Returning to the stage is like “getting in a hot bath”, Peter Kay said at a special charity gig.
The Bolton-born comic received a standing ovation as he appeared on stage at Manchester’s O2 Apollo for the first of two live Q&As on Saturday.
He said: “I’ve never in my life had a standing ovation when I came on.”
He joked: “I’m going to go away for four more years.”
The Doing it For Laura events are being held to raise money for Laura Nuttall, 20, who has an aggressive type of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme.
Laura, who was in the audience, was initially given 12-18 months to live when she was diagnosed aged 18 but has received immunotherapy treatment in Germany thanks to fundraising.
Her sister Gracie introduced Kay and told the audience that the family was “eternally grateful” for them “potentially saving my sister’s life”.
As he started the 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.”
Hundreds of fans queued outside in the rain ahead of the comedian’s first gig in years on Saturday afternoon.
Those attending were asked to provide proof they had been double vaccinated or had negative Covid tests before being allowed in.
Kay joked on stage about lateral flow tests and told fans: “People have been bringing them to the gate in bags.”
He answered questions from audience members which had been submitted beforehand and were selected from a tub of Roses.
Asked if TV series Max And Paddy would return, Kay said: “I loved making Max And Paddy, it was one of the best times we ever had filming and we had such a good laugh.
“We actually wrote two Christmas specials and then we never made them so you never know.”
When another fan asked if people shouted “garlic bread” at him following his famous stand-up sketch, Kay said: “I can’t buy it when I go to the supermarket, I’m too embarrassed.”
He also told anecdotes about holidaying in Eric Clapton’s home in France and trying out indoor sky-diving.
Tickets for the show sold out in 30 minutes when they went on sale on July 30.
One fan was invited up on stage for Kay to call her mother, who was unable to attend the show as she was unwell.
He told her: “I’ve not done a show for four years but I’ve had a good laugh.”
Kay received another standing ovation as the show finished, an hour later than scheduled just before 6pm.
He said: “It’s been lovely. Thank you for coming to support Laura and her family and thank you for coming to see me.”
Kay has been largely out of the spotlight since a surprise appearance at a charity screening of his series Car Share in 2018, but made 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.
He cancelled his last tour in December 2017, citing “unforeseen family circumstances”.