From unemployed wannabe musician to so-called 'idle rich' English gent.

Robert Webb's most famous character is quite different from the one currently taking him on a tour of UK theatres.

Although one critic at least seems puzzled by his ability to switch roles from Peep Show's miserable, sarcastic Jeremy to P.G Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster in the current tour of Perfect Nonsense.

"I did the show in the West End for three months last year, and a reviewer said 'surprisingly, he chooses not to play Bertie Wooster like the petulant character in Peepshow.'

"I thought 'What?  What are you talking about?  That annoyed me," he says, "I thought it was dumb.  I suppose the implication is that's all I'm good for, which is fine in a way, because it's a great part and I've been very lucky to be associated with such a great show.

"But obviously, you do get a bit frustrated when people express surprise that you can do more than one thing."

As it happens, Webb has plenty more strings to his bow.  Together with David Mitchell, his partner in the funnies, he is the recipient of a BAFTA for his work writing and starring in That Mitchell and Webb look, and he is a comedy panel show regular.

And his outrageously great routine to the Flashdance number What a Feeling is burned into the memory bank. Comic Relief had never been so great.

But in the here and now, Bertie is the boy.

"He is certainly much more cheerful and energetic than some of the stuff I've done before," Robert considers, "He is very lively and spends most of the time either delighted or terrified.  There isn't much in-between.

Harking back to that review, he asks: "How could I turn up as Bertie and start sulking and moping about the place?  He is a completely different character.

"It's a lot of fun, and difficult to play him without a big smile on your face."

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How did the role come about?

" I liked P.G. Wodehouse anyway.  I had read a couple of his books when I was a teenager.  The part had already been created by Stephen Mangan and the original cast and director, and they gave me a ticket to go and see it."

Robert liked what he saw: "They looked like they were having a good time, and it looked like a really fun thing to do."

"The premise is that Bertie has been told he has this great story and should be doing it on the stage, so he thinks 'Why not?'

"But obviously, Bertie has no idea how to put on a theatre show, and so Jeeves, behind the scenes, has made all the scenery and costumes and is going to play all the other characters, along with another butler called Seppings.

"It's a completely dysfunctional two hours trying to tell the show and take part in the action.

"It's sort of a play within a play.  It is a very, very funny dialogue, as well as all the slapstick and the physical stuff of three people trying to put on a play that they can't possibly put on."

Robert is on stage for the whole time, which must be demanding.

"Vocally it is a challenge," he admits, "...talking for two hours.  

"The show keeps me fit, so I don't need to do anything extra, but I do rest my voice - this is the most I am going to talk today," he says, so we're honoured.

"I have lots of water and get lots of rest."

He's an actor to us, but there are two children who know Robert as Daddy.

Being away from them is the downside of the tour.  

"It's the worst part," he admits, "By this time in the week, I have usually had enough of wherever I am and looking forward to getting home."

This tour is the first for Robert in almost a decade, and it's not looking likely that he'll sign up to another anytime soon: "I can't imagine doing another one for a long time," he admits.

Besides, there are other irons in the fire.

Jason Thorpe and Robert Webb in Jeeves and Wooster. Credit Hugo Glendinning

A book for example: "I need to write it.  I haven't got a deal yet and have just started writing it on spec.  It's a funny memoir about masculinity, and boyhood, and how not to be a boy.

"I was very bad at being a boy.  It's an autobiography focusing on all the nonsense of gender.

"It's been bobbing along for about a year and I have a literary agent talking to people, so the ground has been's a long haul and I suppose if anything scares me, it is that I get halfway through it and then realise the structure is all wrong and I have to start again.

"So I am being very careful about making sure it is planned carefully now, so that once I get going, I can really get going."

He fancies tackling some more dramatic parts on the small screen too, and there is a final season of Peep Show to crack.

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"It's being written now, and we'll record it in August or September to go out towards Christmas.

Incredibly, Peep Show has been raising smiles for 12 years.

"Every re-commission came as a surprise and a delight,” Robert says.

"It will be weird stepping onto that set for the last time though, because it such a fun show and I am so proud of it."

"We haven't done it for a couple of years, so we have been living in a post Peep Show world for a little while now anyway, so we know what it's like and it's not that scary. “It turns out people will still give me a job!"

Perfect Nonsense - voted Best new Comedy at the 2014 Olivier Awards - shows at Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday (April 7) to Saturday, April 11.

Jason Thorpe stars as Jeeves, and Christopher Ryan, forever etched into comedy history for his role as Mike in The Young Ones, is  Seppings.

To book call 0844 871 7652 or visit  

Words: Sammy Jones