PAUL Daniels is in a mischievous mood when I call.

The interview is to publicise his appearance at the Best of British Variety Tour, which also features the likes of Cannon and Ball, The Krankies, Jimmy Cricket and The Brotherhood of Man, and is coming to Lancashire in August.

“Am I looking forward to the show? No,” he deadpans.

Paul also insists he isn't practising for the show either.

“I'm a professional, a consultant . . . an expert,” he says. “And professionals don't practice.

"Years and years ago I was involved in amateur dramatics and when I turned professional I got a huge shock.

"I realised the big difference between professional and amateur performers is that amateurs rehearse for a year then they're lucky to do a week on stage.

"When you’re professional you rehearse for three days then you’re on.”

Then, seeming to realise he is actually making quite a good point, the conversation turns slightly more serious.

“On this show we’re all seasoned acts so what’ll happen is we’ll get together and the producer will say ‘I want you in this order and I want you on for so long’ and then, because we’ve all performed in so many venues over the years, we’ll just do it.

"We all know exactly what we want in terms of lighting, props, microphones.”

The show will also feature Paul’s wife and assistant, Debbie McGee.

Nowadays this is something of a rarity, as he often does bigger shows without his glamorous sidekick.

“Debbie is a radio presenter oand we only really appear together at private functions now,” he says.

“It’s all a bit unfair. I’ll be on stage flogging my guts out for a ripple of applause and then I’ll say ‘Here’s Debbie McGee’ and the audience will go wild — and she hasn’t even done anything yet!”

The interview stops while Paul tells his PA off in a comedy manner for tidying his office up around him.

“I’ll move you under a pile of papers in a minute,” he jokes.

And then we’re back to Debbie — and the secret of their 20-year marriage.

“The secret of our success is that I’m just too sexy,” said Paul. “That and separate bathrooms.”

Why does he think there’s so much interest in their private lives?

“Because there’s a certain type of terrible people you may have heard of called journalists,” said Paul.

“What they do is they invent really bad things that people sometimes believe and they hope it’ll slowly corrode a partnership.

"Not me and Debbie though, we just ignore them all.”

Then Paul turns more serious.

“The real secret to a good marriage is to take the mickey out of each other and to give and give — never take,” he says.

“Oh and have fun — I just wish she wouldn’t laugh when I get undressed for bed.”

Looks like he’s off again.

Paul is well-known for getting political in interviews, but the only time he gets a bit sniffy is when the subject of British TV comes up.

Paul had his own show, The Paul Daniels Magic Show, on the BBC from 1979 to 1994 and also hosted a number of series during the ’80s and ‘90s, including Odd One Out, Every Second Counts and Wipeout, and the children’s show Wizbit.

But by the mid-90s his appeal had waned and nowadays he is limited to making guest appearances on television, including Wife Swap, When Louis Met . . . presented by Louis Theroux, and The X Factor: Battle Of The Stars.

“I work in Vegas, Australia and Germany and I don’t want to boast, but I get standing ovations over there for what I do best — that’s magic with a comedy turn.

“I come to this country and they say ‘Will you sing?’ It’s madness.

"I’m sorry to say it but they’ve got no idea what to do with acts on TV over here.”

He admits, though, that he still does enjoy TV.

“I always say anything’s better than work. I try to carefully choose shows though so I don’t get bored.

"Doing TV is a bit like being an airline pilot — you get long periods of waiting around, interspersed with a few moments of high drama.”

Our time is up but Paul wants to add one more thing: “I’ve met up with the rest of the performers on the Best of British Variety Tour and I can tell you now the audience are going to have such a good time — I know it.”

  • See Paul Daniels in the Best Of British Variety Tour 2008 at Blackpool Opera House on Friday, August 22 and Friday, August 29, and at Bolton Albert Halls on Sunday, September 7.