He’s a regular panellist on QI, but next week Alan Davies turns host as he gathers together groups of comedians for a series of informal chats in his new Dave series As Yet Untitled (Monday June 16-Friday 20 June, Dave, 10pm).
We asked for an audience with Alan so that we could find out more about his latest TV venture…
How do you see your role as the host of As Yet Untitled?
“It’s a bit like having a party. You want people to have a nice time and to be relaxed and comfortable, and you don’t want anyone feeling left out.”
Is it like a group of mates chatting down the pub?
“Yes, except no one’s looking at their phone or getting up to go to the bar or the toilet. Everyone just stays sat at one table and speaks for an hour and a half in a very engaged and funny way, saying things that they mean or feel, truthfully. I realised afterwards, that’s almost unheard of in my life.”
Who’s appearing on the show?
“We’ve had some great people, like Isy Suttie and Noel Fielding, Kevin Eldon and Jon Ronson – people we like and respect who are bright and funny. There are lots of them around.”
Do stand-up comics get a bad press?
“People think they are conceited or self-involved, and that they’ve got bad taste, poor judgement and are overpaid. It’s not that these things aren’t true. It’s just that that’s not all that they are. They’re also quite generous and a good laugh, and I like knocking around with them.”
Do you miss hanging out on the live comedy circuit?
“I used to really enjoy the camaraderie when I started out in my 20s on the comedy circuit. I made friends like Bill Bailey, Jo Brand and Phill Jupitus.”
Is this a more honest exchange of views that you’d usually get on a talk show?
“Possibly, yes. Often they’re taken up with the need to plug an upcoming project, and that’s something that we don’t have here. I’m not saying: ‘Tell me about your new movie…’ It’s more like: ‘Do you want to come and be in a conversation with some like-minded people about comedy?’ And we pay them!”
Did you find it unusual to see a group of comics operating in a non-competitive environment?
“If I’m sat next to Ross Noble on QI, he is in full performance mode trying to think of things to make people laugh, as we all are. But there’s no break in QI where someone gets reflective and anecdotal about something in his or her childhood, however hilarious it is. On this show you can’t win and there are no points, so people are not really trying to impress, which has been quite interesting.”
Did you try to get Stephen Fry on the show?
“I’d love to have had Stephen on here and I think he was asked, but he’s like the Royal Opera House – you have to book him about nine years in advance!”
What do you think of the BBC ban on all-male panel shows?
“I’d never want to be at a dinner party where it was all blokes. The idea that there aren’t any funny women around is so outdated, and they’re queuing up to come on here, but I think announcing the ban to the press puts unnecessary pressure on the woman on the panel. There’s often only one, so then it’s as if you’re saying, ‘Here’s our woman! We’ve got one!’ If I were the woman in that circumstance, I’d want to go home.”