COMEDY With James Rampton

Norman Lovett plays the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe (01394 282126) on Fri and the Purcell Room, London (0171-960 4242) on 2 Mar

When Jack Dee was wearing short trousers rather than snappy suits, Norman Lovett was out on the comedy circuit patenting the art of the deadpan. Dee even calls Lovett "one of my favourite comedians". Now 50, Lovett is slightly taken aback that the style he pioneered has become trendy. "It has taken off," he affirms. "Jack's got that sneery attitude - Paul Merton, too. Perhaps a lot of people are really like that, and what we say on stage is what they'd like to say." He admits that the biggest influence on his act is his Italian mother: "She's a moaner. She helped me in that way. Then there is the Essex effect. I went to a secondary modern in Clacton where that sort of attitude prevailed. I picked it up and used it as a weapon on stage. I was also influenced by Max Wall. I saw this bloke who coughed and sniffed and paused and thought, 'I like that'. You can relax watching it; you're not too taxed."

Lovett is perhaps still best known for playing Holly, the computer in early series of the culty BBC sci-fi sitcom, Red Dwarf. He is returning to the role in the current series after an eight-year break, though he has been regularly attending "Dwarfy" conventions in the meantime. "You get the odd anorak, but most are very nice, respectful people who just love sci-fi," he observes. "At a Cult TV convention in Great Yarmouth, girls were screaming at me and holding up bits of paper saying, 'We love you, Norman'. I could be earning money going to these conventions for the rest of my life, so I won't knock them."

All this may have helped him to loosen up in his act: "I walk around the stage and I'm smiling as well now. I'm even talking about getting a clip-on microphone so I can move my arms around - whatever next? But I'll never be super-duper energetic like Ben Elton. People would say, 'what tablets is he taking?'".

EYE ON THE NEW

Dylan Moran, the twinkly Irish stand-up has not been idle since winning the Perrier Award last summer. He has undertaken a sell-out tour of Ireland, made a comedy special to go out on the opening night of Channel 5 and has had a regular column in the Irish Times. Catch "Dylan Moran is Indisposed" before he gets any huger.

Neptune Theatre, Liverpool (0151 709 7844) tonight; Assembly Rooms, Derby (01332 255 800) tomorrow; Olympia, Dublin (00353 1 677 7744) Tue, Wed; Arts Centre, Norwich (01603 660352) Thur; Old Town Hall Arts Centre, Hemel Hempstead (01442 242 827)

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