Peter Kay has said returning to the stage was like “getting in a hot bath” after receiving a standing ovation at a special charity gig.
The Bolton comedian, who has been all but absent from the public eye over the last few years, appeared on stage at Manchester’s O2 Apollo for the first of two live Q&As.
Kay, 48, said: “I’ve never in my life had a standing ovation when I came on. I’m going to go away for four more years.”
The shows were in aid of 20-year-old Laura Nuttall, who has a severe form of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme.
Ms Nuttall, who was in the audience, was diagnosed with her condition in October 2018, when she suffered a series of headaches while studying during her first term at King’s College London. She was 18 at the time and a brain scan showed six tumours.
But thanks to fundraising, she has received immunotherapy treatment in Germany.
Her sister Gracie introduced the comic to the stage and told the audience that the family was “eternally grateful” to them for “potentially saving my sister’s life”.
Upon starting his matinee performance, Kay said: “I was a bit nervous this morning, when I got here.
“I was looking at all this and thinking ‘oh my God’ but it’s really nice to be doing this. It’s like getting in a hot bath.”
Fans were not put off by the showery weather on Saturday as hundreds queued outside in the rain ahead of Kay’s first gig in years.
Attendees were required to provide proof they had been double vaccinated or had negative COVID-19 tests before being let in.
Kay joked on stage about lateral flow tests, telling the audience: “People have been bringing them to the gate in bags.”
He received another standing ovation as the show finished.
“It’s been lovely. Thank you for coming to support Laura and her family and thank you for coming to see me,” he said.
Kay has spent the last few years largely away from public view, after cancelling his last arena tour in December 2017 due to “unforeseen family circumstances”.
He made a surprise appearance at a charity screening of his series Car Share in 2018, as well as a brief return in January 2021 when he appeared on BBC Radio 2 to chat to Cat Deeley about his love of music, mix tapes and the musical Mamma Mia.
The comedian shot to fame in his 2001 comedy Phoenix Nights, which followed the lives of people working at The Phoenix Club – a fictional working men’s club in Bolton.
But Kay is perhaps best known for his stand-up comedy, selling out tours up and down the UK from the early noughties.
He revealed the plan about making his long-awaited stage return for the charity event on Twitter at the end of last month – and tickets sold out for both shows within 30 minutes.