These days it seems it’s never enough to be good at just one thing.
If you’re a chatshow host you should also be able to write a book. If you’re a stand-up comedian you should also be able to hold your own in a television ensemble drama.
And if you’re Alan Davies, you are able to do them all, thus gathering yourself a wide fanbase of people who love you for different reasons and maintaining a popular public persona for more than two decades.
Alan first came to national prominence in the early 1990s as a stand-up comedian. It brought him considerable fame and success which he capitalised on by moving into television by headlining the murder-mystery series Jonathan Creek and as a panellist in the Stephen Fry-helmed quiz show QI. He also starred in the hugely popular teen film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging.
Jonathan Creek, in which Davies plays a magician’s assistant with a knack for solving ‘unsolvable’ and apparently paranormal crimes, was a massive hit with viewers. It aired in series form until 2004 and then re-appeared in a few ‘specials’ before returning for three episodes earlier this year.
While a few critics were a bit sniffy about its reappearance, its fans stayed loyal and more than six million tuned in for the first episode.
Creek’s resurgence coincides with Davies’ latest foray into the world of stand-up, which he last entered, after a 10-year gap, with his Life of Pain tour in 2012.
His latest show, Little Victories, carries on where Life of Pain left off and arrives at Lighthouse in Poole on April 4.
He said: “It’s a continuation of Life of Pain, which was about having babies, and now I’m on to having toddlers and talking about my own parenting and my own father. And how I met my wife and injured myself in the bedroom trying to impress her, that sort of thing.
“It’s stuff that everyone can relate to. Most of the people in the audience are in their 40s and have paid a babysitter to come out and see someone be funny so you want to give them something that they will enjoy.
“Last time on tour the people in the audience were divided and it was a funny mix of those who knew me from years back and remembered I was a stand-up, and people who thought they were either getting the thick one from QI or the brainy murder one from Jonathan Creek. A lot of them didn’t know what to expect.”
Alan grew up in Essex, brought up by his father after the death of his mother when he was six. He went away to school, which led to a spell of youthful misdemeanours and, later on in life, a bitterness that he has since worked thorough thanks to counselling and the support of friends.
So would he say his style of parenting is different to that of his father?
“That’s the understatement of the 21st century,” he spluttered.
“It’s difficult because you don’t want to go on stage and be angry and bitter and you want to be funny but it is all there and has gone in to you as you are growing up.”
Alan’s decade-long absence from the stand-up stage was largely caused by his involvement in other projects.
“I was doing other things and other opportunities came along so I took them. Also, I didn’t have the material at the time and I started to drift away from the whole stand-up thing. I was pleased to get it back though and a lot of people came to see the last show and it was good fun so I decided I should do it again. So I’ve been writing more material and it’s nice to be out doing my own stuff and going on stage and talking about my own point of view.”
Stand up had changed considerably in Alan’s decade-long absence, most significantly in the way it had grown on television.
“Shows like Live at the Apollo changed everything,” he said.
“It used to be said that you couldn’t put stand-up on television because it wouldn’t work because the audience are there having a great time with a live comedian.
“But it does work; the audience’s enjoyment comes across and everyone at home laughs too.”
In between Jonathan Creek and Little Victories, Alan also found time to host Alan Davies’ Apres-Ski as part of BBC2’s Sochi winter Olympics showcase. After the UK leg of his current tour he will be heading to Australia for 15 shows before coming home to get stuck into more recordings of QI.
“That will be back in May or June, dragging us on towards the letter Z,” he said.
“It’s busy but it’s all going well and I’m pleased to be back doing stand-up again.”