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19 January 2022

Alan Davies Q&A: “What would make my life better? Not needing a wee in the middle of the night”

The comedian and actor on Arsenal, Suzuki rides, and watching the Euros at Neil Kinnock’s house.

By New Statesman

Alan Davies was born in Essex in 1966. A comedian and actor, he is best known for his role in the BBC drama Jonathan Creek and as the only permanent panellist on the quiz show QI.

What’s your earliest memory?

I don’t know. Childhood is a mixture of things you wish you could remember and things you wish you could forget.

Who are your heroes?

Barry Sheene, who won two motorcycle world titles in the Seventies. He owed his success in part to Ernst Degner, an East German racer who staged an accident in Sweden in order to defect in 1961. His family had already escaped the GDR in a car boot. Degner took his German engineer’s ideas to the new Japanese outfit Suzuki, who then built Barry’s wonder-bike. My recent hero is Guz Khan, who I met making Taskmaster. I’d cast Guz as a self-made billionaire who buys up my character’s restaurant in a return of the BBC Two sitcom Whites. He makes some changes to the kitchen staff with hilarious consequences.

What book last changed your thinking?

The A-Z.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Neil Kinnock. His speech to the Labour conference in 1985 was so inspiring I bought a copy of the text. Years later I was friendly with him and Glenys. In 2000 I had tickets to see England playing in Belgium in the Euros. The hotels were full so I called to ask if the Kinnocks knew of anywhere. A message came back that they were away but I could stay at their house and help myself to the wine cellar. England beat Germany and when my friend Jez and I returned we set off an alarm, which triggered a security phone call. The deafening racket made me nauseous but Jez yelled the codeword into the receiver just before a European Parliament Swat team arrived avec CS gas. We then watched the highlights with a bottle of Sancerre.

What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

Arsenal, the George Graham years.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I’d like to see dinosaurs, so a prehistoric camper-van holiday would be good.

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What TV show could you not live without?

QI, obviously.

Who would paint your portrait?

Johnny Vegas.

What’s your theme tune?

Having played Jonathan Creek, I already have a theme tune: Saint-Saëns’ “Danse Macabre”. I once caught myself humming it in a shop, which seemed like the worst act of attention-seeking.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Enjoy yourself up there,” from comedian Mike Wilmot, who sensed my apprehension when I was returning to stand-up in 2011 after ten years away.

What’s currently bugging you?

Face mask on, glasses steam up. Argh!

What single thing would make your life better?

Not needing to get up for a wee in the middle of the night.

When were you happiest?

Riding a big Suzuki through Spain with my now wife.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

Cricketer in the summer, jobbing porn actor in the winter.

Are we all doomed?

TBC.

“Just Ignore Him”, a memoir by Alan Davies, is published by Little, Brown

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This article appears in the 19 Jan 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The end of the party