Michael Pennington, the man behind Johnny Vegas, meets fans in Urmston

Messenger Newspapers: Peter Hopkins from Urmston Bookshop and Michael Pennington aka Johnny Vegas Peter Hopkins from Urmston Bookshop and Michael Pennington aka Johnny Vegas

LACKING bravado, sober and thoughtfully engaging the audience with heart-rending stories about his past, Johnny Vegas did not appear to be himself at a book signing in Urmston last week.

The trademark husky voice and robust frame of the man known to millions for Benidorm, QI and the 'monkey' PG Tips adverts, was in evidence.

But this was Michael Pennington - the man behind the character.

Appearing at Our Lady and English Martyrs Parish Centre on Davyhulme Road, and being quizzed by BBC radio presenter Eamonn O'Neal, the tone was set early.


"The very fact the building is still standing means you are sat next to Michael," said the comedian. 

Flashing his quick wit and keeping the audience laughing with wickedly sharp anecdotes from Becoming Johnny Vegas, he also spoke movingly about dark moments in his childhood.


His voice cracked as he recounted how, at 11-years-old, his father sent him to board at a seminary, where he was left haunted by the abuse he witnessed.


Always referring to his alter-ego in the third person, the 42-year-old said the character emerged as a coping mechanism.


"People wanted Johnny. They didn't want Michael," he added. 

Things lightened when Urmston Bookshop owner Peter Hopkins, who had organised the night, darted around the room with a microphone for a Q&A session - before dedicated fans lined up until 1am to meet the star.


Speaking to Messenger, Michael said he was relieved people appreciated the honesty of the evening, and hoped they found it 'different not difficult' meeting the real him.

He added: "It felt like folk wanted to be here. I had a lot of nice feedback about the time I spent talking to everyone.


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