Inbetweeners Star Greg Davies: 'It's Hard To Make Collaborative Comedy Work'
Greg Davies is being appealingly reticent about explaining how he made the leap into comedy. When he is finally persuaded, it doesn't sound too strange at all...
"I got a floatation tank experience as a present, and after I went in it, I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't doing what I should be doing with my life. Apparently, this kind of floatation epiphany is quite common."
Davies had harboured a long-time dream to be funny for a living. He believes being a school teacher for many years, as well as a "pathetic show-off" to boot apparently, gave him a bit of a head-start once he searched for 'Comedy Courses' on the web and found that such things actually existed:
"When I first started gigging, I think I might have come across initially as accomplished, for no other reason than I was used to standing up in front of people, and a difficult audience (teenage children) at that. It's a whole different set of skills, but it definitely helped."
Davies has been a regular face on our TV screens since breaking through nearlya decade ago, both as a contributor to shows such as Live at the Apollo, Mock the Weekand Have I Got News For You, and also as the long-suffering Mr Gilbert in The Inbetweeners. How does interpreting someone else's script compare with creating his own stand-up?
"It's really hard to make collaborative comedy work," Davies explains in London. "Everyone brings their opinion, their sense of humour, to the table, but the Inbetweeners' creators Ian and Damon are painfully aware of where different people's skills lie. They knew me as a stand-up, so they left me to it. I often suggested things, but they are great writers and know what they want."
Stephen Merchant has made one of the main thrusts of his recent stand-up tour the perils associated with being tall which, as he puts it, "defines you". Does Davies who, at 6'8" in socks, dwarves Merchant, feel the same?
"The first couple of years it was all I talked about, exclusively, as it's an inescapable part," he remembers. "But I was actually only slightly above average for my school life until sixth form, when I grew eight inches in a year. If I'd always been a freak during my formative years, it may have been different. It's merely a starting point for me, really,which is what you need in comedy."
Compared with the security of teaching, Davies is aware of the financial perils of the route he has chosen:
"I think the only downside is that you never feel like you’ve arrived where you wanted to. At the same time that's no bad thing, because it keeps you trying to be inventive. You're never fully qualified. There's scope to improve, and there are always people better than you, who make you realise how much harder you have to work. It's great, but there is insecurity that comes with that. The rewards outweigh it, though.
"I spent a long time doing a job I didn't really want to do, fantasising about this, so when you get the chance, you just want to eat the whole cake, ram it all into your face. If there's an opportunity to do your best to be funny, how could you not?"
Greg Davies Firing Cheeseballs At A Dog is out on DVD this Monday 14 November. Click here to order your copy.