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It’s the small things


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Alan Davies on the little victories in life Rob Beckett •

David Es Essex

20 | April 3, 2014 | | Cambridge News


Alan Davies: ‘Life is a series of mini campaigns: some last half a minute, some last months’ Sleepy but as deadpan and laid back A as ever, the stand-up and telly man LAN Davies sounds absolutely shattered. He has already called once to hurriedly but politely rearrange our chat (he got stuck taking his daughter to a birthday party), and now appears to be utterly exhausted, his voice raspy, his tone weary, his sentences tailing off into static. But then, Davies has quite a few good reasons to be tired. When we speak, it’s just a few days before Jonathan Creek returns, and a few days after the end of a stint presenting Après-Ski – a light-hearted commentary on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Then there’s a new series of QI in the works and an impending solo stand-up tour, which is coming to Cambridge Corn Exchange. “It’s all on top of me really,” he admits wryly. “I need to get my act organised.” So you can see why the tiredness is easy to forgive, and to be fair it’s not every day you get to quiz Jonathan Creek, is it? True to previous form, the Essex-born 48-yearold’s latest show, Little Victories, is loaded with new autobiographical material. His second tour since 2013’s Life Is Pain, which dealt with the death of his mother when he was 6 and followed a decade-long break from stand-up, this time around it’s parenthood and the daily battles that come with it getting a ribbing, and he concedes he’s “pretty nervous” about it. “I set out to make people laugh from the first minute to the last minute, that’s my task,” says Davies, matter of factly. “In the meantime I’m talking a bit about being a parent, having had a parent and how I compare, and my kids, a bit of scatological nonsense and some jokes about Andy

Editor: Paul Kirkley Writer: Ella Walker Email:

talks to ELLA WALKER about a whole load of little victories ᔡ Alan Davies: Little Victories, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Saturday April 5 at 8pm. Tickets £20-£25 from (01223) 357851 or

Murray. And that’ll be about an hour and a half.” He regularly swings back to his and writer wife Katie Maskell’s, children, Susie, 4 and Robert, 2, like the needle on a record player, always curving back towards the core. It’s partly because he loves them, obviously, but also because they make him laugh more than anyone else (fellow professional comedians included); hence why they’ve inspired large chunks of the show. “Once you have the children and they’re all right, then the little victories come in,” he says. “Persuading them to get into a car seat, or get out of a car seat or eat their broccoli. And, when you’re the kid, the little victories come in trying to get your father to let you go somewhere or do something or buy you something. “Life’s a series of little mini campaigns, trying to get what you want. Some of them last half a minute, some of them last months.”

Davies’s comedy career started in the late 80s after he studied drama at the University of Kent and found himself happily weighed down by the pressure of being named Time Out’s Best Young Comic in 1991. Then along came the role of his career: Jonathan Creek, the ingenious, straggly-haired, cultishlyadored amateur sleuth. Although the new series has been widely and scathingly criticised (that’s Twitter for you) – first because Creek has ditched the duffel coat, and second, because he’s swapped the windmill for a wife (Sarah Alexander) – it hasn’t lost any of its shine for Davies. “It’s a privilege really for me,” he says humbly. “David Renwick’s scripts are as good as ever; as long as he’s writing the scripts then we’ll make them; that’s the way it works.” So he hasn’t grown bored, bearing in mind he’s been playing the lateral-minded private eye since 1997? “I don’t think so; it’s fun you know? And I don’t do it so much that it irks,” he says, although previous instances of “tramp”-like hair extensions have given him cause to waver occasionally. The truth is, he admits: “My own hair is deteriorating.” While the acting, presenting and stand-up have gone pretty well, at school Davies actually dreamt of being a football reporter, although he’s rather pleased that didn’t work out . . . “I’ve met quite a few football reporters since and a charmless, miserable bunch they are,” deadpans the die-hard Arsenal fan. “There’s one or two exceptions that I have a good laugh with, but mostly they’re selfregarding, over-serious, cynical and I’m quite glad I didn’t go down that route. “Now I still like football and I can just go as a normal fan and not be all world weary about it.” Instead he flutters with the odd bit of sports presenting; the occasional radio appearance rubs up against his football podcast, The Tuesday Club, and more recently he got considerably more whipped up than your average curling expert on Channel 4’s snow-capped Après-Ski, reserving his world weariness for the bona fide sports reporters. In fact, it is quite difficult to get a happy-golucky response out of Davies. Presumably part of his self-deprecating charm, ask him which comedians do make him laugh and he umms and aahs, plumping for “the Graham Norton

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Cambridge News | | April 3, 2014 | 21


‘You wouldn’t want to have an argument with Stephen Fry’ show, we get a laugh out of on a Friday night”. Changing tack (which comedians aren’t funny?) does earn a trademark wheeze of a laugh though, and a diplomatic answer: “There are loads that don’t, haha. I’m not going to tell you who doesn’t make me laugh, a bit uncharitable isn’t it? Haha. It’s such a personal thing isn’t it, comedy? One person wants John Hegley and the next person wants Micky Flanagan.” He does point out that as long as his shows are full, he’s not too fussed either way, but that makes him sound a tad cold. Get him on to the subject of the researchers and writers he works with though, and he’s genuinely impressed, putting the popularity of QI in particular down to the team behind the scenes. “Well I think, much like Jonathan Creek, there’s a lot of work goes into it. Renwick does all the work on Creek, and on QI there’s a whole team of researchers and producers beavering away,” he muses, plunging

FAMILY MAN: Alan Davies; facing page, with Sarah Alexander, his Jonathan Creek co-star

into an admiring spiel about the picture team who research thousands of images per series. “Never mind all the questions and the facts, for every fact that gets used, another load get rejected.” He adds drolly: “The comedians come in at the end, lark about, and that’s it!” Is Stephen Fry as intimidatingly amazing as he seems? “No, he’s not as amazing,” Davies chuckles. “QI is quite a trick you know. He’s made to look like the cleverest man in the world, haha, but he is amazing. You wouldn’t want to have an argument with Stephen.” And does he learn much, sitting on the panel season after season? “No, it totally goes in one ear and out the other,” he laughs. “I can’t remember any of it, I’m so busy trying to think of something funny to say.”

Alan Davies  

Alan Davies / Jonathan Creek