Interview with QI, Jonathan Creek & As Yet Untitled Star Alan Davies
Alan Davies is a man of many talents – comedy, acting and playing the idiot to Stephen Fry’s ridiculously knowledgeable quizmaster – and now he’s back with a new series of the unique unscripted format As Yet Untitled. We were invited to join Alan with a group of other journalists to talk about the upcoming new series…
What is it like not having any questions?
I do have a little note about each person. Last series, I went to Julian Clary first, and he had a very funny but quite shocking story about an incident in a gay club and afterwards I thought that might not have been the one I’d gone to first had I known. They forewarn me, they don’t tell me what the stories are but they say that’s a good one, so I have a little idea but I find that because people are sitting as we are now, they talk to one another as well and they ask each other questions. It’s much more of a conversation, so I don’t really feel like it’s up to me particularly to crank it all up, although obviously if it starts to drop its on me to prod them. But we only have funny people on and they all chat.
How much input do you have on who comes onto the show?
There’s a lot of conversation about that and our main principle is to try and get as many new people as possible. It’s really what we like because once you start making lists, the lists go on and on and on and on. We’ve had great guests on, and we have had one or two back for a second appearance – like Bob Mortimer.
Who’s top of your list for the fourth series?
I’d have Chris Rock or someone like that if it was me! I don’t know. We’ll have a conversation and they’ll start asking people, but the casting – the putting together of it – that’s the [production team] who put that together, and they do a great job. They try to have a big A-lister, you know like the first series we had Lee Mack, and you know he’s going to be funny, he’s great, and then a younger one, and then someone who’s not a stand up. There’s a sort of pattern to it if you look through the cast lists, but it’s quite a skill I think actually.
Have you ever had the opposite where people have come up to you and begged you to come on?
People ask to come back because they have a really good time. I saw James Brown the other day – I play a bit of six a side football on a Monday morning with a load of other middle aged men and he was playing – and he said, “I want to come back on”. And I said “well you can’t. Wait your turn, you’ve only just been”. He said to me that show should be on every night, and I said “well we can’t make one every day”, “you should!”. He loved it.
So do you film as live?
It’s filmed as live and we do two halves and we talk for about forty five minutes, then break, then talk to another forty five minutes. It’s a dream job for me. I don’t have to do any preparation. I have the same approach as I have for QI, where the less I do, the better it is.
You’ve got your trip to Everest coming up – will there be some preparation for that?
Yes. I am going to Everest, yes. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and then I got my training programme through…
You’re going to have to really train for that.
Yes, well mainly the training appears to be walking up hills. That seems to be the main advice. They say find a nearby hill, preferably with rough terrain, and walk up it. A lot. Actually my publicist for all my stand up stuff, Paul Sullivan, has done it and he said it is and effffing slog, but it was amazing. It just came out the blue and I’ve always to go to – I know not to say the Himalayas, because Himalaya means the Himalayas. I learnt that on QI. And I’m not gonna get another chance.
Are you feeling nervous?
Well I think I will be when I start. The thing I’m worried about is getting an altitude sickness, because if you get altitude sickness you just have to go back, and lots of people get it and you don’t know who is going to get it. I think i’ll be the oldest one – I’ll be fifty when I do it. So perhaps it’s a midlife crisis.
So in Everest you’re going to do a gig at base camp?
That’s the plan. There’s no theatre there as far as I’m aware. I think everyone will just have to sit on their backpacks. or stand in the corner… I don’t suppose there will be a PA. Or lights. I don’t know if there will be a campfire.
Will that be the weirdest gig you’ve ever done?
Yeah. Without a doubt.
What’s the most memorable story of of series three for you?
This series? I don’t know really – probably Katherine Jakeways’ story in the first one. If I tell you any more about it it will just ruin it. But they all have funny stories, they all do. John Thompson sat where you’re sitting and he was just like *deep voice* “all right” like he was in the pub, Matt Lucas was hysterically funny. I’ve known Matt a very long time. One of the nice things is that a lot of people who come on I have known and I met Matt when he was a teenager starting in comedy twenty years ago and seen him go through all the things he’s done. It’s incredible really.
Would you have predicted when you first met him?
You could see he was talented – I mean, look at him – he’s such an unusual looking character. He was doing Bernard Chumley at the time, and part of his act was he took his wig off and revealed his alopecia. The next thing he was being the giant baby on shooting stars and he never looked back. he was very very funny and its funny seeing people going through their lives – almost growing up – Bob Mortimer’s hysterical, Tommy Tiernan was so funny. Yeah, you’re going to enjoy it!
Do you forget about the audience?
You do really. I mean not completely. But you know we’re all facing one another, there was so much talk about the size of the table, the shape of the table, the type of chairs, you’d be amazed!
It’s a bit like one of those ouija board tables. You expect it to levitate.
We have had a couple of people you made the same séance gag. But yeah, on the first pilot it was big table and big chairs and we came together and it was like something out of a sci-fi film, you know, it was various leaders of the various galaxies convening.
Have you ever had someone who is a bit quiet?
Denise van Outen had a bit of a hangover, but you couldn’t tell – she looked amazing! She’s so stunning, she’s sat there saying “I feel terrible”. “You don’t look it!”. But it didn’t stop her talking once she got going. Everyone likes doing it. Touch wood that will continue. I’ll say all this now and then this lot will come in this afternoon and hate it.
So what’s next because you’re doing the tour as well?
I’m touring in November, and then more of the same really next year. Fingers crossed there will be a Jonathan Creek episode, fingers crossed because it’s about getting everybody in the same place at the same time. And hopefully more QI. With any luck next year there will be more of all the things I did last year!
If you weren’t a part of either show, would you prefer to go on QI or As Yet Untitled?
That’s a very difficult question. Yeah, I mean, people really laugh on this [As Yet Untitled]. The guests – there’s more laughter on this, but really, you don’t learn anything – except about one another! I dunno, it’s the toss of a coin really.
Whats your favourite QI fact?
I don’t remember any of them. I do get asked that quite often and the only one I remember is about the Vikings when they went on longboats to explore the world, they obviously didn’t know where land was so they took ravens with them, and they’d let a raven go and it flies incredibly high and you can see it because its black. If it sees land then it will go towards the land, and then you follow it, and it will go directly so if it goes that way it will keep going that way and you can follow it. If it can’t see the land it will come back to the boat because it can’t land on the water. I though that was genius! I don’t know which Viking thought of that – “Let’s take a raven!” “How many?” “Let’s take a few…”. That’s the only one. That and there’s more than one moon, but don’t ask me…
Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled returns to Dave on November 3 at 10pm.