Classic Interview: Alan Davies

alan davies

Alan Davies returned to stand-up in 2012 after ten years away with a new show, Life Is Pain, in which he tackled issues ranging from parenthood and pornography to Facebook and feminism. He was as funny as ever and fitted neatly into the new world of comedy where observational humour is king. Critics have called Davies a veteran, which seems to imply he is ancient and feels is a little harsh. He was born in 1966, the same year as John Bishop, and is four years young than Micky Flanagan. His tour finishes this week with gigs in Leicester and finally at the Hammersmith Apollo on 16 & 17 February. Ticket details here. TV fans can also see Davies as Jonathan Creek in a one-off special which goes out on BBC1 over Easter. This interview took place in a cafe opposite Highbury & Islington Station, close to Davies' home and also his spiritual home, Arsenal's football ground. A feature on Davies based on parts of this interview appeared in the Guardian in January and a shorter piece appeared in the Independent on Sunday, but the comedian had so much to say about television and the state of stand-up that I have reprinted the entire conversation below.

BD: Have you been filming Jonathan Creek today?

AD: Yes, we were in Watford. You have to be within 56 miles of TV Centre or they have to put everyone up overnight. The budget is much smaller this time.

BD: How did you get tempted back then if it was not a big pay cheque?

AD: It was simple really. David Renwick wrote a script and David's scripts are extraordinary, very unusual. They are better than anything else I get sent so it was quite an easy choice. I like David and I owe him a great deal. We've got Sheridan Smith (pictured below with Davies) again, Rik Mayall, Joanna Lumley. Rik plays the same character he played fifteen years ago but fifteen years older, so it's a very nice way to spend three weeks at the start of the year.

BD: Why the 3 year break since the last one? Is it because of your commitments or the fact that David is a slow, meticulous writer?

AD: That's  more to do with what goes on at the BBC. One person leaves and the next one says they don't like something, then Danny Cohen became Head of BBC1. He likes Jonathan Creek and doesn't necessarily want to clear all the previous stuff out of the way.

BD: I saw you with long hair on TV recent on an episode of QI and assumed you were growing it for the part, but it may have been an old episode as you've now got short hair. Or has Creek changed his image?

AD: I foolishly cut some of it off so they clip bits in. It often happened. In the past I had short hair for Bob & Rose so they glued bits in, If there is not enough round the back now they clip it in every morning. (chuckles, while sending back wrong type of coffee) They brought me the bits of hair at the start of the shoot. They used to bring me beautiful nut brown hair, now they bring me this straggly, greasy, semi-grey tramp's hair.

BD: So Jonathan Creek is not ageless like Homer Simpson?

AD: There will come a point when I'll be glad to look like Homer Simpson!

BD: Does he still live in a windmill?

AD: There are certain details Bruce I simply can't divulge. But I can reveal that the duffle coat has been brought out of mothballs.

BD: Did you choose to do it for a bit of stability with your young family after being out on the road on tour?

AD: You don't get to make those sort of plans or get to choose these days, if someone says here's a script we'd like you to make you say great.

BD: Are you just glad of the work?

AD: There is a bit of that.

BD: Last year you started your first stand-up tour in a decade. Were you nervous about going back on the road?

AD: It's selling pretty well. The thing about stand-up is once you've got a routine that you are pleased with and works well you think to yourself are you ever going to think of another funny routine? It's always been like that for me. That sort of stopped me from gigging and I kind of fell out of love with touring. I was doing all sorts of different things and got swept along doing everything.

BD: Tell me a bit about putting the show, Life Is Pain together.

AD: Getting material is the thing so in summer 2011 did some work in progress shows at the Pleasance Studio but after three of those I felt it was alan daviesterrible then a friend said 'do some stand-up in Australia, nobody has seen you since 1995 do whatever you want.' I didn't want to do a greatest hits show but I was going over to do QI live with Stephen (Fry) so it was a good opportunity to do some dates as work in progress, but I had my head in hands after 4/5 nights, I was keeping notes as always but on the iPhone now and looking at notes I was going 'that's not funny, that's not funny.' I felt I had to go to clubs because that's the only way to find out if it is funny so I went down to Old Rope and the Comedy Cafe in London. That was very exciting. There is nothing like fear of failure to get you working. A couple of familiar faces like Phil Nichol and Hattie Hayridge were there but it doesn't matter who you are, you've got to be funny. The crowd is in their twenties they don't care who you are, they've been at work all day they just want a laugh, so that gave me a kick up the arse. Then things started to come together and I did another run at Pleasance then back to Australia. I had 12 pages of A4 notes and you go through them and it's a combination of things you want to talk about and things that get laughs. The funniest bits come up onstage, specific phrase or something and then you try to keep them in.

The really good thing about Australia is that QI (pictured below) is massively popular on ABC. Creek is big out there too, so I came out of the whole experience feeling good, then I bumped into Eddie Izzard at a cafe in Adelaide airport at the toast section. We were sitting together on the plane chatting, were both doing gigs that night so we met for dinner after show to catch up about old clubs we used to play like The Guilty Pea. I said 'who is your promoter?' and he gave Mick Perrin the big sell. So I called Mick up, we had a meeting and that was it. 55 date tour.

Read more of this interview here.


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