Centuries ago, Time Out London named Alan Davies “Best Young Comic”. Hasn’t he done well?
Alan Davies is one of the UK's most celebrated comedians. He’s not only a debonair wit on stage, but he’s the star of TV series Jonathan Creek (in which he’s a mystery-solving magician) and a permanent fixture as a panellist on Stephen Fry's excellent QI quiz show.
"I can barely remember what happened this morning," laughs the softly spoken Brit down the phone, when we ask if he still cherishes the “best young comic” tag we gave him back in ’91. It's a typically overcast afternoon in Davies' hometown of Loughton, Essex, where he's enjoying some downtime with his family.
"I made some more QI and Jonathan Creek and I also toured New Zealand," he reflects of the couple of years since he brought his last show, Life is Pain, to our shores, "but the rest of the time my focus has been entirely on my children. The youngest one is now two-and-a-half, so the entirety of last year was two-fifths of his whole life. It’s weird, you know? The eldest is now four, so I've just been watching them grow up. As for the wider world, well, I can only really think of Nelson Mandela. That was the biggest news story of the year for me."
Back to the babies, and they’re something of a theme in Davies’ life right now – as evidenced in the new show he’s bringing to Melbourne, Little Victories (geddit?).
"It's exciting,” he opines. “It's much [of] the same territory, except this time I'll be talking about toddlers, talking about babies, and how I'm always trying not to hurt them. There's a lot of me reminiscing about the ’70s and the ’80s; my time at school, my own father and his current inability to remember anything.”
There’s another theme, then.
“It's all very relatable subject matter,” he agrees. “It's very anecdotal and has a lot of the autobiographical type storytelling that I enjoy; I like to talk about myself and inflate my ego a little."
Davies has a newfound enjoyment for stand-up – something he’d lost to the extent that he quit for ten years after performing at the Edinburgh Festival in 2001. It took Australian comedy producer Marnie Foulis to nudge him into getting a show together once more.
"What I find now is that there's a bit more distance between me and things that happened when I was younger,” he reflects. “There was a bit of illness and grief in my family… not that I dwell on these things by any means. But I'm able to talk about my life. It's at this point that I realise that everyone has tales that are similar. It's relevant to people's lives.”
With age and wisdom comes a new pressure, however. “It's when you realise that you're 47 that when you walk on stage what you're saying better have a point,” he laughs. “Very different to my early stand up career, which – let's be honest – was jumping up and down, running around, trying to just make people laugh. When you're older you get a litter bit wiser, you get a better perspective on this. You ought to be a better comedian."