They say don’t take your work home with you, but for Southport’s Lee Mack, laughter’s just as vital at home as it is in his day job. Ahead of his new panel show, Duck Quacks Don’t Echo, he lets Keeley Bolger in on the joke
Lee Mack takes no prisoners when it comes to bad jokes.
His career’s been built on being funny and perhaps because of that, the Not Going Out star often finds himself being stopped by people who want to share their gags with him. Not that Mack’s really listening, mind.
“What happens is that people say, ‘I’ve got one for you’,” explains the 45-year-old TV comic.
“And I’m very good at glazing over, smiling and knowing when the joke’s finished, and then I say, ‘Oh, good one’, and I haven’t heard any of it.”
Seemingly, Mack has good reason to switch off.
“If anyone ever starts a sentence, ‘I’ve got a joke for you’, I can guarantee that 99.9 per cent of the time it won’t be pleasant,” he adds. “It’s always unpleasant jokes for some reason.”
Mack is keeping the humour clean as the host on new panel comedy series, Duck Quacks Don’t Echo.
In each of the eight episodes, a range of celebrity guests, including Miranda Hart, Sue Perkins and Ricky Tomlinson, will introduce a bizarre fact and, with the help of a team of scientists, attempt to prove to the rest of the panel that it’s true. Both my sons love science and the show is on Sky so it’s nice and family-friendly,” says Mack who also has a daughter, the youngest of his three children.
“My sons are finally able to see something that I do on telly.”
But even if his eldest two can watch Dad on TV, they’re not that fussed by his starry career, the funny man points out.
“[I make my sons laugh] more on a day-to-day basis, rather than with my TV shows,” says Mack, who met his wife Tara when they were both students at Brunel University. “They can take or leave that!”
Born Lee McKillop in Southport, he remembers his roots and donated a T-handled dibber to the British Lawnmower Museum in the resort, speaking about the on the panel game show Would I Lie to You?
Mack had a good relationship with his own parents, who kept humour at the heart of the family.
“My parents were funny. Joking around was a big part of their lives, it was vitally important,” he says of his late mother and father.
“Messing around and trying to embarrass each other was part of our DNA, it was definitely not a boring house.”
And Mack, who worked as a stable hand for champion horse Red Rum and as a Pontins Bluecoat before turning to professional comedy, has ensured that laughter’s as central to his young family’s lives as it was his.
“My parents aren’t around, but we’re like that in our house now,” he says. “We’ve got [that humour] from them, that messing around. When my sons come into the room I think, ‘Right, what can I do that will get a laugh?’”
But as the Would I Lie To You regular admits, sometimes there is a sense of pressure to get the last laugh.
“You’ve got to get it in quick, that’s our motto,” Mack adds, grinning.
He says it’s his children who crack him up the most.
“If the kids are laughing at stuff on the telly, then I like it,” says the comedian, a “regular winner” of the Last Laugh Cup, an annual darts competition for people connected to the comedy industry.
Recently, Mack scooped an award for the Best Male TV Comic at the British Comedy Awards and celebrated with a bunch of pals.
“I had some mates with me at the Comedy Awards, so that was quite nice,” he says, adding that his gong is currently being “chiselled somewhere”.
“I decided to have the table full of mates, rather than showbiz people. We had a proper old shindig. It was a night out, rather than an industry thing.”
Industry awards, a sitcom and a recent 100-date tour could make a man complacent - but Mack’s far from it.
“In the early days, I’d get nervous before going on stage, but that feeling goes away,” he says.
These days, he’s more likely to feel a bit apprehensive before a show than full-on terrified. “Hopefully you reach the stage where you’re never bad enough that you completely tank, which is what it was like in the early days.”
Plus, Mack has his own way of ensuring that he gives the best performance possible.
He explains: “I don’t do corporate events anymore, where you go on in front of a bunch of people who don’t necessarily want to be there. You do the tours to the people who want to be there, and fingers crossed, you’ll never struggle like the early days again.”
With a UK-wide tour starting in the autumn (the Preston date is already sold out) and steady stream of TV work, it looks like those early days are a thing of the past.