When Sean Collins appeared on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow last autumn, he had no idea of the effect it would have.
He was the only comedian without management to perform on the Saturday night BBC One prime-time show. And, being picked to appear alongside Jack Whitehall, Andi Osho and Ardal O'Hanlon at the Grand Theatre in Leeds despite having no professional backing is testament to his comic talent.
'I worked really hard to put everything together for the McIntrye show. I had to audition with 90 other comedians,' says the funnyman who lives in Gosport with his wife Clare and three-year-old son Joel.
He continues: 'I didn't realise how big the show is until afterwards. It's brought me to a different level.
'Someone at Adidas saw it and they flew me from India (where I was working for two weeks) to Germany for a 10-minute performance at a corporate event.
'And my episode just aired in Australia last week. Now I'm getting messages from people asking me when I'm coming to perform there.'
But Sean says he has no plans to head Down Under. 'It's a long way to go. It's hard for me to be away from Clare and Joel,' he explains.
The 44-year-old likes to stay close to home in Gosport, where he's lived for nearly five years. Although, he's originally from Carp, near Ottawa, in Canada.
As a young boy in this small town 'named after an ugly fish', he never dreamed he would end up in Gosport. He hadn't originally planned on becoming a comic either.
He recalls: 'My first choice of career was working with kids. When I was 20, I worked at a boys and girls club in Ottawa. It was like a drop-in centre for youths and we would co-ordinate activities to keep them off the streets. I loved it.
'We started a project called Read Canada. I didn't realise it would take-off like it did. When Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew came over, they came to our reading circle. They were awesome – very down to
When Sean did decide to give comedy a try, he moved to Merritt in British Columbia.
He explains: 'I moved out west for two reasons. I wanted a change. I wanted to try comedy. But I didn't want to try it around my parents and my family.
'I worked in a hospital psychiatric unit, assessing four to 12-year-olds. A lot of them had been abused and the waiting list never dropped below 100. Eventually I decided I didn't want to be around that pain all the time. It taints your views on people.
'So, I started out in comedy and continued to work on call for the pysch unit because, unfortunately, when you start out, comedy doesn't pay very well.'
For his very first gig, Sean was paid 100 dollars, but it cost him 90 dollars in petrol.
'After I bought a meal and came home, I thought "this is going to be hard to live on",' he laughs.
Back then, Sean would sleep in motel car parks because he couldn't afford a room. The venues he was performing at were not the most savoury either.
'I would do gigs in strip joints,' he remembers, along with more graphic details (unprintable in The Guide) of the acts he had to follow on stage.
Sean even got beaten-up in the car park after one show by four men he had picked on in the audience.
But he's found positives in all his hardships. He says: 'If you can get through these terrible gigs, it prepares you.'
As he gigged more and grew in popularity, he moved to Toronto and began to headline at comedy clubs.
He was nominated for two awards in the first ever Canadian Comedy Awards in 2000, including Best In Canada, for which he was put up against Jim Carrey and Mike Myers.
After being given a couple of his own TV specials (including Home Alone 9 – a spoof which saw Macaulay Culkin still being left at home alone at 18 and starting to wonder why), Sean performed a gala set at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal in 2003.
'It was absolutely amazing,' he remembers. 'I started to think back to when I was being beaten up in a parking lot and there I was alongside stars from Everybody Loves Raymond and Whose Line Is It Anyway?'
After this, Sean felt like he'd achieved all he could in his home country and decided to continue his career in the UK, starting on a month-long work permit and gradually extending his stays.
'The best way to get better is to challenge yourself with international audiences,' he explains.
In 2004 Sean moved to England permanently, after falling in love with Gosport girl and fellow comedian Clare Campbell.
He recalls their first meeting: 'We were on a gig together at the Comedy Store and we hit it off. I remember it was the hottest day of the year and the guy driving the car couldn't open the windows because he had an ear infection. We were laughing about the situation.
'We were friends for years and that helped us because it forced us to get to know each other.
'In so many relationships you just jump in and then go "wow I really don't like you. Please put your clothes on and leave my house". Or, you get to a point in time where you become just parents and you forget to look at each other and remember what attracted you to each other in the first place.
'But I really lucked out. Clare is lovely.'
Sean is nearly as enamoured with his wife's home town. He says: 'I love Gosport. The High Street is hilarious. It's got three pubs, four banks, a church and a Greggs!
'But, seriously, there's a slower pace of life and a real community feel. We know our neighbours. When I said hello to our neighbour in London, he quickly shut the door and locked and bolted it.'
It's clear that Sean is happy with his lot and it's not hard to understand why he thinks 2010 has been 'the best'.
Not only did he appear on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow in October, but he won our Guide Award for Best Comedy Act in November and performed at the ceremony at the Kings Theatre.
'That was wonderful,' he beams. 'It was a great night out for my wife and I and I'm hoping it helps bring people in to see my new show, because I enjoy performing near where I live.'
Sean's latest project sees him take to the road with Mike Gunn – a fellow guest comedian from McIntyre's Roadshow.
'Mike and I were both on the Roadshow alongside young good-looking up and comers,' says Sean.
'We're a couple of old farts who don't tick the boxes, but we both think we're funny,' he continues. 'And we're in the same boat. He's got his second kid on the way and is tired of the circuit.'
Their Still On The Roadshow tour will see Sean and Mike each take to the stage for a solo stand-up set, before coming back on as a double act.
'It's something new and hopefully it will take-off and even go on into 2012.
'We've got enough material to keep it going for at least a couple of years.
'It's going to be fun,' says Sean.
The tour kicks off at the Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea next Sunday and returns to the area for a date in Fareham in June.
Sean and Mike have ambitions to work together beyond this tour as well.
'We both want to do Live At The Apollo and we're hopeful that, if we keep going, we'll get that,' Sean reveals.
'I look at things year by year, but my ultimate goal is to be playing theatres instead of clubs.
'Mike and I would like to write a TV show together too.
'And maybe one day I will get management,' he laughs.
See Sean Collins with Mike Gunn on their Still On The Roadshow Tour at the Wedgewood Rooms, Albert Road, Southsea, on Sunday, January 16, from 7.30pm. Tickets cost 10 from (023) 9286 3911 or wedgewood-rooms.co.uk.
The tour also stops in at Ferneham Hall in Fareham on June 3.
And you can see Sean compering at Jokes Bay Comedy Club at the Alverbank Country House Hotel in Gosport on January 20.