People often suggest that you have to be brave or barmy or both to try stand-up, but a lot of top gags are made by Cowards. And we're not talking about the criminally undervalued noughties sketch troupe featuring Tim Key and Tom Basden. Although we should talk about them more, come to think of it.
No, today we're talking to the midlands-based mirthmeister Tony Cowards. If you haven't caught Tony in person before, you've almost certainly seen his one-liners retweeted, if you're a Twitter type. Or you've probably heard some of his witticisms emerging from the mouths of others (hopefully with his permission) - the man is an absolute font of fine puns.
Indeed, his shows often end up with a section in which he improvises gags based on audience suggestions. Now that is brave and barmy.
Also a risky business is taking a show to the Edinburgh Fringe - but he's doing it. There's a theme, too. "My show is called Stepdad Jokes," says Cowards. "It's a mixture of what some people might call 'dad jokes,' and gags about my experiences of being a stepdad. And family life."
Fertile ground indeed. Now let's nip back to the noughties, and the birth of his comedy career.
My first ever gig was 31st October 2003 at the Manchester Dancehouse theatre and was at an event called Stand Up 150, which was a charity gig attempting to break the World Record for the number of comedians performing at one show.
I shouldn't really have done it as the stipulation was for comedians who'd performed at least two gigs previously. Each act only had to do two minutes and I just remember mumbling through my material, perhaps getting a couple of laughs and then that was it.
I guess there were a couple of hundred people in the audience and in the end 127 acts performed including Jason Cook (from BBC Two's Hebburn), Gavin Webster, Susan Murray and a host of acts who are still on the circuit.
Favourite show, ever?
I think, if pressed, I would say a charity gig I did at the Bloomsbury Theatre where I was easily the least experienced act on a bill that included John Bishop, Stewart Lee, Shappi Khorsandi, Al Murray and Rob Deering. In such esteemed company I totally held my own and had the capacity audience laughing at everything I said.
At a certain well-known holiday camp in Minehead. I was booked to do 45 minutes when I barely had a decent 20. I was warned that there would be kids in the audience but was totally unprepared for hundreds of toddlers running across the front of the stage as their parents sat drinking themselves into oblivion.
I did okay for about 10 minutes but after that it went downhill spectacularly and I soon had 2,000 people booing, heckling and generally being quite vocal about how they'd quite like me to leave the stage. For some reason rather than exit stage left I decided to dig in and battle it out, this continued for a few minutes until a red coat decided, probably in the interests of safety and preventing a riot, to put an arm around my shoulder and gently but firmly guide me off stage.
Mysteriously my two future bookings at their sister camp in Skegness were cancelled immediately. After the gig I sat in my car not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Even to this day, quite a few years later, whenever I drive down the M5 and see the sign for Minehead it sends a shiver down my spine.
Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?
Ooh, that's a toughie. I guess my friend Dave - who set up a comedy night in North London called The Comedians' Graveyard - was influential in getting me started. Without his influence and encouragement I don't think I'd have ever set foot on stage.
And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
Luckily there's not been too many, although I do remember a Canadian comedian almost reducing an audience - which was mostly made up of a hen party - to tears by viciously ripping into them, seemingly without any semblance of trying to be funny. He was just incredibly angry and was determined to take it out on the audience.
Is there one gag you loved, which audiences inexplicably didn't?
Plenty. The current one that I keep trying, in various forms, but cannot make work is "I wish I had a pound for every time I've found a stray dog".
How did that improvised-jokes bit in your sets come about?
It sprang up from something I used to do on Twitter to encourage the creative juices, I would ask people for a subject and then I'd write them a "bespoke joke". I then started to do it at live shows, often with mixed results, but like anything the more you do it the better you get at it.
If a gig is going well or I feel that the energy is right I'll try it and usually it'll get a great reaction, as I think audiences like the spontaneity of it and the potential for it to fall flat. I think it's the comedic equivalent of walking the high wire without a safety net.
What's the most interesting Twitter response to one of your gags?
I once did a joke about Jaffa Cakes which was retweeted by McVitie's. They then contacted me by DM and sent me four packets as a sign of appreciation.
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
Like most comedians my career is fairly chaotic, so one day I'll be doing a black tie corporate gig for architects at the Guildhall in London, and the next I'll be performing in shorts and t-shirt for a tent full of festival goers in the middle of a farmer's field somewhere in Dorset.
As well as doing the many varied gigs on the circuit, I also write with other comics for their TV, radio and touring shows, run comedy workshops for teenagers, write jokes for advertising campaigns and a multitude of other weird, wonderful and exciting things.
I never dreamed that I would be doing any of this for a living so I'm very happy although, like everyone, there are always new challenges to be attempted and, hopefully, conquered.