Me and my wife were driving past a petrol station with loads of newspapers out front and they were all plastered with huge pictures of me and the words Take Me Out Vice Shame. I almost crashed the car!
“I was like ‘what the bleeding hell is that all about?’. The wife wasn’t too happy either, she had some questions.
“But I get it, they have to sell papers.”
Paddy McGuinness is recalling the time when you couldn’t move for Take Me Out “controversies”, salacious tales of sex, drugs and rock n roll involving the show’s young contestants.
There was talk of wild parties at the fabled Take Me Out house and reports involving court cases, sexism and secret double lives – all illustrated, rather inconveniently for him, with ginormous pictures of Paddy.
“First thing first, there is no Take Me Out house,” he explains in his no-nonsense Bolton twang. “Now, I’m not on any social media but all the contestants are and they use Twitter and Facebook to get in touch and say ‘shall we get together and have a party’ and the papers just basically formulate a story from that: Young People Go Out Drinking Shock. I mean, come on, that’s hardly news is it? I get that they have to sell papers but there was a spell of about two weeks not that long back when we were on the front pages everyday – all with pictures of me.”
We tell him it’s a tactic we should try at the Star.
“Yeah,” he laughs. “I want a headline of My Vice Shame with Four In A Bed Shock underneath it – the shock being that it never happened.”
Annoying front pages aside, Paddy, who turned 40 and became a father to twins in the space of a month this summer, has nothing but love for the primetime ITV dating show that made him even more of a household name.
“It’s changed my life for the better, brought me to a more mainstream audience. People knew me from Phoenix Nights, Max and Paddy and 8 Out of 10 Cats but this changed everything.
“I was growing up and starting to settle down and thinking ‘hang on, I’ve got a mortgage to pay here’ and the show’s let me do that. It means I don’t have to worry about that sort of stuff anymore.
“It’s brought me a bit of structure. I’m working hard, doing long days, but then it’s straight home afterwards. It wasn’t always like that. There was a time when after work I’d be ‘right, book a hotel room, we’re all going out on the lash’. I don’t do that anymore – I can’t do that anymore, I’ve got two little babies to think about.
“Although, having said that, I’m still no angel. Not by any stretch.”
And where was he when he received the news he’d bagged this life-changing job?
“I was buying a vase at TK Maxx in Bolton.
“The show started out as a pilot for Channel 4; the premise was the same, the lift, the boys, the girls, but it was aimed at a very different audience – there were a lot more goths. Always a lot of goths on Channel 4 isn’t there? Anyways, we filmed the pilot but then nothing really happened after that until a year later when my agent rang me up and said ‘remember that show . . .’.
“That was that and it was a success pretty much straight away. Since then, there’s been lots of other dating shows but Take Me Out remains at the top. Ours is very honest – a lot of those other shows are scripted but ours isn’t. That’s why they wanted someone with a stand-up background, they needed someone who could ad-lib with the girls. Although we have to cut out some of their answers – you wouldn’t believe what some of them come out with.”
The show, which is returning for a sixth series later this year, regularly gets more than four million viewers, has spawned its own catchphrases (No Likey, No Lighty, anyone?) and even bagged an ITV2 spin-off programme. But what is the secret off its success?
“It’s honest, it’s not trying to be something it’s not and everyone can watch it, whether you’re getting ready for a girls’ night out or just slobbing out with the family.”
This no-nonsense, come-one-come-all approach is important to Paddy – and will play a big part in Take Me Out Live, which is coming to Birmingham in December.
“We’ve always wanted to do it live,” Paddy explains. “And we’ve got some nice twists lined up. All of the girls in the audience will have a light for the live shows and there will be 30 single girls doing the choosing – some from the audience and a selection of all the favourite girls from the TV series. We’re going to set up a ‘Bar Fernando’s’ and we’ll film all the goings on in there that people will be able to watch. There’ll be lots of audience interaction, much more than on TV, and, because it’s live, anything could happen.
“I’m really looking forward to it because it’s been two or three years since I was last out on the road doing live stand-up shows. It’ll have a great atmosphere, it’ll make the perfect girls’ night out or Christmas party.”
And does he have any tips for the brave lads who’ll be descending down the Love Lift?
“Just don’t say you live at home with your parents. It doesn’t matter how confident or good looking a lad is, how ripped he is or how much money he has, if he says that, they’ll switch off all their lights. I’m like ‘so what?!’, I don’t see the bad thing in that but the girls hate it. But I do like spending time with the girls and speaking to them, I like watching them sort out which lads are good and which ones are villains.”
Away from work, Paddy is loved up with former Miss Liverpool Christine Martin, who gave birth to twins Leo Joe and Penelope Patricia in July.
And the comedian’s clearly the smitten kitten with all three, telling us how he can’t wait to rush up the M6 after the interview and get back home to Bolton.
“The babies are very much at that stage when they’re like ‘feed me, change me, let me sleep’. It’s completely knackering – and I got twins as well. You can always tell a member of the Twins Club because of the dark circles and red veins on their face.”
So, with the foreseeable all being about Take Me Out and fatherhood, will stand-up get a look-in again?
“Yeah, absolutely. I love being on stage but it probably won’t be until 2015 though. And, like I say, as soon as each gig is finished, I’ll be going straight back home this time.
“When I do get back out on the road, I’ll definitely come to the Midlands. I always play Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Warwick because the people there are just fun. They work hard and they want to spend their money having fun. It’s not like that in other places, they can get a bit pre-occupied with being cool. It’s much more relaxed here, I like that.”
With that, our time is almost up, but there’s still time for that old favourite: Will Phoenix Nights ever return to our screens?
After all, Peter Kay says he’s got a third series all written up and ready to go, despite co-writers Dave Spikey and Neil Fitzmaurice saying they know no such thing.
“Peter just likes doing that,” smirks Paddy. “As he’s taken a step back and not doing anything at the moment he just likes to say stuff like that and then leave it to the rest of us who are still doing the rounds to answer all the questions. That’s just the thing he does.
“But yeah, I think that’s something that will happen in the future.”
It’s what we’ve all been waiting for. See you down the Phoenix, then.
Kiss kiss, bang bang.
By Elizabeth Joyce
Take Me Out Live, part of Clothes Show Live, will run at Birmingham NEC from December 6-9. Tickets are on sale now at www.takemeoutlive.co.uk
Interview conducted at Hotel Indigo, Birmingham, by kind permission of the management