STANLEY Baxter smiles from ear to ear when I begin to talk of the upcoming screening of a new TV documentary telling of the comedy star’s life story via classic comedy sketches.

“That’s marvellous,” he says of the Channel 5 programme which has been crafted to parallel elements of Stanley’s life. “It’s lovely to have the tribute. It’s nice to know people still think of me. But is it a good show? Have you seen it?”

I have and it’s a great tribute, Stanley. It will bring back so many great memories. There are clips flashing back to early BBC Scotland shows in the 1960s, great archive footage, and, of course, it features that very handsome journalist who has written your biography.

“Yes, that’s wonderful,” he says, in soft, but delighted voice that reveals a delicious hint of sarcasm. “And I’m sure television will be kind to you.”

But all is not entirely wonderful. It transpires that the Glasgow-born legend has actually seen the programme. The production team sent over an advance copy a couple of weeks back. “I’ve seen it?” he says, a little taken aback. “Oh, dear. The memory isn’t quite what it was.”

Yet his sense of humour hasn’t abated. And his 93-year-old blue eyes still twinkle. “Well, at least I’ll be able to watch it again for the first time,” he says, smiling.

We’re at Baxter’s home in North London, in the same street where George Michael and Sir Yehudi Menuhin lived. His living room contains his three Baftas and some lovely oil paintings, and his leather sofa is as inviting as the man himself.

But for the past 20 years chats have taken place upstairs, in another living room. Baxter is now confined to the lower floor; even the power of the StairMaster is not strong enough to deal with the complications of having him hoisted in and out.

What’s wrong with him? In a sense, nothing specific; his back and hips won’t propel him along the way he moved when recording Busby Berkeley-like dance numbers, as featured in his LWT spectaculars, while playing James Cagney or Ethel Merman.

A few years back he had a stent fitted. Baxter had blacked out while on holiday at his villa in Cyprus and awoke to find “a Hattie Jacques-lookalike nurse with a huge bosom standing over me. I thought I’d died and woken up in a Carry On film hospital.”

He’s also had two knee replacements and his spine is more worn than his all-time favourite biography (Moss Hart’s poignant and very funny Act One).

But, in reality, his aches and pains haven’t really prevented him from leaving his house for the past two years. What has most likely happened is that Stanley Livingstone Baxter stopped going out when he felt he could no longer play the part of the cheery, vibrant ex-TV star. Baxter once loved his strolls around Highgate Village and the comments from the fans and little old ladies who would delight in his chats, during which he would slip into characters such as Joyce Grenfell and Margaret Rutherford, sometimes without realising he had done so.

And if you stop going out, exercising, your body begins to forget it once danced. (Thankfully, he can afford round-the-clock care.)

Yet, while the short memory is a little looser these days, he’s still very funny, still sharp. I tell him I interviewed Lulu recently. And she was asking after you, Stanley. “What? Lulu?” he says, a little surprised, then has a flashback moment. “Yes, we almost appeared in panto.”

Yes, until you changed your mind at the last minute, Stanley. But she still thinks you’re great. Have a look at the video message she made for you. And he listens and grins as Lulu gushes about how much she loves the comedy star. “She’s very Scottish now,” he says, grinning. “Does she always speak like that?” Perhaps she’s cranked up the Dennistoun accent just for you. “That was very kind of her,” he deadpans.

He adds, in more serious voice. “I haven’t seen her since she lived along the road but I can’t remember when that was.”

While Stanley Baxter is a little forgetful these days, Scotland has become a little forgetful of the magnitude of the man’s talent, the performer of whom Billy Connolly said, "Stanley Baxter is a genius. I came to London because of Stanley Baxter."

Baxter, as the new programme reveals, came to London in 1959, realising the writing was on the wall for variety theatre in Scotland. In any case, he had guessed the potential of television. “I knew I could pull the faces and do the voices, and I sensed the closeness of TV would work for me.”

Within months of arriving in North London, Baxter, who grew up in Glasgow’s West End, just a few hundred yards from BBC Scotland, was appearing in comedy review series On The Bright Side, alongside bright young things such as Una Stubbs and Ronnie Barker.

Baxter never looked back. Years later he’d return to Scotland to star in panto in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but television and films such as Very Important Person, alongside the likes of James Robertson Justice and Julie Christie made him a celebrity across Britain.

However, the Channel 5 show takes audiences way back into Baxter’s early life. It takes us into the flat he grew up in and talks of his mother’s determination to hothouse a little star. Little Stanley didn’t disappoint. “I think he is someone who pirouetted out of the womb,” says actor-fan Miriam Margolyes.

Baxter had fallen in love with cinema almost out of necessity. At Hillhead School he didn’t find too much in common with his classmates. And he wasn’t overly caught up with their choice of films either. Flash Gordon’s ray gun didn’t excite him at all, although he liked the camp outfits. Young Stanley, however, did get excited watching adult melodramas such as Dodsworth and musicals such as Meet Me in St Louis.

Those memories at the Grosvenor in Byres Road or the Ascot in Anniesland later re-emerged as brilliant television pastiches which are revealed in this show.

The programme also rewinds on Baxter’s National Service stint, offering an opportunity to show lots of great film and TV clips of the actor in uniform, playing stiff upper-lipped sorts to ordinary soldiers. Yet, the truth is Baxter, who had become a radio star at 14, never fought anything other than boredom during his National Service. “I enjoyed the marching,” he says, smiling. “It’s all choreography. But when I was sent to Burma life was so boring I considered shooting himself with my rifle.”

Thankfully, however, Combined Services Entertainments was formed and he joined the troupe of performers who staged shows in the Far East, which proved to be “the most wonderful time.” Baxter met up with new friends such as Kenneth Williams, John Schlesinger and Peter Nichols, and the quarter set about entertaining the troops, but mostly themselves.

Baxter and Williams became great friends. But while they never fought the Germans – the war was long over – it’s also fair to say they often fought for the same air space. Both loved and needed to be the centre of attention.

However, the mood in the room turns dark as Baxter reveals that his return to Civvy Street was almost unbearable. “I felt like cutting my wrists,” he says, in slightly melodramatic voice that hints at the depression he felt.

But eventually he found his way into the Citizens Theatre, where within two years he was writing a hit pantomime/review show, The Tintock Cup, which ran for six months. Baxter then moved to commercial theatre, starred in variety with the Half Past Eight Shows at the Alhambra Theatre in Glasgow. Comedian and writer Barry Cryer says one of few Scots he ever wrote for at the time was Stanley Baxter. “Stanley easily transferred to England because he wasn’t just a Scots comedian. He was a comic actor who could become whoever he chose to be.”

He chose to become a film star. The Evening Standard reported that "Stanley Baxter is the new Peter Sellers."

“What fools,” says the man himself now with a self-deprecating shrug.

Baxter made five films but never became a movie legend. His light comedy films were made to seem silly alongside the gritty kitchen sinkers of the period, such as Billy Liar.

He returned to television, however, and made series after series, he made one-off specials, capturing the social mores of the period. And what we’ve forgotten is that the Scot was incredibly risque. “I was a bit cheeky,” he says, grinning. Cheeky? Try subversive. Somehow, he managed to slip in sketches that referenced homosexuality, lesbian love affairs and even the odd nod to bestiality.

He even managed one outrageous parody of Upstairs Downstairs (despite the fact its makers LWT were his bosses). "Remember the night I came to you and told you the old queen had gone?" says Upstairs Downstairs’ maid Rose, to Mrs Bridges the cook. "Yes," blusters Mrs Bridges. "And I told you not to speak so disrespectfully of Mr Hudson."

He had one LWT sketch in which private eye Philip Marlowe tries to solve the Cinderella mystery of the prince and the glass slipper, which ends with Marlowe and the Prince having a gay affair.

And, of course, Baxter never shied away from becoming the Queen, with whom he shared a birth year.

But the Channel 5 programme also shows that Baxter was the master of his own undoing, in terms of the TV he made. “I grew up dreaming of Hollywood and fantastic productions. And so when I began to do pastiches I wanted them to be so perfect I had to create every idea. And they cost a fortune. And so TV companies kept sacking me.”

The tribute to Stanley Baxter also covers an area of Baxter’s life that he hasn’t discussed in the past, his seeming reclusiveness. Channel 5 has uncovered a clip that opens with a shot of the Houses of Parliament and a very posh, pin-stripe-suited gent on the phone. "Stanley Baxter? No, I’m afraid not," he says. "Don’t you know he’s a recluse? Even his agent hasn’t seen him for months. Someone thought they saw him in New York wearing a floppy hat and dark glasses, but it turned out to be Greta Garbo."

Was Stanley Baxter a recluse? There’s no doubt he avoided showbiz parties the way he avoided the nit-haired boy next to him in class. His mind was closed to West End theatre’s opening nights but it’s entirely wrong to say he locked the front door from the inside.

In recent years, Saturday afternoons saw him at the movies in north London, near his home. Twice a week he’d drive to central London’s Pall Mall to swim at the RAC club. Midweek he’d eat out with a different chum in Highgate Village. Baxter wasn’t a Katie Price – he didn’t tell the world about his social plans.

But has he been, for the most part, happy? It’s certainly been a battle to put his great concerns aside, his sometimes desperate drive to create great TV, his need to be in control which emerged in the OCD which meant life, in all manners, had to be timetabled to the minute.

“I’m happy that this show has been made,” he smiles, as he pours himself a gin and tonic and chuckles. “But I can’t just sit here and admire myself.”

Stanley Baxter’s Best Bits, Channel Five, tonight at 9pm.