INTERVIEW: Dan Clark
With his first national tour heading for the Midlands, comic and star of How Not to Live Your Life, Dan Clark tells Adam Yosef why he’s never been to Birmingham, how he could be the next Simon Pegg and why he’s becoming addicted to Twitter…
For a comedian who’s been on the national circuit for a while and has a cult TV show heading for its fourth series firmly under his belt, you might wonder why Dan Clark isn’t a household name.
It’s true, upon hearing his name you might struggle to immediately come up with a face but if actually shown his face, you’d instantly recognise the mischievous eyes and cheeky grin as those of the socially inept anti-hero Don Danbury from BBC comedy How Not to Live Your Life – a show about a neurotic, single twenty-nine year old, failing to navigate his way through any normal kind of existence.
If not lured by the entire premise of the show, you can be sure ardent fans hold a torch for its protagonist, Don, a socially inappropriate and somewhat unbalanced character who seems to be a magnet for mishaps. And, though I’m sure he’s generally better-rounded, the style and content of Clark’s stand-up musings do raise the question of how similar the two actually are.
“If I said ‘a lot’ I wouldn’t come across very well. Don is a shady dark version of me; he’s all my bad qualities,” explains Dan.
“The main difference between us is he has no self awareness. He has a child-like quality and just blunders himself through situations. I think I’m more paranoid.”
Armed with the hilarious consequences of Dom’s regular and ‘blundering’ adventures, Dan Clark’s self penned show has become a BBC Three staple, recently wrapping up its third series.
“The first series went unnoticed which was good and bad. We made a lot of changes to fix teething problems after the first series. During the second series, people heard about it more but we’re still on the cusp of cult and not quite in the mainstream.
“It could never be a BBC One show for example. Part of me thinks it will always be a cult show.”
Having developed his own personal style along with the progress of the television show, Dan suggests he may be ready for a fresh challenge.
“I don’t want to stay in the corner of the entertainment industry forever, writing cult-ish stuff on the sidelines. I find I’m getting less ‘angrier’ in my writing. I am currently writing a couple of things that are less-edgy than How Not to Live Your Life.
“I wouldn’t mind doing films like Simon Pegg or following that path he’s taken [from cult Spaced to blockbuster Star Trek], each film he does, he seems to get broader in character and role. For me though, the problem is finding the right thing, not just anything for the sake of it.”
Coupling the slowly growing potential of his television projects with a hunger for new horizons, Clark has decided to break away from the studio lights and take his brand of comedy directly to the people.
Embarking on his first major national stand-up tour following successful standalone shows, Clark is bringing “a combination of stand up routine, observational comedy and songs” to a whole new audience; and despite not having the mainstream breakthrough he’d hoped, How Not to Live Your Life has clearly found the 34-year-old a new niche following, allowing him to take his unique perspective on life from Bristol to Edinburgh between now and May.
That being the case; the usually London-centric performer is entering unchartered territory as far as his geographical instincts are concerned.
“I have never been to Liverpool and never been to Birmingham,” he tells me.
“I’m intrigued to know what the people of Birmingham are like. I probably won’t have much time but if I do, I’d like to check out the city.”
Curious, he enquires about the great and wonderful things that he could see when in England’s second city – to which my only response, based on the venue he’ll be playing, is the ‘Iron: Man’ – a larger-than-life size statue which stands directly outside the city’s Town Hall.
I explain he’s the smaller cousin of the famous ‘Angel of the North’ sculpture in Gateshead, having been created by the very same artist, Antony Gormley.
“Iron Man? Right, I’m gonna just cancel the whole tour and my dates to Birmingham,” he laughingly jokes. At least I hope he’s joking.
Completely failing to come up with any other excitable landmarks and realising I’ve painted a very bleak picture of the city; I ask him if he ever improvises using national stereotypes during gigs.
“I could do regional jokes but I don’t know much about the people of Birmingham, I’m not even sure what the stereotype of Birmingham people is, if there is one. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of crowd they are and how they take to me.”
Of course, you can still expect him to heavily mull over his pet hates and random thoughts in a way only Clark knows how. After all, previous routines touch heavily on the pitfalls of new media, modern gadgets and social networking – technologies Dan seems to embrace and hate with equal tenacity.
“I’m someone who relies heavily on all this stuff and have become a bit dependent on modern gadgets.
“This morning when I got a call to say I was doing eight interviews back to back, I really got worried; I wanted to email all my answers. I’ve got myself into a cocoon of texting and tweeting where I wasn’t speaking directly to people as much and people started to think I was being rude.
“I don’t tweet very often but when I do, it’s usually when I’m watching bad TV so to someone who has no idea what I do, they’re probably reading my tweets thinking I’m someone who only watches TV I hate!
“I don’t tweet about everything though; I don’t write ‘Hey everyone, I just took a shit’ – though I’m fascinated about why people feel the need to share what they’re doing all the time.
“I’m also intrigued by how the internet affects the way we meet people on a realistic level. The young generation now will grow old never knowing how to go up to people and talk to them or never know how to go up to someone and ask them out on a date because they’ve got the comfort and security of Facebook.”
So, with a well-received telly hit, new projects and a UK-wide tour, it seems Dan is heading onto bigger and brighter things but it doesn’t necessarily spell the end of How Not to Live Your Life.
“We’re talking about a fourth series this week actually. I have some other projects as well and have definitely got my eyes on new things I’m writing. I did come up with a series arc which allows storylines to develop so the show should definitely continue.”