomorrow night. Matt urged viewers to vote for him. Details on how to vote at itv.com

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