Brief Encounter With … Dave SpikeyDate: 23 November 2009
Dave Spikey has done it all; from working for the NHS, stand-up comedy and over the last decade, acting. Local comedian, actor and quiz show panelist Spikey is perhaps best known for his work alongside Peter Kay in Phoenix Nights, as well as his regular stints on the comedy circuit. He next dons the dinner jacket and maybe the stockings as the Narrator in Richard O'Brien's cult production, The Rocky Horror Show, which arrives in Manchester in December.
You originally worked in the NHS – what made you decide to leave your job and follow the road to show business?
It just happened through a number of circumstances, I have never had any inclination to perform, but was always a huge fan of comedy, my school reports used to come back saying: "excellent work from David but why does he have to include so much comedy?" Whilst working at the NHS I joined the hospitals review society, most of them had them in the late 70’s, to be honest I only joined because there was free beer and nice looking women, but over time the group found I was a natural comic and asked me to start writing the sketches for them. That then lead to me directing the shows and pantomimes that were put on. After a while of me giving the orders someone had enough and said ‘you do it’ so there I was having to go on stage and deliver my first performance, and although I got a buzz seeing my work being performed, I got an even bigger buzz performing. Then over the next ten years I started doing open spots around the country, whilst still being in charge of the Haematology department at the hospital, I then started opening for the likes of Jack Dee and Eddie Izzard when they came up north to do some gigs. The reality started to creep in that perhaps this is what I should be doing when I looked in my diary and found all my evenings were spent travelling around the country opening for the big names, but the move really into comedy really came when I met Peter Kay and we started working on That Peter Kay Thing and at that point couldn’t really carry on doing them both.
Having now been in the business for over 20 years, what changes have you noticed?
Comedy is always an evolving form, but it is now much easier for a comic to get into the industry as it is more acceptable to be a comic who pushes boundaries, for example Frankie Boyle. Don’t get me wrong they have always been there but not to the extent we have now, there is also a big movement in the surreal comic area with the likes of Ross Noble and Daniel Kitson who I like a lot! When I started there was only one ‘Alternative’ comedy club that I knew about, most people think I come from a working man’s club route, which is a huge misconception as when I did them I usually died on my arse, my career started to move when I went to a comedy workshop at the Bolton Octagon ran by John Marshall who also ran the Buzz Club, and he invited me along to perform there. I used to have to travel to London a lot to perform, but now most cities have a few excellent comedy clubs.
With the success of Phoenix Nights in 2002 – you were nominated for ‘Best Comedy Newcomer’ even though by that stage you had been working as a comic for 12 years, did that come a's a bit of a surprise?
Isn’t it ironic, eh? It made me smile lots, but to be fair at that stage I was new to television, everyone in their profession needs a pat on the back, and it was good to be finally recognised for the work I was doing. Let’s put it in perspective, whilst I was at the hospital, never in the 30 years I was there did someone come to me and say: ‘"ell done Dave" and ""That blood cross match you did really saved that blokes life." Even though I lost to Kris Marshall (who was a deserved winner) I left with a huge boost and smile on my face.
We are nearing Christmas and the time when every stand up comedian seems to bring out a DVD, apart from your own, (The Best Medicine –Live) what DVD will be in your shopping basket?
Without a doubt it would be Jason Manford, he is such a down to earth and genuinely nice bloke. He has a real natural comic flair and his wit and humour is so accessible.
Onto The Rocky Horror Show...can you remember how you felt when you first saw the film/show?
(laughs) Sure I can it was only last week! I get offered scripts all the time and when I do I ask myself one question and that’s – Am I going to enjoy myself? I’m at that age where that is the most important thing to me, so I mentioned to a few people that I had been asked to take on the Narrator and said what do you think...all of them said you must do it, so without knowing anything about it I said yes.I live in the same village as Ken Morley (Reg from Coronation Street) and said to him that I had been offered the role, he said to me "Av you took it?" I told him yes and he just burst out laughing and said "Good Luck!" I never realised how much abuse the narrator gets in the show, but having since spoken to Steve Pemberton, I am assured I’m in for a great time.
How do they fit you in to the show, that is on the road and already established?
I had a rehearsal the other day with the director at the Greenroom in Manchester, he’s come up for the day from London to run me through the blocking of the show. I also went across to Liverpool and saw the production, keeping a close eye on Michael Stark and what he did on stage. My biggest worry is fitting into the production numbers as I have no sense of tone or rhythm. I get a few run throughs of my scenes on the day from 2pm and the cast joins me a few hours later, so I really am thrown in the deep end!
What is it about Rocky Horror that keeps bringing new fans and old fans back?
I think it is the quality of the show, I was surprised when I saw it in Liverpool at how glamorous and impressive the set was, it really oozed class. I also think part of the fun is the dressing up and being involved in the show, although not letting the audience throw rice and water, they still wave light sticks and shout out at various points in the show – its like an alternative adult panto.
So will you be getting into the spirit and donning those fish tight stockings?
After speaking to several of the past narrators, and finding out that this was part of the show, Ken told me I’d be wearing a smoking Jacket and a mask...I'd clearly misheard him as he said "Basque!" I psyched myself up for it and was completely game... but the director felt that in past productions this distracted away from the final message that the Narrator shares and felt is wasn’t needed...unless it’s just a big joke and they surprise me with it on the day, but either way I’m game!
Dave Spikey was speaking to John Roberts
The Rocky Horror Show, starring David Bedella as Frank 'N' Furter and Dave Spikey as The Narrator runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from 7 -12 December.
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