FRESH from playing to the largest crowds of his life, top northern comic Dave Spikey is back on his regular touring circuit with two Cumbrian stops planned in the next couple of weeks.
The Chorley funnyman and star of sitcom Phoenix Nights returns to Keswick and Barrow with his new show, Punchlines, having visited both towns on his previous tour.
“I’m really looking forward to going back to both of them,” he says. “They couldn’t really be more different.
“Barrow is a good comedy town and attracts a lot of really good comedians, while Keswick doesn’t really do a lot of comedy. I did it as a warm-up on my last tour and I really liked the place, so I wanted to do it again for purely selfish reasons. I’ve got friends in the area as well, so it’s always good to visit.”
A keen student of the English language, Spikey’s shows are more than just simple jokes or one-liners; his last tour, Words Don’t Come Easy, looked at how we sometimes say the wrong things in certain situations, while this new show focuses on the most crucial parts of telling any anecdote - the punchline.
While the popular elements of his newspaper reviews and deconstruction of song lyrics still remains, much of the show revolves around those crucial few words that provide the impact in any joke - yet equally, sometimes words aren’t needed at all.
Spikey explains: “It’s not really big or very clever, but there are plenty of interesting twists in the show. I project punchlines onto a screen before the show, and they crop up again during the show. It’s amazing that people are still laughing at them even an hour later.
“This wonderful language of hours allows for some great wordplay, and if you just read a punchline out it works as a stand-alone joke.
“Once you put up your canvas and start exploring “what is a punchline?”, there’s endless amounts of ways you can look at it. When a group of people go for a night out they’re telling stories and jokes, but they’ll return to them later and they’ll all still start laughing. All of these stories also have a set-up, like “I was at the market when this guy came up to me...”, so I’ve looked at that and watched and listened, and it’s always for the next person to try and top it.
“I still like to look at newspapers, but it’s usually more than just the words in the headlines that are funny. I’ve collected a whole new set for this tour, where I look at the set-up and provide a punchline.
“There was one in the Hartlepool Mail about the police boarding a boat at 4am to apprehend a drunk guy, and when I read that, the first thing I thought was, “what are they going to do with a drunken sailor so early in the morning?”
“I’ve always loved looking at song lyrics too, so there’s a load of new ones in there. To be honest, a lot of it’s just crowbarred in, but it’s not just punchline after punchline - some of it’s banter, and long stories.
“There’s a story about me going on my holidays and having an argument with a German who kicked a crab. It’s ridiculous, but it’s actually the only thing in the show that actually happened!
“I did an autumn leg of the tour, and I’m at full steam now. It’s been going really well so far, and really exceeded my expectations.”
Spikey is riding a crest of a wave, which, after more than 25 years in the business, sees him at the peak of his popularity.
Earlier this spring he was part of the Phoenix Nights reunion shows that packed out the Manchester Arena for 15 nights and raised more than £5 million for Comic Relief. Despite 200,000 people seeing him take on his alter ego of club compere Jerry St Clair once more, Spikey claims that it is unlikely we’ll see the cast reunited ever again.
He says: “It really surprised me how many people came to see us, because the show finished 12 years ago, and you never see it on TV, and it’s only available on DVD really. But we had 15,000 people in each night - which I’ve never played to anything close to that amount of people before. We never had a massive fanbase when it was on TV, but it’s grown to have this kind of cult status.
“Pulling on Jerry’s white jacket again was like pulling on an England shirt, it felt like it meant so much.
“But it was only ever intended as a one-off run for Comic Relief, and I think that will be that.”
So it’s back to stand-up and a slightly smaller stage, when he returns to the Theatre by the Lake next Thursday, April 23, and then on to The Forum on Friday May 1.
Tickets for both shows are available from the respective box offices.
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