DG-Laptop-Face2.jpgVITALS
I'm a 33 year old storyteller and comedian. I was born and raised in Stafford, England but I now live in London. I've been in New York since the end of October. My run at the Village Theatre was scheduled to end on December 4 but we've extended it until at least January 8. I'm staying in the East Village. My favorite way of getting round NYC is on foot - it's a great city for a pedestrian.

THE INTERVIEW

You started out your comedy career doing stand-up. Did you consider any other professions? How does one go about breaking into stand-up/comedy in the UK?
I've never had a proper job of any kind. I dropped out of University to pursue comedy and have been doing it ever since. I think everyone starts in comedy in the same way the world over. You go to a club... you try to get some unpaid time onstage and you keep doing that until you're good enough to get paid.

In the late 90’s your comedy morphed into something people call “documentary comedy.” What is “documentary comedy”? How did you get into it?
The phrase documentary comedy was something a British journalist came up with to describe what I do. I tell true stories and provide the evidence with the evidence that it's true - and I guess a true story with evidence is one definition of a documentary. I think the comedy part is more important obviously... but it's all much funnier because you know that every word is true.

You are currently in New York performing your latest award-winning show “Googlewhack Adventure.” For those who aren’t familiar, what’s the show all about?
It appears to be about an Internet wordgame, but it's really about people. It's about huge coincidences, surprises that will blow your mind and the kindness of strangers. It's about me having a breakdown and travelling the world when I was supposed to be writing a novel. It's about me screwing up in life but somehow coming out on top and it's about an hour and forty minutes long.

The Internet played a large role in your Googlewhack Adventure. Can you think back to a time before the Internet? Do you think you could go a month without using it?
I first got online in 1998. The first thing I did was look for and find an old friend who'd moved to New York. Now I mainly use the Internet for staying in touch with people and a lot of what I consider active friendships are with people who live overseas. I'm away from home for 8 months in every year so it's invaluable to me. I couldn't live without it.

Back in 2002 you embarked on Dave Gorman’s Important Astrology Experiment in which you followed the advice of 20 astrologers for 40 days and 40 nights. Unfortunately, the TV show that came out of this experiment has not made it across the pond. Why did you decide to do this? How did it go? Does astrology make you happier?
On my way to a meeting at the BBC I picked up a newspaper and, while my train was stuck in a station I idly flipped to my horoscope. It predicted that I would meet someone with a silver cell phone and that I'd be offered an exciting job. I got to the meeting and they said, "we'd like to make a TV series with you... do you have any ideas?" I looked at the desk and saw a silver cell phone. That's where the idea first came from.

What sealed the deal for me was that I have a twin brother. We were born ten minutes apart so our astrological charts are about as close as any two people's could be. That meant he could ignore his horoscope and provide the "experiment" with a proper scientific control experiment.

I'm alarmed to say that the experiment proved that astrology was a good way to live your life. But only because I won about $8000 on day 40. Had it been a 39 day experiment, astrology would have come out of it very badly.

Are you Dave Gorman? was another adventure you lived through. It began as a bet and resulted in meeting 54 + Dave Gormans, an award-winning stage show, book and TV show. Are you sick of meeting Dave Gormans? Have you contemplated changing your name?
I stopped meeting Dave Gormans about 3 years ago. The point of it was to meet 54 Dave Gormans (1 for every card in the deck including the jokers) and the minute I met number 54 I stopped looking. But they still come to meet me and I've now met 106. I've never met one I didn't like but I am perplexed as to why people who have read the book or seen the TV show think I'm still looking for them.

Tequila seems to influence your work a great deal. Please explain and ever thought of giving it up?
I really don't like tequila. It's a drink that only seems to be consumed if you are on a journey to oblivion. You don't sit at home having a quiet tequila. If you're doing slammers with salt and lemon then you've pledged to get very, very drunk. Unfortunately for me I'm a very capable drunk. Most people fall over when they're drunk. I can walk and talk and, worse, wield a credit card, which means that extreme things happen to me. If I fell over like an ordinary drunk everything would be okay. Under the influence of tequila I accidentally flew from London to Washington DC... which I guess makes for a good story.

You have written two books based on your adventures (Googlewhack Adventure and Are Your Dave Gorman?). Any thoughts on the publishing industry versus “show business”? Do you prefer one over the other?
In TV there is always interference from people. On stage and in print I've had little or no interference from anyone. Reviews of the stage show often celebrate the fact that there isn't anything else like this out there. My publishers would say, "we love publishing this book because there's nothing else out there like it". In TV they say, "there's nothing else like this... we're nervous, can you please make it more like this or that so that we know what we're dealing with."

TV wants to turn things into a formula that can be repeated - but that doesn't fit with creativity. They're not very keen on taking risks... which means I'm not very keen on them.

Your two books have or are being published in Dutch, Japanese and German. Any fear that something will be lost in translation?
I definitely worry about it. But at the end of the day, unless I study hard and become fluent in those languages I'll never know if they've captured the spirit or not. Maybe there are a load of Germans out there who hate me now.

When do you know it’s time to move on to the next project?
I guess I don't know. I don't deliberately choose to do most things. The Googlewhack Adventure isn't something I did in order to create a stageshow... it's a true story about something that happened to me. When I stop telling it I intend to take a long break. If something else that fascinating happens to me again I suppose I'll do another show and if it doesn't... well, I suppose I won't.

You’ve done quite well as a humorist/comedian/performer. Do you feel that comedy is cutthroat? Do you ever find yourself comparing your work or success to that of other comedians? Was there ever a time that you thought you might throw in the towel?
Comedy can appear cutthroat if you're trying to compete with other people. But there's no need to compete with other people. Me being successful hasn't made anyone else any less successful than they would have been and vice versa. I do my own thing. I try to do it to the best of my ability and I hope everyone else does the same. I'm ambitious... every time I've done a show it's ended up being better than the show before so I guess the only person I'm competing with is myself.

You played John the Postman in the film 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE. How did this come about? What was that experience like? Did you enjoy playing someone else?
The director Michael Winterbottom saw me doing a show in the West End of London and cast me in the film. John the Postman was a real guy and something of an eccentric. He used to go to every punk gig in Manchester and climb onstage at the end and sing his own, peculiar versions of Louie Louie.

That's mostly what I had to do in the movie. It was great fun to do as I was basically performing for an audience - it's just that they were extras. But no one had told them it was going to happen so their reactions were genuine and I was basically making up my own version of the song as I went along and trying to get something out of them. It was fun.

You went from your signature mutton-chops to a full beard. There was something innately funny about the chops. Was the transition traumatic? Will you ever go back?
I got passed over for several TV shows because I wore the mutton-chops and people thought I looked scary. But it was how I wanted to look and I didn't want to compromise in order to get work. Then when I did end up on a TV show everyone assumed that I'd chosen to look like that deliberately in order to stand out and get work and what I thought of as a stand for what I believe in was taken by others to be a cynical, careerist move. It kind of ruined it for me so I shaved them off.

What do you think of comedy in the US versus the UK?
I like a lot of what I see in both countries and I don't have any great difficulty in transferring what I do between the two. The perception is that in the US people get into comedy in order to score a role in a sitcom... it's seen as a stepping stone to other things. In the UK people get into comedy for it's own sake. I know a few great US comics that don't fit that cliche and things seem very healthy here in NYC - I love the Upright Citizen's Brigade and Eating It at the Luna Lounge - but when I've been to the HBO US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen I've encountered a few Americans who think 20 minutes of material will be enough to get them somewhere.

What do you like most about performing in New York? What do you like least?
Audiences all over the world want to believe that they are different to other audiences but, I'm sorry to report that there isn't any great difference. Anyone who comes to a theatre is obviously wanting to enjoy themselves and New York audiences are definitely up for a good time; they laugh, they applaud, they enjoy themselves. I suppose in a city like this, with so much going on, I really love the fact that there is an audience out there each night choosing my show. It's incredibly flattering and you owe them your best shot every night. I guess the best thing about performing here is that it involves living here and it's a very cool place to live.

Googlewhack Adventure has been extended until Jan. 8. How do you feel about spending Xmas and New Year’s in New York?
I think New Year's will be a blast. It is a little weird not going home for Christmas though... it's the one day of the year that everyone in the UK spends with family. But I'm flying my folks out for a few days in December as an early gift to make up for it.

How do you feel about being compared to Steve Martin, David Sedaris, Pablo Picasso and Benito Mussolini, all in the same review (NY Times 11/05/04)? We didn’t know this disparate group had anything in common. What’s your secret?
I guess I'm flattered, flattered, flattered and perturbed in that order. I didn't know they had anything in common either and I definitely didn't know it was me. In fairness I wasn't being compared to Mussolini directly ... more to his trains and their supposedly excellent timing. I just thought I should say that in case fans of Italian fascism started coming to the show.

You were here for the 2004 Presidential election. How did it differ from elections in the UK? Were you surprised by the process? Any comments on the results?
It's a completely different process. We don't vote directly for our Prime Minister. We vote for our local representative and the leader of the party that gets the most members of parliament becomes the PM.

If a British politician put his daughter on the stump to make a campaign speech I think he'd lose the election because we'd think he was exploiting his family. Within two days of being in the country I'd seen both candidates' daughters making speeches.

I wasn't really familiar with the electoral college system and there are parts of it that I still find weird. Ohio was split about 50-50 so why all 10 of their votes go to the one party instead of 5 each is beyond me.

The result? I can't pretend I'm happy about it ... if anything it seems a little scary. I think people chose Bush because they think it will be safer but to a lot of the world it seems the more dangerous choice.

Do you know what is going to follow Googlewhack Adventure?
No idea. But then I didn't know that the Googlewhack Adventure was going to be the next thing until it had happened either. Nothing's really planned. It's much more fun that way.

Give an example of something you witnessed or experienced that had you think "only in New York.”
As I walked home last night at 3 in the morning I looked up and saw a very elderly man standing naked on his fire escape smoking.

Who is your favorite New Yorker, dead or alive, and why?
Larry David. He's responsible for two great TV shows that maintained their integrity and, seeing as you've given me the choice, I'll go with alive.

Who is/are your heroes?
There are many... and they're very varied. A British musician called Ian Dury always inspired me... he wasn't a cliched pop star. He wasn't blessed with the sweetest of voices, he was disabled; paralysed on his left side after a childhood bout of polio and in spite of all that his talent, wit and charm shone through and he was a big star for a few years.

Billy's Topless is now a bagel shop, no more smoking in bars or restaurants, Times Square has been Disneyfied, what's next?
Hopefully a ban on late-night-elderly-male-naked-on-fire-escape-smoking

If you could change just one thing about New York City, what would it be?
I'd remove horns from all cars.

You've got $5.00 in your pocket, an unlimited MetroCard and a day to kill. What do you do?
Start on Brooklyn Bridge at dawn to watch the sunrise. Give the metro card to someone else and walk north.

What source(s) do you turn to for news?
I find US newspapers to be quite good while TV news can be pretty poor. But there's very little attention paid to foreign news so I use the Internet to stay in touch with the world beyond America. Mostly bbc.co.uk

It's the year 2024, what do you think will be the hot topic of discussion at the water cooler?
Who's going to replace President Schwarzenegger.

Photo © Dan Goldsmith

Interview by Mindy Bond