Alan Davies: Life Is Pain
Alan Davies returns to Edinburgh after a decade long hiatus from stand-up comedy with “Life is Pain”, his first stand-up appearance at the Fringe since 2001. A show that encompasses, amongst other things, his experiences of being a parent with a young family, the difference between his life today and in the 1980s, and his thoughts on the world potentially ending in 2012. It first came to fruition during a live tour of QI in Australia last year.
Davies had stopped performing as he’d “lost the love of it a bit” however after being cajoled into returning by a friend in Oz he found that he’d missed it dearly. “I began doing work in progress gigs, starting from scratch and putting material together, which was a new process for me.” He then successfully toured Australia with the show, garnering praise along the way.
After such a long time away was he nervous about stepping back out there? “Yes, quite nervous. After the first few work in progress gigs where nothing was very funny I was worried I’d lost my mojo. Once I’d sifted through my notes I felt better.”
Stephen Fry’s mop-topped sidekick cut his teeth as a comedian at the Fringe in the early 90s, which would mean, as he wryly observes, that the twentysomethings sat in his audience at a recent show were probably in nursery school when he first started out.
Davies doing standup in 1994
His time away from the stage coincided with a point in his career when he had a number of commitments, including his role as the eponymous Jonathan Creek and as an omnipresent panellist on the hugely popular QI. He remarks that he never thought “that the last time I stepped off stage would be the last time.” It is fitting then that his return to the comedy spotlight in the UK is at the Fringe. As a performer it’s clear that Edinburgh means a lot to him; “I have a huge amount of affection for the city and the festival. I’ve seen so many great shows and I’ve lots of good memories.”
Fans of QI may be curious to know what type of performer Davies is away from the panel show set-up. Is he concerned that they’ll have preconceptions? “They’ll have (them) if they haven’t seen me tour.” Yet this is hardly new ground for him, “it happened when I did stand-up before with Jonathan Creek fans. You’re then tasked with winning them over. I’m much funnier as a stand-up than on QI. I’m freed of the constraints of that type of show.”
He also has some words of wisdom for those younger comics finding their feet at the Fringe. “It’s on you – be as funny as you can be.” He urges those starting out to remain focussed on their craft and ignore the naysayers, adding that it was important to not “scour the internet or newspapers to read what people say.” As someone with some terrific memories of the festival he maintains that enjoyment, above all else, is paramount; “you have to be able to look back on the good times.”
With that in mind, Davies’ last word on the Fringe should probably become the unofficial tagline, and a mantra to us all: “If you don’t enjoy the Edinburgh festival then you should have a good look at yourself!”