He doesn’t drink, rarely eats after 6pm and approaches every joke as if he were solving a puzzle. But for all his discipline, does Jimmy Carr sometimes go too far?

Sitting opposite me in a dimly lit bar in north London is a 39-year-old comedian whose appearance – black hair, black eyes, black top – seems to reflect his humour. Combined with his baby face, he reckons, this impression of blackness makes him look like a “Lego Hitler”. And it amuses him to tell people that when his girlfriend Karoline Copping, a television producer, first met him 10 years ago, she thought he had “the eyes of a rapist”.

The eyes may be one reason why passers-by give Jimmy Carr a double take, but more likely it is to do with his ubiquity – from guest appearances on BBC shows such as QI and Have I Got News For You to the shows he hosts on Channel 4: 8 Out of 10 Cats and 10 O’Clock Live. That and the constant touring he does of his live show. He tells me he has developed a comedy wiggle of his black eyebrows as a way of acknowledging fans who stare at him, without having to actually stop for a chat when he is trying to catch a train or get to a meeting.

“You never want to be the grumpy guy, although I do have quite a grumpy face,” he says. “So I raise my eyebrows like this.” He demonstrates. “I learned it from Jim Carrey 20 years ago when I was working as an intern in LA. I found myself in a lift with him and said: ‘You’re…’ and he did a perfect Mexican wave with his eyebrows.” Pause. “Then the lift door opened.” Carr tells anecdotes almost as succinctly as he tells jokes, talking quickly and using the f-word in the casual way that others use dashes and semi colons. “I like to write a joke without any fat on it,” he says. “The shorter the better. I cater for people with ADD, basically.”

He certainly employs a lot of these short jokes in his live shows. There are always 300 in a set. One from his new DVD gives a flavour of his comic voice. “The first few weeks of joining Weight Watchers, you’re just finding your feet.” As well as speaking quickly, Carr does something else which I didn’t notice him doing when I last interviewed him six years ago. He laughs easily, a double beat that fades away into an upper register: Ha-haaah! “Yes, I have this crazy honk of a laugh,” he says. “I started out deliberately deadpan, but now I do laugh more. When I look back at my old DVDs, I seem quite uptight.”

Certainly he seems happier; more comfortable in his own skin. Not worried about turning 40 next year, then? “No, I’m fine with it. I think I had my midlife crisis when I was 26. People are having them earlier. It’s to do with life speeding up. Now, I’m paid to have funny thoughts, which was all I ever wanted.” His meltdown came after he graduated from Cambridge and drifted into a job in marketing that he loathed. He gave up work, had therapy, renounced his Catholicism, lost his virginity and decided to become a comedian. “I was very secretive. I didn’t let anyone know I was doing it for the first six months. No friends and family coming along.’’ Can he remember any of his early jokes? “Um, yeah, there was this one where I said: You hear about boxers saying ‘I’m from the ghetto and there was only one way out’. Well, I was from the middle class. I lived in a cul-de-sac. There was only one way out.”

His background was indeed middle class. His father, from whom he is now estranged, was an accountant in Slough. His parents separated in 1994 and his mother died in 2001 from pancreatitis, a loss which affected him deeply.

Has he no need for therapy now? “This is my free therapy, talking about myself to you. I’m in a pretty good mood most of the time. Get a bit grumpy sometimes. But you can’t stay grumpy when you have to think of jokes each day. Joke mining.” It occurs to me that this “mining for jokes” may still be a form of therapy. At 26, he found something that chased away his black dogs. Since then, not a day has gone by that he hasn’t thought up a joke with which to do some more chasing. Indeed, he comes up with so many, usually as he is reading the papers, that he cannot help feeding them to his million-and-a-half followers on Twitter.

Doesn’t he worry that he’s squandering material? “It’s more I worry that someone will read my throwaway jokes on Twitter and think this guy isn’t as good as he used to be. If that’s the case, I want to tell them: ‘No. This is the stuff I’m throwing away. This isn’t my A material.’”

Although he has a reputation for performing jokes that can cause offence, Carr doesn’t regard his material as being gratuitously offensive. They may ostensibly be “about” rape, or paedophilia, or incest, or obesity, but, to him, the jokes are simply “about” jokes, to the point where the subject is almost abstract in his imagination.

A good example of the dangers of this approach came when he was branded “sick” by Twitter users, after tweeting a joke about a car crash just 48 hours after last month’s M5 pile up in which seven people were killed. The comic had tweeted: “A couple married for 66 years died within 3 days of each other. That’s nothing. My grandparents died on exactly the same day… car crash.” Perhaps more worryingly, he doesn’t seem to believe that people might be genuinely affronted. “I always wonder, were you really offended by that? Really? People tend to be offended on behalf of other people. I think generally people are pretty bright and they get that something is a joke and that is all it is.”

But what about the people who aren’t offended? Does he ever worry that they ought to be, just a little, if their moral compass is functioning properly? “No. Gallows humour has always been around because it’s the way that we deal with difficult taboo situations, with death and sex and things you don’t want to have to talk about head on.

“So the dark side seems like a very natural place for comedy to live. It’s difficult to come up with funny jokes about taking the dog for a walk on a sunny day… you don’t need to lighten that load. But if someone’s dying, that’s where comedy tends to occur.”

It’s an unexpectedly thoughtful answer given how cavalier Carr can seem on this topic. Black comedy saved him from his own darkest thoughts, he seems to be saying, so it might help others. In his live shows he plays to huge audiences. Presumably, though, they’re not all middle class graduates with a keen sense of postmodern irony.

Indeed, he tells me there is often a distinctive “Saturday night crowd”, which can be “quite in your face”, and which is different from the more “theatrical” Sunday night crowd. Is he ever concerned that some of the Saturday nighters might not appreciate that he is being ironic? That they are supposed to be laughing with him about the nature of prejudice, not at the victims of rape, or racism? “It will sound like I’m being overly protective of my audience, but I meet people after the show, signing autographs for them, and they’re all different ages, creeds, colours and backgrounds. The thing they have in common is a sense of humour.”

Isn’t that wishful thinking? “No. If there’s a woman in her seventies in my audience I know that there’s no point worrying that this material might be a bit rude for her. She’s fine.” Nevertheless, Carr has aroused anger in the past, in response to jokes he told about British army amputees and another (which occasioned the BBC to offer an apology) about gipsies. Over the last couple of years, however, it is Carr’s fellow comedian, Frankie Boyle, who has provoked thousands of complaints, over jokes he has told about Down’s syndrome, the Queen’s sex life and Rebecca Adlington’s nose, the last of which led to another BBC apology.

Is Carr slightly relieved that Boyle now appears to be taking all the heat previously directed at him? “Saw Frankie on Saturday for lunch when I was in Glasgow. He’s doing his thing…”

I suppose the context for this change of public mood was “Sachsgate”, the incident involving Jonathan Ross, Russell Brand and a notorious phone call. Have comedians had to become more circumspect? “Well, I’m very lucky working with Channel 4, but even when I’ve been working for the BBC they’ve been supportive and have said ‘Say what you want, we aren’t going to try and stop you.’” His defence seems to be that he and Boyle never offer an opinion one way or the other when they’re telling their controversial jokes. But did he offer Boyle any advice on how to deal with the fallout? “I don’t think he’s looking for solace, but I said to him, ‘OK, it was a joke, wasn’t it?’ There was no agenda. The media is partly to blame because they over-analyse and ask what point the comedian is making with that joke.”

That’s hardly fair. There are lots of comedians with political agendas, from Ben Elton onwards. “Yes, he did do some Labour rallies and was a brilliant and influential stand-up. But the idea that people might ask this Frankie Boyle, or this Jimmy Carr, who they should vote for.” He holds up his hands in exasperation. “No! We just want you to laugh and if you don’t find it funny, please leave, because it’s not for you.” Just out of curiosity, why is it, does he suppose, that all comedians on Channel 4 and Radio 4 are left wing? Take his co-hosts on the 10 O’Clock Show, David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker. Left of Lenin, the pair of them.

“Yes, on that show we are left-leaning and liberal but we do try and get beyond the paradigm of a two party system.” He shakes his head. “Even talking to you I’m embarrassed because why am I talking to the Telegraph about politics? There are a million more interesting people you could talk to about politics than me.” He read politics at university, though. Did he ever consider becoming a politician himself? “Not really. I was chatting to Eddie Izzard about this recently. He’s talking about running for mayor and I said I don’t understand it. Why would you go from having the best job in the world to the worst? Do you really want to spend your time organising barricades that will prevent Christmas shoppers from slipping on the pavement?”

I ask what gives him pleasure, apart from thinking of jokes. “Play a bit of tennis.” Who does he play with? He hesitates and grins. “Ah no, that would be a bit name-droppy…” (I Google “Jimmy Carr” and “tennis” later and see that his partner is Jonathan Ross.)

Another difference between Carr now and when we last met is that there’s less of him. “I know, I’m thinking of writing a diet book. Its title will be ‘Put That Down, Fatty’.” (His secret, he says, is hardly ever eating after 6pm). Carr doesn’t drink, either, but he is, he says, a caffeine fiend. “I’m a devotee of Starbucks. I’ve had three ventis today. People knock global brands but when you pull into Kings Lynn and see a Starbucks, you feel so relieved.” Doesn’t he get sick of spending so much time on tour, living in hotels? “On the contrary, they’re a home from home. Last month I spent more nights in the Manchester Malmaison than I did at home.” And his girlfriend is happy about this? “I think she’s been very patient, but I do think my work-life balance has been crap. But when you’re self-employed, you take the work when it’s there.”

I wonder if, after 10 years on the road, he couldn’t now afford to slow it down a bit? “Actually, I only work two hours a day. People give themselves years off in showbusiness, that doesn’t happen in any other job. You never meet a plumber who says I’ve been plumbing for five years and thought I’d have a year off.” When pressed he eventually reveals what really drives him: a desperate need to be loved by his audience. “A great comic is loved and I’m not a great comic. But I aim to be. I’ll work on it. I’ll put the hours in. God knows, if it can be done through sweat, I’ll do it.”


James Blunt

It could be the homes around the world; his military bearing; or that he’s our biggest musical export since Elton. For whatever reason, being called annoying, a philanderer or – worse – middle class doesn’t exactly keep James Hillier Blount awake at night. Nigel Farndale met him

It’s not the sight of the groupies that haunts me, but the sound, or rather the absence of sound, as they ghost past us on their way up the stairs to the dressing-room. It takes me a moment to figure out that the reason they aren’t talking to each other is that they don’t know each other. One of the band members, the keyboard player, I think, has picked them from the audience on the basis of their looks. Half-a-dozen of them, all in their late teens and early twenties, and all, surprisingly, in pretty frocks, as if they were going to a Sunday school meeting. They have been separated from their friends like lambs weaned from their mothers. The silence of the lambs.

The ‘us’ they are filing past is James Blunt and me. He has a bottle of beer in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and not a hair in place – tousled just so, like a Renaissance painting of John the Baptist – but they don’t realise it’s him because he has changed out of the suit he was wearing on stage and is now in jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, as well as a pink feather boa and star-shaped novelty sunglasses. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is the end of the day; we need to go back to the start, well, to the middle, when the seats are empty and the Texan sun is at its most unforgiving.

A barefoot and unshaven Blunt is wearing normal sunglasses and shorts as he plays his piano, strums his guitar and sings his plaintive songs into the microphone for the sound check, all the while looking out with his soulful eyes over an empty, open-air arena in Houston. At 5ft 7in, he’s not a tall man, but he has presence and an unaffected manner – a certain maturity, too, one that you wouldn’t normally associate with a pop star in the ascendant.

But then he is 34 and this is his second career, his first being as an officer in the Household Cavalry. He joined after graduating from Bristol University with a degree in sociology. He became a champion skier for the Army and not only saw active service in Kosovo, but also guarded the Queen Mother’s coffin when she was lying in state.

Tonight he will be supporting Sheryl Crow, though, since his second album ‘All the Lost Souls’ and the single from it, ‘1973’, went straight to number one in America, he is arguably the bigger act these days. Indeed, not since Elton John has there been a more successful British singer-songwriter in the States.

His first album, ‘Back to Bedlam’, also went to number one over here, as it did in 18 other countries, making it the biggest-selling album of the millennium. It even entered the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest-selling album in one year. But it was his first single that really put him on the map. You’re Beautiful became the sound of that summer. It was everywhere, and still is – having become a favourite at weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs. I even heard a brass band playing it at an agricultural show in the Yorkshire Dales this summer.

As well as millions of sales, James Blunt has won Brit awards, Ivor Novello awards, MTV awards and various Grammy nominations. In terms of credibility, he’s headlined at Glastonbury and won the respect of the world-weary music press. Yet not everyone loves him, as he points out when we get something to eat in the canteen area back stage.

‘After Back to Bedlam really started selling,’ he says, ‘there was this sudden aggression towards me in the UK, for whatever reason, and that focused my mind, made it clear to me what I was doing and why I wanted to do it. I write songs for myself. I don’t write them for you, or for anyone else, I write them because I have experiences that I need to process. I don’t have the answers all the time, but I do have lots of questions, and I express them in the songs I write.’

He is, I think, alluding to a poll last year of ‘the most annoying things in life’, which put him at number four, just behind cold-callers and queue-jumpers. ‘I haven’t met anyone who voted in the poll, have you?’ he says when I mention this. ‘That poll probably came from a website that was after some publicity. You and I could do the same poll very quickly right now and it would count as a poll. We could do one about annoying newspapers, for example. I promise the Sunday Telegraph wouldn’t be in my list. My parents take it.’

His father, a retired colonel in the Army Air Corps, manages his son’s finances. His mother arranged the purchase of his six-bedroom villa in Ibiza (he also has a chalet in Verbier and recently bought a place in Chelsea). ‘I’m not married,’ he says, ‘and so the support structure in my life is my parents. I’m closer to them now than I have ever been.’

He certainly isn’t married, as the photographs of him emerging from nightclubs with various high-profile women on his arm attest. Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was probably the best known socialite, Jessica Sutta, of the Pussycat Dolls, the most glamorous. He also seems to be photographed regularly cavorting on beaches with bikini-clad models such as Petra Nemcova, whom he dated and then dumped – unceremonious dumping being his way of ending relationships, according to the tabloids. He once said he found himself in a swimming pool in LA with nine naked women. ‘I was the only bloke. It was the only time I wished my mates were there, purely to spectate. I had arrived. It was a moment.’

Now he says of the tabloid interest in his peripatetic love life: ‘Last week I went to my home in Ibiza and was photographed by the paparazzi in my swimming trunks with girls. What is the point of that? I’m not that bothered, but maybe the media should be concentrating more on global warming or the Russian invasion of Georgia.

‘Looking at me in my swimming trunks is not a great sight. It’s a waste of time. There generally is a long lens pointing at me wherever I go, these days. I’m comfortable with it. I appreciate how things work. But my record label said something about my always being photographed coming out of nightclubs and I thought, “But this is what I do. I was doing it before the second album came out, so what is different now? You didn’t tell me to stop then.” I’m not going to change my life because of these people. I don’t see why I should.’

His label also gets him to dye his grey hairs and be enigmatic about his love life, which is an old tactic dating back to the Beatles – they had to pretend they didn’t have wives and girlfriends so that fans could fantasise they were in with a chance.

Actually, at the time of going to press, Blunt seems to be going out again with one of his old flames, Verity Evetts, an Oxford-educated barrister. He has also stayed friendly with some of his other exes, the socialites at least. He told one – an ex who got married not long ago – that he doesn’t feel ‘centred’ at the moment and would like to get married as well. Then again, he also said that he never tires of singing You’re Beautiful night after night because it gets him laid night after night.

Either way, he tells me he has grown used to the idea that his mother will probably find out from the papers what he has been up to, and with whom, before he has had a chance to tell her. ‘And my [two] sisters are quick to email me about things in the papers, laughing their heads off. I get healthy, ritual abuse from them, and give it back myself.’

As we are talking, I can’t decide whether the way Blunt smiles all the time is disarming or disturbing. He’s like a victim of a religious cult, smiling at the beginning of the sentence and at the end. I guess he has a lot to smile about, but also I sense a great deal of insecurity to disguise.

Then, I’m distracted by the sight of Sheryl Crow playing table tennis across the room. She has been holding her adopted son in one arm as she bats with the other, and now, even more distractingly, she is heading straight for us. ‘Are we going to have one of our little conversations on stage again tonight, James?’ she says. ‘That flirting thing. I think it worked well last night.’

They discuss the duet they will sing – a cover of Cat Stevens’s The First Cut is the Deepest – then we both watch her shimmy away, her blonde curls bobbing. ‘She’s very down to earth,’ he says. ‘I’d met her a couple of times, which was why she asked me on this tour. We do end up playing a lot of table tennis on the road. We’ve done 117 shows so far this year, in 117 cities, and there are a lot of hours to fill in the day.’

As he sleeps on his tour bus with his band, one city tends to blur into another. When I joke that he is in Cincinnati now, he looks genuinely confused. ‘No, this is?… Oh, right. Actually, I always get the tour manager to say where we are just as I’m going on stage. I still managed to get it wrong the other night, saying “Hello Dallas” when I meant Austin. I’m surprised I got out alive.’

He is funny on the subjects of things that go wrong. ‘People are normally surprised by my show, which is more energetic than you might think. Jumping on the piano. Jumping out into the audience and running up and down the aisle high-fiving them. But going off the stage can be quite dangerous. I broke my finger once. My legs carried on when I jumped off, and I smacked down on the ground. The spotlight was on me, and when I got back to the piano I hit the wrong note and thought, “Why did I do that?” And I looked down and saw it was because my finger was broken, sticking out an angle. Look,’ he says holding it up. ‘It’s still crooked.’

On another occasion, in Chicago, he jumped 8ft off the stage. ‘When I began running to the audience, a security guard stuck his arm out and I thought, “Does he want a hug?” Then next thing I know he’s rugby-tackled me. He wouldn’t release me and I was screaming in his ear, “I’m the f—ing singer.” I had to wait for the other guards to pull him off.’

I would have thought Blunt’s training in unarmed combat would have helped. I presume he still works out. ‘No, never. Couldn’t handle it. Too boring. I am a hyperactive person though.’ He likes an adrenaline rush, as well, having recently bought an 1100cc Moto Guzzi V11 Sport motorbike. There’s also the skiing, which he still does, and the riding. Actually, he tells me, he never really liked horses before joining the Life Guards. So why did he join that particular regiment?

‘Well, it is a reconnaissance regiment.’ But they are all so tall in the Life Guards, did that not make him self-conscious? ‘Some are. The Foot Guards tend to be taller regiments, though. The Life Guards take a few shrimps, as well. Besides, they are on horses, so height isn’t so important. Also being in that regiment had the benefit of being in Knightsbridge. I got a chance to be in London and meet people in the music scene.’ And groupies, as it happens.

As he paraded up and down the Mall in plumed helmet and shiny breastplate, girls would stick their phone numbers down his knee-length boots. But it was his time in Kosovo that really made girls swoon. He used to strap his guitar to the outside of his tank, because there wasn’t room for it inside. He had learnt to play the violin at five, the piano at seven and the guitar at 14, while a pupil at Harrow.

He writes his songs on piano and guitar. ‘But mainly guitar because it is easier to carry around. It’s like a child messing around with a toy. If a tune comes to me I don’t record it instantly. I think if I remember it, then it must be worth remembering, and if I forget it, then it was forgettable.’

Does he have any anxiety dreams about forgetting lines or chords? ‘Not yet. Perhaps I will tonight. Perhaps you’ve jinxed me. But audiences aren’t judgmental, and if things go wrong and you can look them in the eye, that is fine. The only people who are judgmental are the journalists. I will be conscious of you being there in the audience judging me.’

Blimey. Sorry about that. Is it true he signs breasts? ‘Not that I remember. Not that I’m fussy what I sign. A lot of men started coming to the shows after I appeared on Top Gear last year. That was such fun. I spun the car five times. I thought I might as well make the most of it. I am competitive.’

He recorded one of the fastest laps, but I’m surprised blokes didn’t think him manly before that, given his tour of duty in Kosovo. ‘It’s because I sing songs that are heart-on-your-sleeve and therefore I must be overly emotional. Nothing I can do about it. I could pose more, but I am comfortable with my masculinity.’

He has said that his lyrics are autobiographical, in which case, are we to assume that the lyric on his new album, ‘I killed a man in a far away land’, means he killed a man in a far away land? I only ask because in the past he has said that he would never try to exploit what he went through, what he saw. ‘You should ask any soldier how many lives he has saved. How they do it is no one else’s business. What I took from my experience in Kosovo is that you are told from one day to the next who your enemy is and it keeps changing. That’s what is happening in Iraq, too. I believe in looking people in the eye, looking for the common humanity.’

He is a great believer in looking people in the eye. He will use the phrase again later and it seems to reveal a Christ complex, or a John the Baptist one. That direct and challenging stare of his. It would also explain the hair.

It is time for him do some photographs before he goes on stage and, endearingly, he says he is ‘not fussed’ about the grooming he is offered before they are taken.

On stage his features contort with passion when he sings. The big video screen goes in tight on his face. His voice is by turns soft and tremulous and forceful, but always high. Having seen him in concert once before, a couple of years ago, I notice the tone of his banter has changed.

‘Wow it’s hot tonight,’ he says now. ‘I’m surprised any of you are wearing any clothes. We could all take them off and get friendly.’ It is suggestive, designed to get the teenage girls in the audience screaming. Before he used to joke about his ‘girlie voice’ and taking helium to get it that way, and being ‘a bit wet’ and the ‘housewives’ favourite’. I think now he has realised that, actually, he is a proper musician, a popular one, too, and that he doesn’t need to apologise for it.

Afterwards, back in the dressing-room, he strips to the waist as he talks because he wants to take a shower before going back on to do his duet with Sheryl Crow. ‘Things got a bit hairy out there when I jumped into the crowd,’ he says. ‘Did you see that? Some thought it was some kind of sport to grab me.’

I watch his duet from the side of the stage and notice he whispers something in Sheryl Crow’s ear and then she starts running her hands over his trousers suggestively, patting them. Afterwards, I ask what he said. ‘”Is now a good time to ask for your phone number?” She was checking my pockets, pretending to look for a pen.’

He shows me round the gold-coloured tour bus where he will be sleeping tonight as they drive to their next gig in Dallas. It is full of hi-tech equipment and is nicely air-conditioned but there isn’t much space in the bunks. ‘We do live in close proximity,’ he says. ‘Some of us stay up late. This is the crew end, they have to get up early.’

Where do the groupies go? ‘Never have groupies on here. Never. They’d only get in if we invited them in. But we’d only ever invite friends in.’

Does he sleep OK? I heard he has to take sleeping pills. ‘It is a bit of a rough sleep, but better than a hotel and taking planes all the time because you have to get to the airport two hours early, which is miserable. Then your flight gets delayed.’

He is drinking champagne from a plastic cup. ‘This is for your benefit,’ he says. ‘The tour management went out and bought a bottle of champagne because he thought I should be seen drinking it. Better for my image. Isn’t that sweet? Normally, we drink vodka and beer. In fact, I think I’d rather have a beer, now. Want one?’ He opens a well-stocked fridge then takes me to the back of the bus where there is some seating space. He has one small case which he pulls out from a cupboard. It continues a few pairs of socks, T-shirts and a spare pair of jeans. No photographs or mementos. ‘This is all I have for 14 months on the road,’ he says. ‘I’m not known for style.’

Does he know how much he is worth? ‘No I don’t, not very interested in it to be honest. I travel with hand luggage only. That is why I always seem to be wearing the same clothes in photographs. If a tabloid says my clothes aren’t fashionable or my hair looks stupid, I really don’t worry about it. Don’t have any hair gel.’

In London, he takes the Tube or the bus. He prefers pubs to restaurants. When he goes to Ibiza, he flies easyJet. Still, that’s at home. Presumably on the road he can afford to be more self-indulgent.

Another lyric that we can only assume is autobiographical is ‘I’ve taken a s—load of drugs’. It is. Though his only comment on the subject is that he has ‘a comfortable relationship with drugs’. His relationship with fame is less comfortable. Oscar Wilde said there were two forms of tragedy: not getting what you want, and getting it. Is that how it felt for him when he went to number one? ‘Actually, I don’t think I had been dreaming about it. Certainly, I hadn’t anticipated being so recognisable so quickly.

‘I do remember getting a phone call from the record company, who said both the single and the album have gone to number one, and thinking, “S—, this is not what I expected.” I hadn’t prepared myself for it. Number two is great. Number two is nice. I sensed then it would mean having to change from being a musician to being a celebrity and that that would be a change for the worse. Fame doesn’t affect me, but it does affect everyone else around me. As for celebrity, it is the worst invention of the modern world. Gossip columns treat your life as if it were a cartoon. Relationships reduced to cartoons.’

Although there are other public-school bands around at the moment – Radiohead, Coldplay – Blunt seems to have suffered more than most from a perception that he is too posh to be credible. His family name is Blount (and his middle name Hillier), but he changed it to Blunt to sound, well, blunter and more proletarian.

When he tells me he would nevertheless still send a son of his to Harrow – ‘I think I would. I think I would. Public schools make individuals rather than sheep’ – I ask what he makes of the mood change now that the old Etonian David Cameron has made it OK to be posh. ‘Is it? I must come back to Britain immediately. Is it really safe to come back?

‘It’s not a dirty word to be posh, people come up to me and no one gives a damn if I’m posh. It’s about having a normal conversation and looking people in the eye.’

We head back to the dressing-room where he puts on his feather boa and novelty sunglasses then we wander back downstairs to have a word with Sheryl Crow, who is signing autographs. This is the moment at which the keyboard player says: ‘This way to the good-time room girls’ and the silent groupies dutifully appear.