How would you describe your stand-up?
"It's very honest, it's very thoughtful, it's very personal. The way I create a show is taking all my current problems, discussing them in previews and that turns into the show. It's me discussing how I've been an idiot, for an hour. Here's examples of how I'm an idiot. Here's what's wrong with me as a human being!"
Is dredging up all that stuff painful?
"It's a great release, and it's a real journey of self-discovery. It's great because you learn about yourself - you learn who you are, and it turns out you're an idiot! I know the patterns in my life better, I know why I was repeating certain mistakes. You'd think that level of self-awareness would be the cure, but you're still that same idiot, but you're now really aware of it."
You mention being gay and Jewish in your set, but it's never the focal point of the material. Is that intentional?
"I'm really pleased that's something you've said, because it's not something that everyone picks up on. Some people make the mistake of thinking that I'm doing gay or Jewish jokes, and I'm never doing those things. I just tend to talk about the things that affect me in my actual life - those two labels don't affect me in my life anymore."
Has the mega-success of some stand-ups changed expectations for a DVD like yours?
"There were offers to do stand-up DVDs before this, and I had always resisted because I felt like everyone does them and it has become devalued. It's been a real struggle to make it feel unique, interesting, different, not just another product that's out there on shelves... This is one of a few interviews because I don't want to be part of that noise - I don't want to have to sell it. I don't want to be on every TV show that I would never watch, like a Hoover salesman going door-to-door."
But you want it to sell...
"I want people to see this DVD, because I think it's good, I think it's funny. It came out of my self and I like it... It's quite difficult to retain integrity and retain a sense of who you are and not become a product. To know that the DVD is a product and not you."
Some DVDs seem to sell billions of copies now...
"Eddie Izzard seemed to sell a lot of tapes and was also really good and the best. Now I feel the best people either don't sell many DVDs, or someone like Daniel Kitson doesn't even have a DVD. I thought, 'Well if Dan Kitson isn't doing one, what business do I have doing one?'. Dylan Moran, Stewart Lee, these people don't sell the same amount of DVDs as people who I perceive - from my limited perspective - as not as brilliant."
Do you prefer presenting, stand-up or sitcoms?
"I was done with presenting by the end of it - I felt like I was taking the piss out of popstars for eight years and I had nothing left to say. Stand-up I love because it's live and raw and honest and because I'm talking about such personal things on stage. When the audience laugh I feel like it's real acceptance from them, because I'm telling them the worst things about me."
"Sitcom is wonderful because with stand-up, you're one man on the stage telling stories from your perspective and it feels like there is only so much you can do. It was great to write other characters."
Grandma's House seemed to get better reviews as it went on, didn't it?.
"I think everything I've ever done, if it's gone well it's grown on people. Popworld at first people thought, 'This is odd'... and then eventually some people found it funny and then got into it. And Buzzcocks... and I think the sitcom as well. If people are sure at first that something's funny then it's because it's just like the last thing that was funny. If you're trying to something different, unique, special, your own personal voice then of course people are going to feel like it's jarring, otherwise what's the point of doing it?"
Is there likely to be a second series?
"We just had a meeting and the meeting went well, so I'm hoping! We'd never written a sitcom before and it was a steep learning curve for us. We now feel like we know what worked well. We know that our favourite episodes were three and five and we know why they were successful and we know the characters really well."
How much is the Simon character actually you?
"Well, he's an only child and I've got siblings, and he's not a stand-up comedian 'cos we needed him to have presenting and nothing else to fall back on. There's something Garry Shandling said about Larry Sanders and Ricky Gervais said about David Brent - those characters couldn't have written the sitcoms - I got that. The Simon character tries to write this play and it's just awful and pretentious. Now, I'm a bit pretentious but also there's a level of self-awareness and humour... You drive yourself insane dealing with how close it is to you and what's the truth. I don't know. It's definitely too close is probably the answer!"
Was the irreverence of Popworld a reaction to media-trained pop interviewees?
"We used to watch GMTV in the morning and make sure we did the opposite of what they were doing, which was the polite, boring, fake interview. I used to think it was important to burst the bubble of the PR machine and just have a bit of fun with these brands and images... but ultimately it's pop music and who cares... it's not important enough. I did use to feel really strongly and then I couldn't be bothered anymore, I felt like like we'd made our point."
Do you think you were cruel on Buzzcocks?
"I always felt like it was was playing and being silly. The bits which are remembered are the bits when you didn't quite get away with it, so you didn't quite do your job properly. I don't think I was too mean. More often than not I would regret not saying something than saying something. I always felt that my priority was to the audience. Their laughter was more important than the feelings of the actual people there."
So were you unfair to the guests?
"I think sometimes I treated people as their brand, but that often came from the fact that they had let go of themselves as human beings and created these brands. I think once you sell elements of your life to magazines you've then said, 'Please take everything in my life and deconstruct it'. You've sold the most personal moments of your life in a fairly tacky, non-artful way, and you're next to a comedian... I'm quite moral, when I used to do those interviews, sometimes I'd know things that weren't in the public arena, and I would never go near any of that. I'd deal with stuff that had already been promoted by that person themselves. I did leave thinking this joke that I'm doing is now expected and it now doesn't work, so that was the problem - when people were expecting the shocking moment."
Did you feel like one of your Popworld victims when Tim Key interviewed you for your DVD?
"Yes... but I guessed I'd at least be in control of it afterwards because Dan [Swimer] and I edited it. Also because Tim Key is a friend... I love that interview, I think that Tim Key should have his own funny chatshow like that. I think he's really funny. I just love the awkwardness of it."
Simon Amstell's Do Nothing Live DVD is available now