John Bishop made sure his tattoo was 'divorce-proof' in case he splits from wife

He prides himself on not thinking about what’s he’s going to say before making people laugh – but this time that might have landed John Bishop in a bit of bother… with his wife. The Scouse funnyman has just whipped off his shirt to show me the tattoo on his left arm which he had redesigned after singer Robbie Williams told him it was “really s**t”. Talk then turns to the tattoo on his right arm, with the initials of his sons Joe, Luke and Daniel, and his wife of 27 years, Melanie.

“I had a conversation with the tattooist about that,” John blurts out. “He said he didn’t like putting spouses’ names or initials on because things might, well, change… And I remember saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a good point’.

John Bishop and Melanie Bishop

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“So I asked him to do the M so it could easily be turned into something else later, like put wings on it and turn it into a bird or something.”

Horrified he has just let slip that he’d secretly divorce-proofed his tattoo, John stammers: “Erm, she hasn’t heard that. She doesn’t know. Let’s just leave it.

“That’s an argument I don’t want to have.” But he grins as he puts his shirt back on: “I don’t mind you putting it in the paper though.” The tattoo talk is sparked by John’s new podcast with actor pal Tony Pitts – who has turned up on TV in everything from Emmerdale to Line of Duty and All Creatures Great And Small. Called Three Little Words, the pair’s first guest was fellow body-art fan Robbie – who also founded the Soccer Aid event that won John much admiration last month.

A former semi-pro footballer, the 53-year-old comic impressed fans with his robust marking that kept professional freestyler Jeremy Lynch – 24 years his junior – out of the game. “I didn’t kick him,” says John in strong Liverpudlian tones. “It’s not what we call it. I closed him down quite aggressively.”

John Bishop made sure his tattoo was 'divorce-proof' in case he splits from wifeJohn Bishop and Tony Pitt recording their podcast

He first played for Soccer Aid in 2012, the start of his friendship with Robbie. So it was fitting the former Take That star was their first podcast guest, where the talk turned to marking of a different kind.

Tony has more than 40 tattoos, and the episode starts with all three men going shirtless to compare their inkings – and Robbie making fun of John. He tells me that after the singer mocked the red dragon on his left arm, he got it fixed as soon as he could. John says: “As soon as tattooists opened after lockdown I went and sorted that.

I got it turned into an eagle.” For the podcast, John and Tony ask guests to bring three words that are important to them – plus one they never want to hear again. Among those joining them for later talks are musician Jools Holland, actress Rachel Shenton and comedian Jason Manford.

Words range from “embarrassment” to “fate” and “mugwump”. John reckons his three would be “change, empathy and regret”, while Tony, 57, opts for “I love you.”

John Bishop made sure his tattoo was 'divorce-proof' in case he splits from wifeTony Pitts in Line of Duty

The Sheffield-born actor, writer and director is recognisable to TV fans from his 10 years in Emmerdale, playing Archie Brooks, as well as hard-bitten bad cop Det Chief Supt Les Hargreaves in Line of Duty. He also wrote and starred in the 2017 film Funny Cow.

And he reveals he had a “near miss” for an iconic role on Coronation Street. Tony says: “I was going to be Terry Duckworth. I met Liz when I went over – we took a shine to each other and had a very raucous weekend in Manchester.

“I think they got a whiff of that. I was a livewire at the time. I ended up doing Emmerdale instead.”

Despite John’s banter, he insists it is not played for laughs. He says: “For once I’m not trying to be funny. We ask people to define where they are now, what matters to them.

“We’ve had people on who have been extremely poignant.”

John Bishop made sure his tattoo was 'divorce-proof' in case he splits from wifeEmmerdale with Tony Pitts as Archie Brooks

He and Tony have been close friends for years, bonding as working class lads in the showbiz world. John says: “We met when Tony booked me for a gig 20 years ago. “We’ve had similar childhoods, and neither of us have lived the lives that were down for us.

We’ve both, through stubbornness or whatever, found this life we’re in now. “And we both look at life and wonder, how did we get here?” Dad-of-one Tony adds: “We’re shaped by the same winds.

“I was at college doing a truck mechanics course – I was literally the world’s worst truck mechanic. “Ken Loach came looking for people to be in this film. So one Friday I was a truck mechanic on GBP23 a week, the following Friday I was on set filming.”

John Bishop made sure his tattoo was 'divorce-proof' in case he splits from wifeJohn Bishop has landed in a bit of bother with his wife

John’s arrival to the world of comedy, however, came much later.

Growing up in Winsford and Runcorn in Cheshire, he played for non-league teams Winsford United and Southport, then at 24 began a 16-year spell as a medical rep for a pharmaceutical firm. He was 34 when he first took the mic at a Manchester comedy club, in October 2000, and only turned full-time comedian at 40. Today he is one of Britain’s highest paid comics, with a GBP6.8million fortune.

Not bad for someone who insists he never writes or rehearses his jokes. He says: “I don’t sit at home and craft a joke. “When I write something down it doesn’t look funny to me.

It’s about the environment, it’s all in the moment.” Also known for his charity work – he once raised GBP4.2million for Sports Relief – John has missed performing live. But this week he announced his Right Here, Right Now World Tour for 2021/2022.

John Bishop made sure his tattoo was 'divorce-proof' in case he splits from wifeJohn Bishop with Jeremy Lynch during the Soccer Aid

Kicking off in Peterborough next September, he plans to warm up with his rescheduled Work In Progress shows.

John said: “I’m excited, it feels like a lifetime since I last had a live audience.” But first he has the podcast. On his choice of which word he never wants to hear again, he does not hesitate.

Brexit,” he tells me immediately. “I was sick of it when it was all happening. “It’s off the news now, but when Covid settles down it will just come back again. “It will be used for everything in the next five to 10 years – good or bad.

It’s a politician’s excuse for everything.” He may hate the word, but when it comes up you just know he will make it sound funny. Even if he doesn’t plan to.

Three Little Words is online now.

Tickets for John’s UK tour Right Here, Right Now are available from johnbishoponline.com

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