Dan Clark interview
When they get to a certain age, some comedians will inevitably do a show about, well, getting to a certain age.
For Dan Clark, his looming number is 40, the landmark where life was previously said to begin but which these days prompts reactions in the recipient as varied as a calm shrug of the shoulders to sheer panic.
Clark’s new touring show, Me, My Selfie And I, takes stock of his own particular concerns with that number.
“It’s partly about not being a genuine man of the age that I am. I’m 40 next year and I can’t grow a beard. Well, I can grow a d’Artagnan-like little feature that you’d put on the mantelpiece. I may be misremembering because I was a kid, but I’m sure my dad was more of a man at that age. But I have progressed in some ways recently, and I’m relieved that I feel a little bit more like a grown-up.”
The rise in Clark’s sense that he may actually be more of an adult now comes partly from being in a serious relationship for the first time in over a decade. This, though, presents its own worries.
“When it comes to thinking about having kids, maybe I’m just desperately putting off things that I’m scared of. I know someone who has a dog that he treats very much like a son.
“Obviously babies are cute and there’s the wow factor about how amazing it all is, but they don’t speak so you don’t know what’s going on and why they’re unhappy. The lack of sleep terrifies me and the constant attention you have to give them.”
Clark has constructed an intriguing if potentially impractical plan to get round all of this.
“I think I’d like to adopt but I’d still like to have my own blood, so maybe I’ll have a child, give them away and then adopt them back at the age of four. That way, I get the kudos of having adopted a child, it’s still actually mine and I’ve missed out on the really hard bit. I’m just trying to find the right girl who would let me do that. And then there are the adoption authorities . . . ”
As well as discussing how he was out of the relationship game for so long (“people love hearing stories about dating and the modern ways that we pick people up”), Clark will be analysing his entrance into middle age.
“The part of me that’s about responsibility and commitment and being a grown-up feels as though it’s still in my 20s and the part of me that’s about going out to clubs and bars and talking about the latest cool things has fast-forwarded into my 60s: everything now is so banal and annoying.
“So, I’m an immature, grumpy man. I find myself listening to Radio 4 or even Radio 3 and listening to classical music. I just don’t want to hear three-minute pop songs.”
Clark concludes that he’s at a crossroads, wondering where he is and where he will be in ten years’ time.
“I was in Spain recently and realised that we make life so hard for ourselves over here, trying to get this done and chasing that and getting on packed public transport in the rain. I went over there and it was all about farmers picking oranges off trees and people taking their time. I just thought that this seemed really nice and I would never have thought that in my 20s.”
During his 20s and 30s, Clark reckons he inhabited a tricky comedy terrain that was too leftfield for the mainstream but not quite odd enough to be deemed full-on avant garde.
“I have a weird quandary about where I fit into the comedy section because if I play to a mainstream audience I feel like I’m being a bit leftfield maybe just because of the subjects I talk about or because I can come across as a bit rude or edgy or silly or surreal.
“But sometimes when I’m in the more leftfield arenas, I think, oh, I’m Michael McIntyre here because I go out and do observations. Some of the time I wonder who my audience is, but since my sitcom you start getting an audience and start seeing similarities whether it’s an age or a look.”
The sitcom which Clark refers to is the three series and a Christmas special between 2007 and 2011 of How Not To Live Your Life, a BBC Three show which followed the socially-awkward misadventures of Dan Danbury.
Clark’s previous TV exposure had included Channel 4’s The Estate Agents (spawned from his Edinburgh Fringe success in the trio Electric Eel), being Johnny Two Hats in The Mighty Boosh while his screen debut was in a 1996 episode of Only Fools And Horses.
His live comedy career has included solo touring shows such as Dan Clark Live! while he has run a monthly comedy night (called quite simply, Clark’s) which attracted the likes of Eddie Izzard, Noel Fielding and Stephen Merchant while he brought another successful London night, the chat-show cabaret Wow Wow Show!, to the most recent Edinburgh Fringe.
One thing that has been creeping into his shows more and which will undoubtedly feature in Me, My Selfie And I is music.
“It’s the most fun ever. Those who get to make a living playing in a band are the luckiest people in the world. I once did a tour with a band which I’d never done before, I’ve normally just done the odd song in my shows, but we had bass, electric guitar, drums and everyone singing these harmonies like Fleetwood Mac and there was just something magical about it. You have to will yourself to do so many things, but music is fun to do straight away.”
As for comedy, Clark has been around for long enough to have seen all the next big things coming through and either making the grade or fizzling out. Does anything truly surprise him now?
“I do think there’s an occupational hazard with comedy that at some point it’s not as unexpected as it was. Comedy is all about the surprise element, and as soon as you think that you know the joke or you feel that you’ve seen an exact same routine 15 years ago, then where do you go from there?
“I guess the ones that surprise you are those who have to cut through all that. We’ve all got to accept that everything has been done and it’s all about putting your own stamp on something.”
So, what’s up next for him once this tour is over?
“I want to start writing a show about all the terrible things I did as a single person. I was really rubbish. I got into so many bizarre flings and one-night stands which sound fun but I think there’s a show in there. I thought of a title: Things I Am Ashamed Of.
“Last year I did a comedy night where you do routines you’ve never done before because you think they’re too risky. So I told a story about a dating thing I did and it went down so well that I thought maybe I should be doing more of that sort of thing.
“Sometimes you apologise too much for your past behaviour.”
Dan Clark: Me, My Selfie and I is currently touring the UK. See ents24.com for tour dates.