XTRA Factor host Matt Richardson has become a TV regular of late, but started life (although he's only 22 now) as a stand-up comic. Tony Glynn spoke to him about his rapid rise to fame, replacing Olly Murs and being voted Heat magazine's "weird crush".
AS a young, good-looking sort with the charm and humour required to make him somewhat famous as a television host, it's not unforeseeable that Matt Richardson could turn a few heads. But in a recent poll by Heat, the stand-up-turned Xtra Factor presenter was voted "Weird Crush" of 2014. The question is: what exactly is weird about him? And how does he feel about it?
"That's two questions actually," says a corrective Matt, "and I haven't got all day. I'm an extremely busy man, you know."
And so he is, being in the middle of his Hometown Hero tour which hits the Plough, Torrington tomorrow.
"Oh I'm just fooling around, I'm not that busy at all. Well I am but...well anyway, to answer your question I really don't know why I'm a weird crush to have, but I am definitely proud of it.
"When I heard I'd been nominated I went out of my way to win, I launched a campaign and everything. If you're going to be anything you should be the best, it would be even more embarrassing to come second – can you imagine that?"
Although to be a "weird" crush may not be to everyone's liking, Matt is the epitome of the self-effacing English gent whose likeability is in not taking himself – and perhaps anything else – too seriously.
Although Hometown Hero is only loosely based on his upbringing in Didcot, Oxfordshire (the rest of the show just being a mishmash of jokes and anecdotes about life in general), his description of the townsfolk gives an indication as to why arrogance may have escaped him:
"Didcot is one of those places where people don't boast about where they come from," said Matt, "and they're not easily impressed. I think that's why I talk about everyday stuff, because if I didn't they wouldn't be impressed.
"It's like that with all comedy though, it's about relating to people. I'm just myself on stage, I like to talk a lot. I get nervous, of course I do, but it's just about having a laugh at life."
For Matt, a fear that surpassed stage fright was in getting the gig as the new Xtra Factor host – not least for replacing the popular Olly Murs.
"It was really weird how I got the job," says Matt, "because I didn't feel I'd done that well in the audition. But next minute I was on the show.
"But I felt strange about taking over from Olly because he and Caroline (Flack) got on so well, it was like splitting up a couple or something."
But Matt and his madcap antics have fitted right in with the show, and the on-screen chemistry with Caroline is tangible. In terms of his career, the show has thrust him into the limelight – earning him invitations to TV hits such as Sweat The Small Stuff, Celebrity Juice and Never Mind The Buzzcocks.
But also – and this is no small victory – the Xtra Factor has given his stand-up career a tremendous boost. After dropping out of Oxford Brookes University to pursue his career, his family understandably thought him a tad mad.
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the result of Matt's efforts is evident in Hometown Hero – which originally toured in 2012 – being resurrected this year.
Yet Matt has no intention of saying goodbye to Xtra Factor, and is also looking forward to teaming up with Caroline Flack in another TV project:
"I don't know what's happening with Xtra Factor yet, but I'd love to do it again – who wouldn't?
"But I'm also looking forward to a new show I'm doing with Caroline called Viral Tap. It's a sort-of You've Been Framed for the internet age – people will love it."
Matt Richardson: Hometown Hero is at the Plough Arts Centre, Torrington on Friday, March 28, 8pm.
Tickets: £12. Box office: 01805 624624, www.theplougharts centre.org.uk.