Robert Webb has said it was a total shock to discover he was suffering from a serious heart condition that needed urgent surgery to save his life.
The Peep Show star, who made his name as unemployed musician Jez in the cult comedy, put feeling tired all the time down to treating his body “like a skip”, and a growing dependence on alcohol and cigarettes.
It was during a routine medical test last year, while on the set of Channel 4 sitcom Back, that he discovered he was suffering from a heart murmur caused by a mitral valve prolapse.
“I didn’t realise how unwell I was. I had no idea,” Webb told The Sunday Times.
While not caused by his drinking and smoking, both are likely to have exacerbated his condition.
In the run up to heart surgery Webb says he was “literally just walking around trying not to have a heart attack”.
When there was talk of delaying the procedure, the cardiologist told the surgeon: “You can’t send him home for five days, he isn’t going to last two days.”
And when he finally got into surgery in November, he lost two-thirds of his blood cells, a situation Webb describes “a bit touch and go”.
In hindsight, Webb says of his undiagnosed condition: “I think part of my subconscious must have been aware that my heart was having to do really, really weird things to keep the show on the road.”
While his recent surgery doesn’t put him in the high-risk category for coronavirus, his cardiologists have warned him that COVID-19 would “knock him for six”.
Speaking about his dependency on cigarettes and alcohol, Webb admits: “The drinking crawled up so gradually that I was slow-killing myself.
“It was certainly an addiction at the end, a dependency. I drank a lot of beer, during the day, on my own.”
Now five months after his operation, Webb is seeing a therapist and has quit drink and cigarettes.
However, he admits that alcohol is proving harder to leave behind than nicotine.
He has also cut down on his Twitter interaction since his operation, which he describes as leaving him feeling “fragile”.
Joking about the success of his Peep Show colleagues following the show, Webb says there’s “a bit” of rivalry between him and comedy partner David Mitchell.
But he says he can’t resent Olivia Colman’s Oscar win, or Peep Show writer Jesse Armstrong’s success in America with drama Succession as they are “the nicest people in the business”.
Webb says now, rather than acting, his principal career is as an author.
Describing it as “the job I always wanted to do”, he is also currently home-schooling his two daughters due to coronavirus.
Webb’s debut novel Come Again, following his 2017 memoir How Not To Be A Boy, is published on 23 April.