David Baddiel's national tour starts at Southend's Cliffs Pavillion (01702 351135) on Thur, and continues at St Albans Arena (01727 844488) on Fri

The last 12 months have been extraordinary for David Baddiel. How many other comedians have had a number one single, a bestselling novel, a movie script developed by Disney, and an invitation to interview Tony Blair on television in the run-up to the general election? But his successes haven't always endeared him to the critics. A few book reviewers, for instance, made off-the-ball challenges on the football-loving Baddiel. In person a thoughtful, likeable man, he assesses criticism with commendable level-headedness. "Obviously there were carpers about the book," he admits. "Particularly if you write a novel, journalists will want to have a go. I am a comedian that reviewers get hacked off about. They want us all to be like Vic Reeves. He has an advantage in that he's nothing like them, he's from another planet. But I'm someone who journalists see and think, `I could do that. Why's he got all that money?' "

Baddiel sticks his head above the parapet again this week with his first major stand-up tour since he bowed out with his erstwhile partner Rob Newman at the Wembley Arena in December 1993. He says that one of the main factors behind his return to the live arena was his former flat-mate and Fantasy Football League co-presenter, Frank Skinner. "He was always nagging at me that I had a responsibility to do stand-up because there aren't that many people who can do it," Baddiel laughs. "Frank is centred on the idea of being a live comedian, which is admirable. In the end I said, `Yeah, yeah, alright.' Then I went to do a reading of my book in Manchester. I was expecting cups of tea and 30 people in a bookshop. But they'd hired a rock venue and 400 people turned up. There was a mike and a spotlight and it was like a gig. I loved it."

In his well-crafted act, Baddiel serves up more of his trademark soul- bearing material - he has always, for instance, unashamedly discussed his use of pornography - but refutes the canard that he is "New Lad" personified. "A review in the TLS described my book as `The lyrical side of laddism'," he recalls. "I liked that. It is set in a blokey world, but it has an aching lyricism and is about love. I'm like that. I like football and porn, but I'm also a yearning, sad romantic. The lad thing has not always included that."

EYE ON THE NEW

Advert voiceover king, Jonathan Kidd, leads the Condos, a spoof American acapella combo, on their "Hey, Get a Life" tour. They perform songs about such riveting subjects as dentists, cheese and curry. They play the Tristan Bates Theatre, London, WC2 (0171-240 3940) tonight

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