By Jeremy Miles
BACK in the days when big comedy talents like Jack Dee, Jo Brand and Eddie Izzard were still hustling their way around the club circuit Jeff Green was right up there with them.
The best part of two decades later Green is still a great comedian but somehow never made it to the dizzying heights of his famous friends.
As he prepares to bring his latest tour to Bournemouth - he plays the town's Funnybone Club on Friday - he told me he has no regrets.
"I believe that to a large extent people are where they want to be and subconsciously I think this is exactly where I want to be. If I'd wanted more success I would have worked harder for it."
Green used to hang around with people like Steve Coogan, Lee Evans, Jack Dee, Jo Brand and Eddie Izzard. But there was one crucial difference. "I never wanted what they wanted and I certainly didn't want what they got. I've seen people become really famous and it NEVER improves their lives."
He says he even deliberately turned work down. "I passed a lot of work over to people like Graham Norton and Mark Lamarr - a lot of people who are now household names. I am not a household name and never have been but it certainly doesn't worry me. I never wanted to be Peter Kay. I didn't want to be Jimmy Carr. I found the whole idea quite terrifying. The thing with fame is that once you get it you can't put it back in the box."
He feels he has the best of both worlds - a good career and the joy of being able to lead a relatively normal life.
"I suppose that occasionally people tap me on the shoulder on the tube and say You're that comedian', but that's as far as it goes. I don't get the paparazzi chasing me, but equally I can play a gig and sell 500 tickets. I'm happy with that."
Green certainly isn't unsuccessful - he works constantly, has just published a book and has his own BBC Radio 2 series - but while he deliberately eschews the big time, he'd be the first to agree that you always want what you haven't got.
"In the old days just getting a booking at the Comedy Store was all I wanted in the whole world and the idea of getting a weekend there was beyond my wildest dreams.
"Now I find myself thinking Oh God I've got The Comedy Store this weekend I'd much rather be having dinner with my girlfriend and little boy.' It's just a fact of life that things never seem as good when you've got them as they did when you didn't."
Comedy, he says, is cyclical. He's watched many changing fortunes and concludes that nothing rejuvenates like success.
"I remember doing a gig with Matt Lucas and David Walliams only three or four years ago and there were more people on stage then there were in the audience. Look at them now!
"I remember hanging out with Shane Ritchie at a wedding. He'd just split up with wife and he was so down. Then bish, bash bosh he's on the front of Hello magazine or whatever."
Green's own life has changed considerably since the day he decided to give up his day job with British Oxygen and become a full time stand-up comedian. He's 18 years older for a start, and he's become a father. Earlier this month he published The A to Z of Having a Baby. Green seems both very proud and a little surprised at his family man status. It's clearly a rich source of observational comedy. He tells me his son, Orlo, is a year old and that his name is Hebrew for bringer of light.
"I think it means he'll be an electrician but my girlfriend reckons he could turn out to be an arsonist," he jokes. "Mind you if we want him to be a comedian we'll have to start psychologically damaging him right now."
Green says he's extremely comfortable with the idea of using observations of his own life and lifestyle in his act."The great thing about being a comic is that you can look forward to a 40 or 50 year career. There's no real age problem. I mean jokes don't really take a lot of effort to tell. It's not as though you can do your knee in and not be able to do them anymore. No I can go on for decades.
"The trick is to keep being excited about having something to say."
*Jeff Green plays The Funnybone Comedy Club in Westbourne on friday