Gwen Smith challenges Alan Davies on his sex symbol status and recent return to the stand-up circuit.
Alan Davies rings me ahead of schedule on a sunny afternoon because he wants to take his kids to the park. The mention of children brings to mind the actor-cum-comedian playing the untrendy but loveable dad in Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging. Sounds at the other end of the phone initially corroborate this image, but Davies – distracted by what sounds like a demanding toddler on his knee: “sorry, one of them is crying” – manages to plough on with discussing his return to stand-up and his dealings as one of the most recognisable faces on TV.
As part of his new stand-up tour, Alan headlines Cardiff Comedy Festival’s closing gala celebrations at the Wales Millennium Centre on Sun 28 July. “it’s material that I’ve been on the road with, and it’s all well run in,” explains Alan, who started out in stand-up comedy as far back as the 1980s before TV acting began to take over. “There’ll be some new bits too that I’m working on for next year’s show,” adds Alan who is clearly enthused by his return to the stand-up circuit.
Having filmed Whites (the country hotel-based sitcom in which he starred) in Cardiff three years ago, Davies is no stranger to the area, and some slight miscommunication leads to Davies apparently believing that I am hankering after a stream of Welsh tourist board worthy quotes. He racks his brain for responses to my city-selling agenda. It’s pretty endearing. “Well, we were there for six weeks, we went out quite a lot – mainly to Jamie’s Italian.” He tails off, but then adds with a laugh, “to our great shame, we spent one night in For Your Eyes Only – the entire cast, male and female. I was extremely impressed by the athleticism of the pole dancers.”
Davies’ tone turns a little wry when we talk about the fate of Whites, which was axed after only one series. “People tweet me every day, every day about Whites. It was a tragedy for all of us when it got cancelled.” The BBC gave no explanation for the cut: “you get an email which is full of the most peculiar BBC media speak; it’s like something out of George Orwell.”
We turn to lighter topics and Davies becomes more of the genial chatterbox nights of dozing in front of QI would lead you to expect. From talking about Jonathan Creek’s duffel coat, the conversation follows a natural segue into the actor’s feelings about being a sex symbol. Davies laughs a little awkwardly when I suggest that he must be on people’s lists of inappropriate crushes, only realising when it’s too late that this might cause mild offence. “I don’t think I’m a sex symbol, no. If anyone says anything like, ‘Jonathan Creek: I fancy him’, they always put it in a way that is like, ‘I must be mad’, or ‘don’t laugh but…’”
From one eccentric TV presence to another I suggest (barely joking) that Davies could fill Matt Smith’s shoes as the next Doctor Who. This idea is clearly not a new one, but the comedian doesn’t seem too hopeful. “They usually pick somebody not known to a television audience so much. If it was me people will just go ‘Ooh! It’s Jonathan Creek going in the Tardis.”
Incidentally, Davies bumped into Matt Smith in the Cardiff Bay Tesco whilst his wife was visiting. “People kept pointing and saying: ‘Oh look! It’s the bloke off QI! A minute later [my wife] came round the corner and said: ‘Doctor Who is here! Doctor Who is in the next aisle!’ So we turned around and did exactly the same as the other people,” chuckles Alan.
I ask what he thought he might have been doing if it wasn’t for stand-up and acting. He jokes about past football reporting ambitions, before becoming suddenly earnest when he states, “I always wanted to do comedy and I did drama at uni – that’s all I wanted to do from being a teenager. Now I’m back doing it again. My last show got canned so I thought I’d get back to what I’m best at,” and it’s certainly lucky for us that he has.
Alan Davies, Cardiff Comedy Festival Gala, Sun 28 July, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay. Tickets: £25. Info: 029 2063 6464 / www.wmc.org.uk