Tell us about the show you’re bringing to the Vault Festival, Life: The Gameshow.
It is the first outing of my new show. First and foremost it is a comedy show with a mix of stand up, songs, characters all framed within a gameshow based on the moments of life from being conceived, born, educated, death and potentially beyond (depending on time). 55 minutes, prizes.
What inspired you to create a solo live show with a gameshow format?
I have worked in comedy for a long time and play around with form and content. Content can be absolutely anything and I like to challenge myself with form. Stand up is fine but doesn’t excite me. I can’t sing or play any instruments so a big challenge was musical comedy – I had a crack and ended up winning the Audience Award at The Musical Comedy Awards. Then I tried sketch and improv, so want to have a go at something new.
The gameshow format means I will create content but each show will be different depending on the audience. That excites me and brings the best out of me as a performer.
How did you come up with the different characters that host each round?
I write the content first then see what jumps out. When I turned 30 I had a lot of questions about life achievements both personally and professionally. It always seemed to be at other people’s big life events such as weddings. So I had the idea of a choose-your-own-adventure game where the players have to survive expected life achievements: married? Children? Home owner? Professional success? etc. etc.
The obvious character was a drunk auntie at a wedding. Obviously. I’m also just an idiot and occasionally just start doing characters while driving or talking to my cats.
What drew you to character comedy?
Probably just being a frustrated actor. I am a comedian, presenter, writer, actor, voice over artist and acting is the most unfair of all those industries. Comedy is slightly more of a meritocracy than acting so when I want to scratch my acting itch I write characters.
Also my heroes were more comic actors than stand ups such as Robin Williams, Rik Mayall, Kathy Burke, Paul Whitehouse, and their influence still comes through in my writing.
What’s your secret to getting to the essence of someone’s life in the space of just one hour?
I’m not sure, I haven’t finished writing it yet! It is, of course, my life but I don’t really say that in the show. I may be unsuccessful.
What made you want to make such an interactive show?
I’ve done improv, sketch comedy, character comedy and decided the thing people like most about me as a performer is when I am reacting in the moment. My previous show Crazy Cat LAD-y culminated in a remake of my favourite childhood film Hook in which I played Peter Pan and the audience played all the other roles as well as sound effects. People loved it. Probably more so than the songs and stand up that came before it so I want to keep giving the people what they want.
How much of your show is prepared in advance and how much will be improvised?
The rounds, questions, challenges, characters and certain gags are all prepared and make a framework then I let the audience in and see how they react to it.
Crucially I let people know the joke is always on me and that I would never ask an audience to do something I wouldn’t do myself. People relax more and more throughout my shows and get involved more as they realise the pressure isn’t on and the interaction is always friendly.
Do you have a trick to keeping control of the more unpredictable side of audience interaction?
Be nice. I’ve seen some comedians be a bit harsh with audiences and that can cause some people to try and compete. By being friendly people join forces and even if you get a bad egg you’ll know the rest of the room is on your side by creating a friendly atmosphere.
What do you hope people take away from your show?
Don’t take life too seriously.
Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to at the Vault Festival?
I’m also appearing in Comedy Swingers Party which is a weekly show where the creator, Lee Griffiths, put a load of names of sketch and character comedy performers into a hat and pulled out randomly generated new sketch groups. I’m excited to be part of this but also to watch my peers come up with new stuff and collaborate with different people.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to break into comedy?
Find out what is unique about you and develop that. Trying to imitate other people is a waste of time.
Work hard. I took a break from stand up for a few years and when I returned found that the people who worked the hardest had gone onto the next level and even surpassed people who were naturally more talented.
Dave is performing Life: The Gameshow on 8th March.