Friday, 4 April 2014

Interview with comedian and actor Alan Davies

TWO years ago Alan Davies returned to stand up comedy with a huge and long awaited national tour of his show Life Is Pain.
After an enforced absence from the circuit of more than 10 years he could have been forgiven for being a tad nervous.
But as it turned out if he was, he needn't have been, as the tour was a huge success receiving rave reviews.
The 47-year-old is now back with his hotly anticipated follow up show, Little Victories which he is currently taking across the UK and will be bringing to the Fairfield Halls in Croydon on April 12.
But why the absence I ask as we chat ahead of the gig?
"There was so much going on," he says almost apologetically by way of explanation.
"I was away for about 10 years. I stopped touring and found I didn't have any material for a start so it was a catch 22.
"Good material is kind of essential - you can't go on stage talking about nothing - you have got to have something to say, preferably funny stuff, otherwise the audience will get bored.
"Plus I was doing TV and other things, then I met Katie, my wife, and then had kids. 'Life' happened basically.
"But I did miss it and it's really nice to be back."
For his legion of loyal fans it is good news. Not least because Alan is held in such obvious esteem and with immense affection, though he baulks at the idea of being labelled a "national treasure".
Since he broke onto the comedy circuit in 1988 he's rarely been idle. In fact these days he's a busy man with TV appearances as the resident foil to Stephen Fry's genius in QI, or as the duffle-coated crime solver Jonathan Creek in the BAFTA award-winning TV show of the same name, not to mention writing scripts, books and material for his stand up shows.
But stand up is his first love and where he started and when we chat he is in the midst of tinkering with the material for Little Victories, which has been inspired in part by the arrival of his two young children.
"They provide me with endless amount of material," he laughs when I ask what these Little Victories are.
"It's like the children finally eating something - especially stuff you've been trying to force them to eat for ages," he chuckles.
"Or getting them to put their shoes on, or even just getting their shoes on them. Or managing to get some sleep - I've spent the last few years having had little sleep! It's about life's little moments when you think you have beaten the system and then find you are back under again!
"The show tries to find the funny side to being a parent and all that that entails. I think people empathise with these events in life."
So plenty to talk about then.
"Yes, absolutely," he says. "I found the last show resonated with those who came to see it which was extremely gratifying especially as I'd been away for so long," he adds warmly.
"Basically Life Is Pain was about becoming a dad in my 40s. This show is more about anecdotal stuff that happens once the novelty has worn off! It's very hard work being a dad you know," he jokes semi seriously.
"All the clich├ęs are true!" he adds in mock horror.
He admits he worries about "stuff" more now he's older and has parental responsibilities and Little Victories is no exception.
"When I toured two years ago I was nervous but it was better than I expected. We did 55 shows and 81 per cent of the tickets were sold which was amazing - I didn't anticipate anyone coming out so it knocked me sideways!"
Affable, chatty and down to earth Alan is also surprisingly modest and unassuming about his success. The only time I sense a slight tension creeping in is when he mentions his TV show Whites which was axed after one series on the BBC.
"I was disappointed about it," he admits. "I thought it was worth another series."
Despite this he's happy with his lot.
"I have worked hard and love what I do," he says. "Writing my book [My Favourite People And Me] was really hard but I was proud of it. But after Whites got cancelled I thought I ought to do something I know I can do - and that is stand up.
"It's incredible because I still get a buzz from it although there is the responsibility to give the audience a good time," he adds. "They've made the effort to come out and booked the babysitter so you should never forget that."
Which brings us neatly to Fairfield Halls, a venue he says he's fond of.
"I like Fairfield Halls although it's a big room. It's very nice and relaxing there. It could do with some attention..." he chuckles before adding: "But it's much loved and one of those places where anyone who's anyone has performed.
"It's very manageable and you can see the audience in a room like that which is great. For me that's what it's all about.
"That's one of the reasons I wouldn't want to play somewhere like Wembley - apart from the fact I'm not sure I'd fill it, I just don't fancy it and wouldn't feel comfortable because you have to charge so much money.
"Also you can't really have a chat with an audience if you can't see them or they you.
"I get why some people do the stadiums but I prefer smaller venues," he adds. "If I was that popular, I would rather do a long run in a theatre where people can see you.
"The worry is there are so many tours out there that some comedy clubs are suffering which is a shame because that's where most of us start out.
"I won't be a national treasure if this gig isn't a sell out though!" he adds laughing heartily.
I ask what’s next after the tour finishes. “Well I’ve been trying to write a sitcom and there’s a novel waiting to be written.
"We're filming Series R of QI in May and June. It's a show I love though I don't remember any of it afterwards," he laughs. "I am in it trying to think of something interesting to say!
"But who knows, I might enjoy this tour so much that I’ll write another show.”


Alan Davies is at Fairfield Halls on Saturday, April 12 at 8pm. Tickets from £20. Visit www.fairfield.co.uk or call the box office on 020 8688 9291.

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