Interview: Alan Davies relishing Fife gig

Alan Davies will perform at the Carnegie on April 14.
Alan Davies will perform at the Carnegie on April 14.

For fans of a newer generation, Alan Davies is the comedian off the TV.

He is the resident dunce on the panel show QI, often the butt of jokes, and the titular magician/sleuth on Jonathan Creek.

But it was on stage, doing stand-up, where Davies made his name.

It’s been 29 years since his stand-up debut in 1988.

In 1991 he claimed Time Out’s Best Young Comic and three years later was the recipient of the Edinburgh Festival Critics Award for Comedy at the Fringe and a nominee for the Perrier Award.

He then carved out a career in front of the camera, and he even took a decade-long sabbatical from stand-up until his return in 2012.

Coming back is like a return to his roots.

“It felt like I was getting back to what I do best,” he said.

“I think of it as my profession.

“You can say whatever you want. You’re just right there with the audience – you can’t be cancelled.”

It was this freedom that first attracted Davies to doing stand-up.

It was always something he wanted to do, going back to his time at university.

“I wanted to be like Rik Mayall and Ade Edmonson,” he says.

“I wanted to meet someone at uni and form a partnership – like French and Saunders – and I did meet some funny people but they were always quite lazy.

“Then I realised you could just get up on your own and rant – talk about what you thought was funny.”

Davies’ material has evolved since then.

During that decade off from stand-up he settled down, getting married and having three children.

Focusing on his own experiences has always helped Davies stand out from other comics.

In his early days, with Margaret Thatcher in power, he says there was pressure to do political stand-up.

“You had to have something to say about current affairs and politicians,” he explained.

“The downside was that you would turn up at a gig and everyone was making the same jokes.

“You can imagine if you went to a gig and everyone is doing jokes about the second Scottish independence referendum, you quickly start to run out of original ideas.

“I found that if I did a story about my gran knitting me a jumper, no one else was doing that type of stuff. I would be able to tell that story over weeks and it would get longer and funnier.

“That type of anecdotal storytelling – like Billy Connolly – suited me.”

He cites Connolly and Woody Allen as influences but also names comedians he shared stages with when he broke through.

He said: “I met great comedians when I was on the circuit – guys like Lee Evans, Eddie Izzard and Bill Bailey.

“It was a wonderful time to be a young comedian.”

It was during one of his first trips to the Fringe that he had his first taste of Scottish football.

He said: “One time I went to see Hearts.

“By that point I was doing Jonathan Creek and I was starting to be recognised by people.

“I was standing at the top of the steps and a guy spotted me and shouted ‘Alan Davies is a Jambo’.

“I’ve got lots of good memories from Scotland.”

He is not sure he finds it easier performing now but says material is easier to come by.

“I’ve got more to talk about now – I’m 51,” he says. “I’ve got kids and I’m married – I’ve got a life to talk about.

“God knows what I talked about when I was in my early 20s.

“When you get to my time in life you better have something to say.”

Davies’ next performance will be at the Carnegie Hall next week.

The gig – a stand alone performance rather than part of a tour – offers him the chance to test out new material.

“I don’t know what I am going to do in Dunfermline,” he jokes. “There’ll be a mixture of some new stuff and some older stuff – I like to have a few banker routines in case it’s a demanding crowd.”

The show is at the Carnegie Hall on Friday, April 14.

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