Norman Lovett takes Red Dwarf's male Holly offline
The funniest talking computer British comedy has seen is now finally, officially off-screen.
Comedian Norman Lovett has pulled the plug on Holly, the dead-pan virtual companion from classic sitcom Red Dwarf. But where does a man boldly go once he's already navigated the vastness of space?
How about Deptford?
Norman will re-acquaint himself with one of his early gig venues next Thursday (May 28), when the hang-dog stand-up comedian, actor and writer appears at The Albany Theatre.
He said: "It's been at least 25 years since I performed there early in my career, so it's going to be nice to go back.
"I'm going to be doing what I've been doing for 30 years - going out in front of an audience, making them laugh and enjoying it myself.
"Red Dwarf is the thing I'm known for and I don't regret it. There were some smashing jokes that still stand up today.
"To be known as Holly the talking computer is very good, but I hope to leave more than that when I go. Hopefully something to do with acting, and something I've written myself. But I'm going to keep plodding on."
Norman appeared as Holly in the first two series of the space-travelling cult show in the late-eighties, was replaced by a female alter-ego for a few years, and returned in series seven.
He's now called time on this incarnation after a fall-out before the filming of new series Back To Earth, which aired last month.
He said: "Last year, I was told I was doing something and to put aside some dates for January and February.
"I asked them to let me know before Christmas, but no one got in touch. They eventually told me the script had arrived and I wasn't in it. They must have known before that.
"When I watched it, I was glad I wasn't in it. I thought it just wasn't funny.
"In my heart, I wanted it to do well, and they'd made such as fuss about it and the new cameras with high definition. I thought 'Stop going on about that. Will it have a heartbeat? Will it have a soul?'
"I thought Craig was the best. His acting has come along a lot since he's been in Coronation Street. The rest I thought were going through the motions. Back to Earth? They want to go back to reality and back to basics.
"I said I'd never be working for them again. It's just not worth it.
"There was the movie in 2001 and the messing around that went with that as well.
"Star Trek has managed to knock out a brilliant movie, but Red Dwarf can't get their act together and sort one out."
While Norman is best known for his comedy acting, he's also dabbled in voice overs, TV writing, corporate speaking and radio since entering the stand-up circuit in his thirties during the '70s punk era.
He even supported The Clash at a gig in Derby, before getting a lift back to London with a roadie.
He said: "The fans were all very nice to me. It was a fantastic night.
"In many ways, I started because there was a movement going on which was anti the old comics. It was a lot of rubbish, because a comedian is a comedian."
The comedy world is full of snappy quip-merchants, but Norman prefers a slower pace.
He said: "If I want to talk about pairing up my socks, and what happens to those socks when they go in the washing machine, I'll do that.
"Someone told me I have funny bones. I can't be very quick on my feet. I just chat to the audience.
"If I went on Have I Got News for You I'd be completely lost. I might get a laugh but I don't know whether they'd keep it in the show.
"I was on Just a Minute once on Radio Four and I was alright on that. I think I spoke about Lidls a lot."
Norman may be a different sort of funnyman, but he bristles at the suggestion that comedy isn't what it used to be.
He said: "What amazes me is that people like that bloke that wrote Birds of a Feather and John Cleese have been saying there's no good comedy now like there was in the past.
"It wasn't all that brilliant. Some of it has dated and it looks terrible.
"To say there's no good comedy now is unfair. I thought The Office was hilarious and The IT Crowd was funny. It's much harder now with reality TV shows and there's less time and attention given to young writers.
"These people should just watch themselves."
Norman is scaling back his stand-up commitments to concentrate on writing. He is working on scripts for TV, and is throwing himself into his autobiography.
He said: "I've got quite a few 1,000 words down on my laptop, but I don't know whether the lawyers will need to be involved because I'm a very honest person and I say what I think."
Norman Lovett is performing at the Albany on Thursday May 28 from 8pm. Tickets cost £8 in advance or £10 on the door. Call 0208 692 4446 or go to thealbany.org.uk. His live Bags and Biscuits DVD is out now.