pre-Guilfest Interview

Danny James

published: Thu 28th Jun 2007

Friday 13th to Sunday 15th July 2007
Stoke Park, Guildford, Surrey., England MAP
£90 for w/e, £100 with camping; days £40; chilren aged 12-16 £50, or £60 with camping, £30 any
last updated: Mon 9th Jul 2007

Danny James is a comic and one of the comperes at Guilfest Cosmic Comedy Tent, while he waits for his kettle to boil to make a cup of tea and rescues his cat from a bumble bee, he answered a few questions.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and what you do at Guilfest
I do the compering every year at Guilfest on at least one, normally two of the comedy shows. Essentially, I’m a comic the same as everyone else who goes on stage. But for the most part I like to have a bit of fun. So, essentially every year I turn up do the early show on the Saturday and the late show on the Saturday. By the time I turn up to do the late show I’m either knackered or drunk which is hilarious, which is why I do it.

How did you get into doing that?
This is going to sound like nepotism beyond belief but my agent, actually then she wasn’t my agent when I first did Guilfest, that’s not fair. Joss the lady that books the Cosmic Comedy tent, she’d seen me before just years and years ago when I first started. I went down to interview a couple of the comics myself as I was a journalist then and one of the comics didn’t turn up, when it was a comedy competition and I said to Joss, “Can I have a crack and do my first seven minutes at Guilfest?” That was 2001, I think I’ve improved a bit since then I was rubbish, I died in a hole. Honestly it was dreadful. All I can remember is some old bloke wearing a kaftan climbing a pole in the middle of the tent with his knackers showing. I first got booked to do it properly in 2004 and then 2005 came and I actually signed to Joss’ management company and I actually said to her, “Can you just make sure as part of our rolling agreement, as our contract between us, that I get to do Guilfest” I’d heard Guilfest have stepped in with acts who have played too many times, I’ve been lucky to ensure I do it.

Is Guilfest an easy crowd?
No it’s far from easy, it’s a proper challenge as gigs go it can be absolutely beautiful and it can also be terrifying difficult. It’s incredibly hard, the challenge is the cult that just wanders in and out of the tent. I mean it’s not like if your on stage with a guitar and doing a song there’s not going to be a point where you get interrupted, and you don’t have to stop because someone is having a conversation. Where as in the comedy tent half of the battle, not just for me but for all the comedians is to keep the crowd interested and if you can’t, the heckling you get there is just phenomenal. There’s been the funniest heckles.

What’s your favourite Heckle?
Last year I did the early show, and I got asked to do 15 minutes between each of the acts, which is an extraordinary amount of time. Normally what would happen in a normal gig with 3 or 4 acts is 10 minutes at the top of the show, 2 minutes between the first two acts, and 10 minutes at the top of the second show as well which is 25 minutes of stuff altogether. At Cosmic Comedy I actually ended up on stage for an hour and forty five minutes and course there’s kids there and stuff as well. I did the early show and it was five hours long and I was knackered - I’ve rarely felt as knackered as I did after that.

So I went back to my tent and got into bed and just chilled out til the night show. But I rarely felt as knackered as that, and I was flagging, I literally couldn’t complete a sentence, I didn’t know what to do I was so tired.

So my wife said why don’t I go to one of those herbal stalls and see what they can sort me out with. I don’t normally do chemical enhancements but I was so knackered and if it meant I could get through the show, and not mess it up it’d be worth it, cos I like coming back. The girl said I should have all these three herbal speed tablets, She said they would keep me awake until half two but she didn’t say what day. So I knocked them back and got backstage.

Tom turned up, who’s a legend, on form a very funny man and he’s pulled out two spliffs and he said, “Danny James do you want have some spliff?” and I thought, “Maybe this will sort me out, maybe this will help.” So I just partook of a smaller quantity of this cigarette which tasted surprisingly weird!

Then Nobby turned up and said, “Hey lads I’ve got the rider for tonight’s show” and he’s there with a whole fridge full of Stella backstage. I don’t drink Stella as a rule as I don’t want to have a fight, you know what I mean? You don’t even know why you’re angry - it’s hilarious.

I thought well you know what the throats a bit dry I’ll have a beer. I was just getting into it and about to bring on the first act and a 15 year old girl at the back asked, “Why are you shouting?” I thought, “I have no idea!” I have fifteen hundred kilowatts of power coming out of each speaker and I looked across at the sound guys and they were covering their ears. I was screaming, screaming into the speaker and I just thought, “I better not drink anymore of this beer!” Then I stayed awake ‘til the following Thursday. Don’t do that stuff, it keeps you awake, it definitely works it keeps you awake for hours. I was a mess. That was the best heckle I’ve ever had “Why are you shouting?”

How do you come up with your material?
Tell you what happened my wife is a doctor and she’s just been given a new job at a big pharmacology department and she’s quite important. And, basically she got a brand new Mercedes delivered a month ago as her company vehicle. I answered the door and the man turned around and said, “I’ve got a car for Dr James is she here?” And I went, “How do you know it’s a she if you’ve got down Dr James?” And he said cos it’s got front parking sensors. Things like that make me laugh so much and I just think that’s brilliant material.

Do you remember them or do you have to write stuff down?
I don’t write stuff down. My wife and agent tell me off a lot cos I don’t write things down. I was in Oxford last week and someone came up and said they’d seen me years and years ago and asked, “Why didn’t I tell the joke about my nan? It was such a good joke” And I couldn’t remember it and I had to come home and dig out all the old videos and recordings of myself and sit through them because I can’t remember it. So I realise I forget stuff and so I’ve started writing it down. I’ve got post it notes all over my desk, of jokes I’ve thought of. Joss’ll ask, “How much new material have you written?” And I’ll reply, “None” But I’ve just done 35 minutes of new stuff in the last week and written some more since then. I didn’t realize I wrote as much as I did and thought I was quite lazy but I’m not I just don’t write things down. I do try and write it down now, but I didn’t for the first six years, which is why I can’t remember stuff.

Who inspired you to be a comedian?
I wasn’t really inspired to be a comedian but I watched Lee Evans and Eddie Izzard in the early years and Eddie was glorious in one of the most fantastic tours I’ve ever seen.I’d watch them and think I’d really like to make people laugh. And one of my early ambitions was to get on the stage at the comedy stage. I never thought I’d actually realise it, I just wanted to make people laugh. You know people harbour these dreams of things they’d like to be like boys wanting to be a train driver. I worked in the music industry for a long time as a journalist and the two crossed over when I ended up opening this record label for a chap in Clapham. Third week it was open a comedy promoter asked “Do you want a gig?” and I thought yeah we’ve got Thursdays free and that’s quite nice to see something I’m passionate about even though I’m doing music and not comedy. I watched the first show they had one professional comedian and then everyone else was an open slot and I didn’t really understand the concept. I just thought, “you’re shit, you’re rubbish” I was annoyed I was there to see comedians he’d put on and here were all these muppets. So I started heckling which is never a good idea and one guy said if you think you are so good why don’t you get up here and do it?” But I bottled it. The guy who runs it came up to me and said, “You know that’s bad form I’ll let you redeem yourself by having a go at it yourself you can play my other gig in Clapham and you can have a go at doing it yourself.” So I went, “All right” I wrote some stuff down did three minutes Died on my arse tanked it completely and realised it was something I needed to do and something I needed to get some laughs from before I walked away saying at least I gave it a go.

Do you get nervous on stage?
Yeah, Christ yeah. Anyone who doesn’t, doesn’t care about it, the day I stop worrying about it is the day I stop doing comedy cos I’ve stopped caring. And I know people say they don’t get nervous, but you see them and you think, “Yeah cos you’re just tramping out the same old shit you did ten years ago as a long monologue.” Every single minute I’m stood back stage waiting to go on at the start of the show, for the rest of the show I’m fine; especially at the bigger clubs like Jongleurs the Comedy Stores, whatever. I’m normally compering for them so I’m on first, no one’s warmed up the microphone, no one has tested the waters for me, it’s cold. And as soon as the intro music comes on and they start running spotlights across the stage - my arse starts twitching ten to the dozen. I have a pre-show routine I stand by the side of the stage preferably out of sight, and I have to start jumping up and down like a footballer does just shaking my hands. Otherwise I lock up like a stiff board with a handle that someone has to carry on stage. Then once I’m on and I’ve got the first laugh, I’m fine.

You’re also an actor?
Yeah I’m a rubbish actor to be honest with you. I quite like it though. I’ve done four or five films and bits and various pieces on TV. It’s something I never realised aspired to, that’s the reality. I’d like to do it now, do a big budget movie. The last few films I’ve done have been fairly low budget horror all from a director called Pat Higgins who writes great stuff. I’ve done two films for him last year. I played a serial killer in a film called ‘Killer Killer’ which was my first major role actually, my first proper part in a movie before that I’d done bit parts and cameos and walk ons. But Pat phoned me up and said I’ve got a part for you in ‘Hellbride’. I wasn’t on long I arrived on page 43 and I was dead by page 49. I thought sweet. Up til then I’d done walk in parts. And a couple of years before that I did ‘Trash House’ I was killed twice in that film. Infact I’m celebrated as the most killed person in Higgins films. I’m killed four times in three films. I’ve got a record there.

Do you get nervous making films then?
No I don’t get nervous during the filming, I get nervous at the screentest and the audition. If you do the screentest and they say you’re the right person then when I go to do it I’ve already made them laugh so I’ve already done what I could. So no I don’t, no. Generally I get told off a lot on set for messing about and being naughty.

Do you do the whole camping thing?
Well cos I’m double booked with Jongleurs Birmingham. I’m gonna have to come down on Thursday and set up camp with my wife. I’m a Kingston Boy born and bred and so Guilfest was one of my first loves. I know it’s only been going 10 or 11 years but I’ve been to nearly all of them as they’re on in my neck of the woods. This year cos I’m double booked I have to do Jongleurs in Birmingham on Friday and Saturday. I have to drive up to Birmingham Friday do the shows and straight after jump in the car and come back Sunday the stay for the show and head home Monday morning.

Have you done comedy at other festivals?
I haven’t no, I know that Reading, Leeds and Glasto have comedy tents but I haven’t no. I’ve never asked if I can do them. But I like Guilfest, see, I know what I like.

Have you been to any festivals before?
Music was a part of life for so long I’ve got friends that are very involved in these festivals I’ve been to Glasto, T in the Park I’ve done a couple of times, a couple of smaller ones, Isle of Wight, one on the border of Scotland which is quite cool, I can’t remember what it’s called. I haven’t done Leeds and I haven’t done Reading.

At Guilfest do you get to see the music side of it?
I was a bit disappointed cos the people I wanted to see were playing on the Saturday night, and I was so knackered between the two shows I didn’t really get a chance to see it, I walked past Aha and they were rubbish. I wandered passed Blue Oyster Cult and I really wanted to see them and the atmosphere was better there. There wasn’t the smell of female. The main stage was predominantly women going, “Oh Morten we love you despite the fact you’ve lost your voice and you’re rubbish now.” But, if you ever find photographs of backstage areas you’ll usually see me there getting pissed and watching the music.

As a child did you find clowns funny or scary?
I grew up near Chessington, right by World of Adventures so I saw clowns a lot and one of my friends was a clown called Dingle Fingle, so I’d have to say funny.

What was the last piece of music you listened to?
Christ good question, in my car last night when I was driving home from the golf course I have the new Linkin Park album. I think I like it, I really like Meteora so I’m still getting used to the new one. But no, sorry, I lie completely the last song I heard was ‘Eat You Alive’ by Limp Bizkit.

Tell us something very few people know about you.
I’m a proper metal head and when we got married last year our first song at our wedding reception was ‘Thank You’ from Led Zeppelin II.

If you could be anyone for a day, who would it be?
Brilliant question. Anyone? mythical or a real person? Well do you know what I’d quite like to be Peter Petrelli from Heroes, he’s the one that absorbs super powers. Or if people don’t know him, Jack Bower who only works for one day a year.

Lastly, what’s your favourite reply to a heckler?
Tell you what, I saw a comic who I don’t like very much so I won’t name him, but give him his credit this was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen, a couple of years ago he hadn’t being going very long he got heckled at a gig in London, I can’t remember the heckle. “I’m sorry sir but I haven’t been going for very long but if you come back in a couple of years time I will prepare a response” That’s beautiful man, cos what can the man do to reply? Absolutely nothing, it was quite nice.

Thanks very much for your time, see you at Guilfest, well I never do comedy so perhaps I’ll come and see.
Alright buddy, come down and say hello, ta-ra.
interview by: Scott Williams

Friday 13th to Sunday 15th July 2007
Stoke Park, Guildford, Surrey., England MAP
£90 for w/e, £100 with camping; days £40; chilren aged 12-16 £50, or £60 with camping, £30 any
last updated: Mon 9th Jul 2007


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