Comedian Dave Spikey talks to us about health, comedy and memories of living in Bolton.
What have been the highlights of your showbiz career so far?
Writing and Co-Starring in “That Peter Kay Thing” and Phoenix Nights”, winning The Best Show in Town award from the Manchester Evening News for my first ever tour show after ten years plugging away on the circuit . Receiving a Gold Disc for DVD sales of that same tour. Appearing on The Royal Variety Show in front of HM The Queen and later in the same week guesting on the iconic “Parkinson” show in the same week with one of my absolute greatest heroes Paul McCartney. Then writing and co-starring in my own sit-com “Dead Man Weds” for ITV. I’ve been so lucky ; 32 years working in the NHS then this amazing second career.
Do you change your routine for the North and South?
No not really. I’m in a very fortunate and privileged position that I attract the same type of audience no matter where I perform. That is to say a very warm, welcoming and enthusiastic crowd who have come out just to see me and have a laugh. My Comedy is largely observational – comedy of the everyday which by definition applies to all areas of the country. Having said that I used to include a routine about Wigan which could have alienated some folk from the south coast who had never visited the area and were thus unaware of the pie culture (!) but there are always ways and means of setting up certain situations and routines which can be Funny in themselves before delivering the material
Do you build finding new material into everyday. Has it become a habit now?
Yes it’s a habit. I think that it is a major part of the psyche of the Comedian to continually observe and absorb events that surround them or that they interact with and then to instinctively identify which of those veins to mine for comedy gold. Observational comedians often come under criticism from the self-appointed Comedy Elite and certain critics because the subjects they cover are so accessible and thus by their definition unchallenging. In my opinion, those people do us a great disservice by not recognising the considerable skill and craft involved in converting something so seemingly mundane and everyday into laugh out loud funny. A good comedian takes those everyday events and sees them with their slightly skewed eye then amplifies, exaggerates and re-writes them in their own voice to gain those rewarding, huge consistent laughs.
If you want to have a great day then what 5 things do you find yourself doing?
- Go to the gym – 2000 metres on the Water Rower, Half an hour on the cross trainer. I hate it but it makes me feel good and the time soon passes when I have “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “Seinfeld” on the TV.
- Veggie breakfast with Quorn “Chefs Selection” Sausages which are amazing.
- Have a really productive writing session while listening to a chill out or jazz/blues podcast – my current favourites “Guido’s Lounge Café”, “Groovecafe Aperitif and “Loungevity”
- Go for a long bike ride in the sunshine with my wife around Cuerden Valley Park
- Meet my mates for the craic in the local pub early doors for a couple of pints of craft ale – Dead Pony Club or Camden Pale Ale if he’s got it on. I’ve lived in this village for 25 years – long before I started comedy so it’s a highlight of my day meeting up and having a proper good laugh after work with all my old friends.
Do you think that comedians can have too much exposure on television so they are no longer funny?
Depends if they’re a good comic or not. If they aren’t then the answer is a resounding yes. If they are then no we won’t tire of them – they have the funny although I add the caveat that there is some truth in the old adage, “You can have too much of a good thing”. You can tire of seeing the same faces time after time no matter how funny they are. I might add that by contrast there are many excellent comedians on the circuit who rarely get the chance. A lot is decided by the agency they are signed up to as the big agencies production companies make the majority of TV stand-up and panel shows and so use a great many of their own acts. If a comedian is with a smaller agent or freelance (as I am) the opportunities are severely limited which is unhealthy and dispiriting.
How do you keep fit and healthy?
I’ve been vegetarian for over 20 years which I’m certain is a major factor. Add into the equation plenty of exercise. I’ve played football regularly since I was at school (still do at my age!), I go to the gym 2/3 times a week and I love riding my bike. I’ve never smoked; was never tempted to – I think it helped that my parents’ rarely smoked and there was little peer pressure to do so in my formative years.
Do you think there is a sitcom begging to be written?
I think that a sitcom that revolves around the world of Ballroom Dancing would be a winner. I don’t mean at a high level but say in a small hotel in Blackpool where they have weekly sessions. I think that there would still be the same competitive elements and snobbery, elitism and personality clashes between the couples attending. Add into the mix an ex world class ballroom dance teacher with a secret and the staff of the struggling hotel and you have a hit on your hands. Oh hang on! I’ve written that with Neil Fitzmaurice. Any takers?
What advice would you give to a school pupils that wants to be a comedian?
Only perform material that you think is funny; so funny that when you wrote it, it made you smile or laugh yourself. If you don’t find it all that funny then the audience certainly won’t. Talk about personal experiences that you found funny or things you’ve noticed about life or seen on television or in the papers because (and always remember this) you are not unique ; if it’s happened to you it’s probably happened to them. This is the comedian’s art, his/her skill, jogging memories and hitting funny-bones. Final note. Be yourself. Be natural. There are many fine technical comedians around, very funny people who have no soul or warmth to them. You have to connect with your audience. If you do they’ll remember you. Woody Allen said “Rule number 1. Make them like you”.
What are your highlights of things to do in Bolton?
Growing up in the rows of terraced houses round the mills on Chorley Old Road. Two up, two down houses with an outside loo which had a Paraffin lamp to stop the cistern freezing and no toilet paper just torn up bits of newspaper on a nail or if you were lucky Tit Bits. Although it was mainly just Bits
Coal fires no firelighters, Mum Donkey stoning steps (DONKEY stone?) she got off the rag and bone man
Playing in and around the mills was our adventure playground plus football and cricket on the cobbled streets. I drove past recently and the painted-on wickets are still on the mill wall. We had different rules – One handed catches off the wall allowed and a peg-leg in any kind of dispute. They should introduce that into test cricket. You have to hold the cricket bat upside down and run whether you hit the ball or not.
During Wimbledon we’d spend hours hitting a tennis ball against the end terrace wall. The neighbours were not very happy and no matter how hard I practiced the wall always won
Most Weekends and summer holidays we spent in Queens Park, on the swings, in the paddling pool , on the boating lake which had an island in the middle. For danger we’d walk round the outside of the pie-crust which was a sort of stone terrace at the end of a promenade. It just happened to resemble a giant pie crust!
Winters sledging down Winter Hill or Rivington Pike on bin lids or planks of wood.
Train Spotting on Trinity Street Bridge or Lostock junction or down the Middlebrook when it was all fields. The best train of the day was always about 4 O’clock, the Blackpool Express. If you were lucky it might be a Brit or a Scot or sometimes a double header
Watching Bolton Wanderers at Burnden Park. We’d walk to the match from our house, down Chorley Street passed old gates which had two big elephants on the posts. Then across town, passed Trinity St and EDBROS the big engineering firm, then over Orlando Bridge.
There were big crowds in those days which could get very scary with some days your feet hardly touching the floor. My first game was 5 November 1960 and we beat Man City 3-1.Franny Lee and Nat Lofthouse scored for us and Dennis Law for them. After the game we’d walk back down Manchester Rd and by time we got to Trinity Street a mobile printing van would have copies of the BUFF newspaper ready and we’d buy one and read all about the game we’d just watched!
I have happy memories of going up to Barrow Bridge in the summer. It was a real treat to catch the – No 2 bus and arrive in that beautiful spot with the picturesque houses across the steam with their own little bridges. Stark contrast to the terraces of Chorley Old Road. We’d climb the 63 steps up to the top of a hill, have a quick look round and then dash back down. There was a wonderful boating lake there with a Tuck Shop and Candy Floss kiosk. The whole town was devastated when a terrible summer storm washed it all away.
As a kid I loved going to the ODEON for Saturday morning pictures and later when I was a teenager they had touring rock and pop shows. I saw the incredible Jimi Hendrix at Bolton Odeon!! And Cat Stevens and many more. Then The Octagon Theatre started Saturday Afternoon Blues sessions – Bluesology – what a great age to be a teenager!
Due to popular demand Dave Spikey has added more dates to his critically acclaimed “Punchlines” tour. All details at www.davespikey.co.uk/live
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