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Showbiz Interview

Danny Bhoy interview: 'Big comedians are too afraid of losing fans'

By
Danny Bhoy

© Ray Burmiston

Last month, we saw an amazing bill of comedy at the Hammersmith Apollo for Friends of the Earth benefit 'Laugh or the Polar Bear Gets It'.

Alongside the proper-TV-famous likes of Ed Byrne, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring were some perhaps not-as-well-known, but no less talented names.

Among them was Scottish comic Danny Bhoy, who impressed so much we just had to get him on the phone to talk all things comedy. Here's what he had to say:

Surely your stage name was a gift to hecklers when you started out - where did it come from?
"There was a logic to it because my grandmother used to call me Danny Boy all the time, and she was the only real link to my career - she was an actress. No-one else in my family did anything with the arts. We used to spend a lot of time together and it was always something in the back of my head that would almost be a tribute to her."

You're a lot more international than other British comics - how did that happen?
"I've always wanted to travel - long before I got into comedy I always dreamed of travelling. I can't really explain it! I worked out the other day I'm pretty much a Commonwealth comedian - Australia, New Zealand, Canada are my big markets... Bermuda in fact! I'm going there in January... I think I just always followed the sun a little bit."

You still sound unmistakably Scottish - do you still feel very Scottish despite the jet-setting?
"Absolutely. There's nowhere I feel more at home than Scotland. I still live there, I still have my flat in Edinburgh, it's still my only bought place. When I get time off from all the craziness I just go there and live a very normal life. I really like Scottish culture and I've got friends and family there.



"A lot of my comedy is a celebration of Scottish culture rather than deriding it or taking the piss out of it. The Guide To Scotland is a case in point - it's tongue in cheek. It's not really saying Scotland is really s**t, but I suppose you could get that from it! I've done it because I like this place, so let's all have a good laugh about it."

When it's Fringe time do your comedy mates crash at yours?
"I specifically bought a one-bedroom flat! Anything more was off-limits. Estate agents would say, 'Why don't you want the bigger...' I'd say 'I don't want the bigger flat! One bedroom! There has to be no space for a couch or sleeping bag or any of that stuff'."

Stand-up has exploded in the last decade - has that changed what you do at all?
"Not really. When I was a kid growing up it was Billy Connolly. That was the only thing on the shelves every year - everyone bought it and we watched it as a family. It was kind of a special thing. Now, obviously there's a sea of DVDs out there, and I'm bobbing around in that sea looking for dry land like everyone.

"It happened when I was away to be honest. I was off doing Australia and New Zealand and all these places, and I remember coming back three or four years ago and seeing posters for people at the airport. I was going, 'Hang on a minute, I introduced that guy in The Comedy Store a couple of years ago in an open spot!"

Danny Bhoy

© Ray Burmiston

Danny Bhoy

© Ray Burmiston



Was Billy an influence on you growing up?
"He was the biggest shadow really. There were other comics who came along in my student days - people like Bill Hicks. But he was the guy that from my childhood was the only thing I knew about stand-up. This was long before I thought about doing it, I just used to love watching his stuff, and I still do. If you grow up in Scotland in the '80s and '90s there is one towering genius, and that was him."

Your new DVD is available over here and was recorded in Scotland - does that make it feel different?
"Yeah, that was the idea behind it - people saying, 'When are you going to release something where people can actually buy it?!' My last two DVDs were released in Australia, which was fine, but this was my first worldwide DVD you can get everywhere.

"People in Scotland have been asking me and badgering me for years to produce something here. So I thought, right, well, if I'm going to do it I'm going to do it in Edinburgh, in front of a home crowd. We did it in February - so it's desperately current! 'Hey, remember the riots!' It went really well, I think we pulled it off.

"It was really nice because all these little bits... every year in Edinburgh I try to tailor my show for Scottish people - routines that I then have to drop when I go to Australia, New Zealand, because they don't know what a f**king céilidh is! I was able to put that all into the show."

You wrote a post in The Huffington Post before the US election - are mainstream comics keeping their politics to themselves for fear of losing fans?
"Absolutely, and not just politics. Generally there's a real move towards the middle. When you become famous - this is why I'm sceptical about the whole massive 2.5 million Twitter followers thing. You go on to those guys' Twitter feeds, and it says things like, 'Congratulations to Kate and William on their new baby'.


"You're like 'You're a f**king comedian!' I don't want to read your pandering tweets every 30 seconds. It's really dull. 'Congratulations on England for beating Macedonia 2-0, well done lads!' You're like, 'F**k off'. If you're going to be a comedian, be a comedian. I worry about that side of things - there's a point where you're too afraid of losing fans. I don't ever want to be at that phase."

How come we never see you on panel shows?
"I have been offered them all - I don't do them, because being honest I don't think I'd be very good at them. The thing I love about stand-up is the power of having that hour or hour-and-a-half with things you really want to talk about. Panel shows are a completely different job.

Danny Bhoy - Live at The Festival Theatre
"There's something quite gladiatorial about it. I've got friends that do them who say it's painful sometimes because you've got all these lines you've got to crowbar into a segment, and if you miss that opportunity it'll go on to the next bit. I didn't get into comedy to do that - to fight for a line here, there and everywhere.

"I'm every pleased I've got an audience that will sit and listen to me for a long period of time and enjoy the build-up as well as the punchline. It seems like a very foreign thing to do unless you are either naturally really, really funny or if you are... desperate to just be famous! It feels like a bit of both of them sometimes."

Danny Bhoy's new DVD Live at the Festival Theatre is available now.

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