'Paul is not contagious. But he is worth catching.'

It's the kind of tagline you'd expect from a show written by the man behind The Vicar of Dibley, smart, funny, and thought-provoking.

That's Paul Mayhew-Archer, a name you've probably not heard of, but the man behind several shows you most definitely would have.

He’s produced hundreds of episodes of radio comedy including I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Weekending (starring David Jason), Delve Special (starring Stephen Fry) and two award-winning shows written and performed by Andy Hamilton - The Million Pound Radio Show and Old Harry’s Game.

In 1987, Paul wrote his first sitcom for radio, An Actor's Life For Me and it did so well that it transferred to BBC One where Richard Curtis saw it and asked Paul to work with him on a series about a woman vicar in a village full of lunatics, which of course became the Vicar of Dibley.

As if that’s not enough, Paul has also script edited many TV series including Spitting Image, Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Miranda, and he’s co-written episodes of My Hero, Mrs Brown's Boys and the TV film Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot starring Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench.

But when he was 58, and then the Commissioning Editor for BBC Radio 4 Comedy, Paul noticed that his handwriting was getting smaller and his arms weren’t moving normally when he walked.

He says: "A friend suggested I go to the doctors thinking I might have either a brain tumour or Parkinson's. In the end I was rather glad it was Parkinson's."

Once diagnosed he didn't think of it as the end of the world. Instead he thought of it as an opportunity for jokes which he could share with others in the same leaky boat and make them all feel better.

Two years ago, he made a documentary called Parkinson's: The Funny Side for which he won the Grierson Award for Best Documentary Presenter of the Year, last year he made his first appearance at The Comedy Store, and now he is taking his hugely successful show on tour.

"It started with a piece for BBC's Inside Out," he explains, "a ten minute segment about people with Parkinson's taking ballet lessons but the producer felt we had so much great material we made it into a longer piece.

"Then Parkinson's UK got in contact with me about a big fundraising gig and I helped get people like Josh Widdecombe and the Mrs Brown's people along. That's when I thought I'd quite like to do something myself.

"I ended up only doing a few minutes of material but I just absolutely loved it. When I was working with the likes of Dawn French and Ardal O'Hanlan, I would see how brilliant they were and never dreamed of doing it myself. I was proud of just being a scriptwriter. Then it suddenly occurred to me what I really liked doing was telling the jokes as well."

His show Incurable Optimist is full of funny stories from a man who regards his entire life as a sitcom and Parkinson’s is just the latest episode.

It’s a show about the therapeutic power of comedy and laughter from a man who simply adores making people laugh. Following the show, Paul will be answering the audience’s questions, too.

"A lot of people with Parkinsons have come along to the show," he adds, "and that's been one of the many wonderful things to have come out of this, that people are able to laugh about it. One woman came up to me after the show and gave me a big hug thanking me for making her laugh, and that is hugely rewarding."

He's also had an incredible support from his fellow comedians.

"Doing a show at Edinburgh was the most thrilling experience," Paul tells me. "25 shows in 26 days was exhausting but I was flying on adrenaline alone. What was really great was the camaraderie. I had people like John Thompson turn up to see me, Steve Coogan, Rory Bremner, Jan Ravens. It was very humbling.

"I've had an incredible career, working with the most amazing people.

"Dibley was obviously a favourite and you couldn't wish for a nicer person than Dawn to star in it."

But after the success of his first solo show, does Paul fancy continuing his new career.

"I'm not doing Edinburgh this year," he reveals, "because I want to take a break after the tour but it's definitely fired up something inside of me, so I suspect this won't be the last stand-up show I do."

Incurable Optimist is at the Colchester Arts Centre on Sunday, May 12.

Doors open at 7.30pm and tickets, priced £14 and £12 for concessions, are available from 01206 500900 or on-line at colchesterartscentre.com