After a career as a singer-songwriter, Steve Jameson was a latecomer to comedy. He talks to ALEX KASRIEL about the change of direction

Unlike many comedians from the alternative scene, he is neither a university graduate nor a cocky media upstart.

In fact Steve Jameson lives and breathes old-school comedy.

His alter-ego, Sol Bernstein, is an 84-year-old Borscht Belt entertainer. This is not a Semitic-style trouser support, but rather a place in the Catskills Mountains, USA, otherwise known as the Jewish Alps, where Jewish families from New York holidayed from the 1940s to the 1960s.

It is where people like Kenny Bruce, Mel Brooks and Joan Rivers cut their teeth; a bit like red-coats, but instead of 20-somethings lip-sinking to Britney, it was Barbara Streisand at the piano.

"It was a great training ground," says Jameson. "It must have been great. There's a high standard, because everyone has got an uncle who's funnier."

It was at these holiday camps that the fictional Sol is supposed to have performed, before retiring and then returning to the profession after 25 years.

Sol is a smart-looking, trilby-wearing Jewish pensioner whose wife, Esther, has passed away.

His story involves him mixing with the cream of the showbiz world as an all-round entertainer after escaping the pogroms in Russia, the Nazis in Germany "I survived the camps. The holiday camps," he jokes and Mosleys blackshirts in London. He's a song and dance man, a comedian, a magician, an actor, an amazing ventriloquist with his suitcase friend Mr Pinkus, and a jazz musician.

He allegedly told Marcel Marceau to shut-up in 1949 after a particularly bad set, and asked Elvis Presley to wear a tie.

Of course, this fantasy incarnation is somebody Steve Jameson wished he could have been.

Growing up in Stoke Newington in the 1950s, Jameson's father was a market trader and his mother loved taking him to musicals in the West End.

His mother gave him his first guitar when he was ten years old, and later he became a singer-songwriter.

This career lasted until the punk era when he couldn't face getting piercings and nose studs to sell records. Instead he became a painter-decorator, but it wasn't until May 1993, when he was already aged 47, that he decided to start making people laugh for a living.

"Most stand-ups are not from Cambridge any more," he reasons. "Apart from the ones on TV. Our only qualification is that we have to be funny."

Jameson is sitting at his neighbourhood caf in Belsize park chain-smoking cigarettes.

The comedian used to compere at the nearby Hampstead Comedy Club after his friend Ivor Dembina gave him the job on the basis he was local and cheap'.

If Jameson is self-deprecating, it is this honesty which allows him to have such an affectionate relationship with his audience.

As Sol, he likes to share his knowledge of Yiddish, particularly words of intimate body parts, which don't sound as rude as their real names.

"I play to many non-Jewish audiences and they love the jokes," says Jameson. "I used the word shmooshky. I met a woman after one show and she asked: What's that great word you used for vagina?' It's great.'"

Indeed the charm of his character pervades into real life.

Talking about how he remembers the date of his first ever comedy gig, he says: "May 11, 1993. I remember it because I'm anal, I'm Jewish and neurotic. I remember the first time I had sex. I remember the experience, but I couldn't remember the date."

He also remembers playing Leo Gold in the film Suzie Gold (released in 2002) as a career highlight.

"It was an unsuccessful movie, but it was the greatest experience of my career. The money was good. I got lots of pampering. I was picked up and taken home in limos. There was fantastic catering, great breakfasts and lunches. For Jews, that's important. They really looked after us."

Steve Jameson aka Sol Bernstein performs at the Hampstead Comedy Club, England's Lane, Belsize Park, on Sunday, August 7, alongside Junior Simpson and Matt Kirshen, at 7.30pm. Admission is £10. The gig is in aid of Edgware's Larches Trust, a centre for people with learning difficulties. Tickets are available on 07930 385921.

u On August 21 he appears at Downstairs at the King's Head, Crouch End Hill, Crouch End. Doors Open at 7.45pm. Admission is £7 (£5 concessions) at the door. For information call 020 8340 1028.