Just For Laughs: Mtl times chats with comedian Alan Davies

comedian Alan Davies

Veteran British comedian Alan Davies first performed at Just For Laughs back in 1995.

He fondly recalls the great time he had performing to packed houses, as well as enjoying his off time with fellow British comic Phil Kaye, which included attending the day programming where he witnessed the presentation with Andy Kindler that became the precursor to his must -see annual State of the Industry Address.

“I loved it because Just For Laughs is such a well organized and well supported festival. I must have made quite an impression, because they asked me back 28 years later,” he said during a recent Zoom call interview from his home in London.

comedian Alan Davies
comedian Alan Davies

For his return to JFL after a 28-year absence, Davies has quite an impressive schedule of appearances. It includes performing at the annual Brit(ish) show from July 25-29 at the Studio TD as part of the festival’s Club Shows series, where he will be joined by fellow UK comics Jen Brister (who is also hosting the show), Josie Long, Jamali Maddix, Reuben Kaye and Gina Yashere. And then on July 28, he will be part of the line-up of the gala hosted by legendary British comedian Eddie Izzard.

In between JFL festivals, Davies established for himself a solid reputation as one of the UK’s best-loved comedians, with a successful West End show called Urban Trauma, the lead role on the TV series Jonathan Creek, and as a permanent panelist on the TV panel show QI for over 20 years.

Davies’ beginnings into the world of comedy took place back in the 1980s, when he was a drama student at the University of Kent. “In 1986, there was a comedy festival that took place on campus, and I thought it was amazing. That’s when I knew on the spot that I wanted to do stand-up comedy,” he said. “However, many people told me to focus on sketch comedy, because that was the better way forward to a career in comedy.”

“So I went to London and performed at practically every comedy club there, and managed to work up an act,” he added.

But Davies needed another place to hone his act, and that’s where Canada comes into the picture, especially its network of Fringe Festivals in the western part of the country. “For five summers, starting in 1989, I performed at the Fringe festivals in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria, and I thought I didn’t do too bad there,” he said. “But I have to give a lot of credit to these festivals — especially the Edmonton Fringe — for giving me the opportunity to polish my comedy act.”

As well, Davies became part of a circuit of London-based comics called the “Alternative Comedians”, which also included Izzard as part of that group. “We were given that name because many veteran comics thought we were an alternative to actual comedy, which we thought was unfair,” he said. “But it was a great place to be, because we did a lot of radio and TV appearances, not to mention touring, to gain that much-needed experience.”

In 1994, all that dues paying paid off for Davies. During that year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, at the tender age of 28, he won the Critics’ Award for Comedy. One of the industry VIPs who were present that year in Edinburgh was future JFL President and CEO Bruce Hills. ‘I was so hoping that Bruce might give me an invite to the following year’s Just For Laughs festival,” he added.

And his wish came true; he made his Just For Laughs debut in 1995.

These days, Davies continues to have a full plate as a stand-up comedian and TV personality. His first volume of memoirs that was published in 2020, Just Ignore Him, was recently issued in paperback, and chronicles his difficult early life that was filled with abuse and personal trauma. And this year marks the seventh season of his TV talk show Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled, which airs in the UK on the Dave television channel, as well as on Amazon Prime.

“The show came about from a podcast that I did about football (soccer) that was more like a roundtable conversation. Then this executive from Dave, who was really into podcasts, proposed to me the idea of borrowing the format of a free-wheeling, loose conversation that I did on the podcast and bring it to TV,” he said. “As Yet Untitled has four comics who each bring a story of their own that I don’t know about, and it evolves into this off-the-cuff conversation that goes off in all directions and becomes quite hilarious. At the end of each show, we come up with that episode’s title based on what we discussed or from a memorable line that was said.”

Davies plans to spend his time at this year’s JFL festival like he did 28 years earlier: performing live shows and catching other festival shows on his own (including the very popular Midnight Surprise). However, he has a personal caveat as he makes his way to Montreal.

“I better make the most of it this year. I have a feeling the next time I get invited back will be in 2051, when I’m 85 years old!”

Just For Laughs 2023 news

In other Just For Laughs news, it was recently announced that another well-known figure on the world of TV comedy has been added to this year’s roster of Just For Laughs Awards Show recipients. Rainn Wilson, best known for his role as Dunder Mifflin bootlick Dwight Schrute on the hit NBC sitcom The Office, will be presented with the Comedy Impact Award, in recognition of his efforts that tackle such important issues as religion, art, science, philosophy, culture, mental health, racism, and climate change. He also established a non profit organization called The Life Foundation, which provides art and literary education to at-risk teenage girls in Haiti. Wilson will also deliver the ComedyPro keynote address on July 28 in the Grand Salon Ballroom of the Doubletree Hotel starting at 11:30 am.

The line-up of celebrity presenters at the Just For Laughs Awards Show has also been unveiled and they are: Rachid Badouri (Ronny Chieng), Neal Brennan (Bert Kreischer), Carolyn Taylor (Mae Martin), and Ramy Youssef (Quinta Brunson); comedian James Davis will serve as the show’s emcee.

* * *

For more information, or to purchase tickets to Brit(ish), the Eddie Izzard gala, or any other Just For Laughs show, go to www.hahaha.com.

Stuart Nulman
By: Stuart Nulman – [email protected]

Other articles from mtltimes.ca – totimes.ca – otttimes.ca

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