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Michael Pennington better known as Johnny Vegas dropped by Ideal World’s studios in Peterborough and ESP’s Mikey Clarke grabbed a word…

From Mr Stink to Benidorm and the PG Tips ads to multiple panel-show performances, ‘Johnny Vegas’ as we know him has become one of Britain’s best-loved comic actors.

I had the pleasure of chatting to Johnny during his recent visit to Ideal World – the Peterborough based television shopping channel. I asked him what the visit was in aid of. “I’m looking for a remote control car,” he joked. “I’m mainly here to discuss my book ‘Becoming Johnny Vegas’. I’m also here to have some fun. I may try my hand at selling some other bits and bobs too.”

For those confused by the book title, Johnny Vegas is just a character. The comedy legend’s real name is actually Michael Pennington. I wondered what name I should refer to him as. “My family call me Michael. My wife calls me Johnny or Michael if I’m in trouble. I’d say right now you’re talking to Michael Pennington.

“You know I’m being Michael because the set behind me is still standing and there’s nobody blowing a whistle, calling out for security. Seriously though, I’m actually a mellow guy. Johnny is the opposite to me – very shouty and in your face.”

With the television star soon to be promoting his book for Ideal World, I gave him the opportunity to practice in front of the ESP camera. He explained, “People should buy my book because my outgoings are a lot more than anyone else that has a book out this Christmas. Their houses are most likely already paid for and their kids have shoes. My kids don’t have shoes and people frown when I take them to school. Other than that I think it’s a fascinating read and the reviews have been amazing. It’s more than your average stocking filler and autobiography. As well as there being jokes in the book it’s also a serious look at the development of my alter-ego. It explains how Johnny Vegas took over and pushed Michael Pennington out of the picture.”

Having done a little research before my interview, I was amazed to see that at one point he was training to be a priest. How does somebody go from being so religious to being Johnny Vegas? “I was at Catholic School for four terms at the age of eleven. There was a bit of a stigma with kids at other schools commenting on how I was going to be a Priest. I became a bit of a loner, and that’s when Johnny Vegas started to emerge. He was like my imaginary friend. I won’t go into too much detail because I don’t want to get sectioned…! With Johnny Vegas I found stand-up comedy.”

Michael Pennington is to star in one of this Christmas’ most anticipated shows. Still Open All Hours is set in a tiny corner shop. It sees David Jason return as former grocery boy, Granville, who has taken over the shop which was once owned by his uncle Arkwright, who was played by the late Ronnie Barker.

What was it like working on such an iconic show? “Amazing,” he said. “We were filming in Doncaster just the other day. Being with David Jason and being outside the shop gave me goosebumps. I was a bit nervous at first being part of the show because it’s such a national treasure. The script is amazing. It’s by the original writer and he’s really kept the tone of the show the same as before.”

And finally, how could I not ask about Monkey. I joked that I had been speaking to Monkey earlier in the day and that he wanted to know why Pennington hadn’t been returning his calls. Being the witty man that he is, he replied – “He’s got his own book out so things have got personal.”

Signed ‘Becoming Johnny Vegas’ Hardback Books are currently available to order from the Ideal World website. Visit

Check out the full interview in our video below.

Mikey Clarke

Photos: Chris Brduenell for ESP Magazine.  Video production: Lorenzo Monteforte for ESP Magazine [youtube id=”EGXEwBsm7lk” width=”600″ height=”350″]

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