During his break, the grumpy comedian has been busy appearing on shows like QI, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, 8 Out of 10 Cats, Have I Got News For You, Shooting Stars and Live at the Apollo.
But it was working on Lead Balloon – the hit TV sitcom he wrote and starred in – that made him realise how much he loved live performance.
“As much as I enjoyed making Lead Balloon, it was an incredibly intense process, an awful lot of writing and rewriting and filming and editing,” says the 51-year-old. “By the end I was actually quite keen to get back to something more immediate and rediscover the freedoms of doing stand-up, which is great fun.”
Thanks to doing a lot of preparation for the show, he says he’s “relatively relaxed” about taking to the stage each night, but one thing he has noticed is how he’s being billed by the regional theatres.
“You realise you’re described in programmes as ‘veteran of the circuit’,” he says. “I never thought of myself as a veteran. God! But it’s something you try to use to your advantage and turn it into something funny.”
Similarly, his lengthy career means the time was right to bring out a “best of” DVD.
“When you get to my age, I’m afraid you accrue a certain back-catalogue of stuff and there comes a point where it becomes liable to do a ‘best of’. I did my first DVD nearly 20 years ago so there’s quite a lot of stuff there.”
Dee will soon be back on our screens as the host of Sky Atlantic’s new comedy Don’t Sit In The Front Row, which each week sees a new line-up of stand-up stars compete for laughs by interrogating four willing front-rowers.
The twist is that while Dee knows a lot about each audience member, the comedians know nothing, meaning they have to probe them for laugh-worthy material, just like at a real comedy gig.
Dee thinks it’s a genius way to shake up the now-standard panel show format. “It’s about harnessing that moment in a comedy show which is interesting and often very, very funny, and trying to make a game show out of it.
“The comedians have to work hard because they can’t prepare, everything’s ad-libbed, and you see a different side to them when they’re improvising. It’s been brilliant actually.”
Jack Dee, Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, Monday, 8pm, £22, 0844-871 3014