Oh….. An interview with Danny Bhoy
Comedian Danny Bhoy brings his highly-acclaimed new show to Birmingham in October. He tells James Rampton what to expect.
In 2001, the comedian Danny Bhoy was performing in a modest 60-seat theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe. Now he is playing to sell-out crowds at the celebrated Festival Theatre in Edinburgh. The Bhoy done good.
Over the past decade, Danny has become one of the most in demand comedians in the country, a TV star on both sides of the Atlantic and packing out venues all over the world. Danny has also released two bestselling DVDs, Live at the Opera House and Live at the Athenaeum. A third DVD, Live at the Festival Theatre, was recorded in Edinburgh and is due to be released 26th November. This is a comedian who is seriously going places, and not just on a 40-plus-date national tour of Britain with an entirely new show, Dear Epson.
In a slight departure from his traditional stand-up show, Dear Epson focuses on a clutch of feedback letters Danny has written out of sheer frustration. Exasperated by the hopelessness of so many corporate customer services departments, he initially penned these letters merely to let off steam – but in the process, he created an immensely funny show. His complaints have been turned into cracking comedy.
A consummate comedian who enjoys a rare rapport with his audiences, Danny gets a genuine rush from performing live. He could not be more excited about the prospect of hitting the road again and returning to the stand-up arena. “I love stand-up,” he beams. “I adore the amount of freedom you have on stage. But above all, I love the fact that it gives you one of the best natural highs. The buzz is just wonderful.
“If you have always been an attention-seeker – which I suppose I have! – then stand-up gives you this amazing sense of euphoria. When you have a room full of people and you are in control of their emotions, nothing can beat that feeling. I get the most enormous rush from that.”
He carries on that, “I still get the same sense of excitement out of stand-up as I ever did. I go through periods where I’m sick of the sound of my own voice, but the moment I get on stage, it gives me the same thrill as always.”
Dear Epson is a brilliant idea for a stand-up show. So how did Danny come up with it? It all began, he tells me, with an idle conversation in a pub. “One afternoon when most people would be doing serious stuff at work,” the comic recalls, “a friend and I were sitting in a pub.”
“We had a classic pub conversation which started with me asking, ‘Whatever happened to Roast Beef Monster Munch?’, and ended with me saying to my friend, ‘Do you know what? I am going to write a letter asking them to bring it back’.“
The stand-up, continues that, “I never got a reply, but six weeks later Roast Beef Monster Munch was back! As soon as I saw a bag on a supermarket shelf, I started taking photos of it and sending it to friends saying, ‘I did this!’”
The germ of an idea was planted in Danny’s mind. The comedian takes up the story. “At Christmas, my computer hard drive died, and I lost all my e-mails. So I ended up on the phone for days to BT trying to retrieve my e-mail account.
“By the end of it all, I was so exasperated that, as a kind of catharsis, I wrote a letter to the company explaining my ordeal to them. I never got a response, but it represented closure for me. When you have been on the phone for days, and every time you are dealing with a different person, or put on hold for hours, you can never end that ordeal. A letter was the only way I could put it to bed.”
The letter was really funny, so, Danny carries on, “I sent it to some of my friends. Quite a few of them said that I should put it in a show. It was not a traditional customer complaints letter – it was very sarcastic. I wrote it as if I was a madman at his wits’ end – that was the only way I could deal with it! I certainly didn’t think at the time that it would become a show.”
However, by this stage, the comedian had a taste for writing letters of complaint to companies –missives to Epson and Gillette soon followed. He explains that, “I really enjoy writing these letters. I also think it’s a very universal subject.
“The show is about aspects of life that everyone can identify with, the little things which irritate people, but which they would find it too frivolous to write a letter about. So I’m doing it for them.
People will think, ‘Here’s a man who has taken the time to do the things I have always wanted to do!” It’s one man’s crusade against the big bad world!”
It is also a very innovative way of presenting a comedy show. According to Danny, “This offers a change from traditional stand-up and breaks the art-form up. I’ll have a desk on stage from which I will read the letters. There is a theme to it, but it is still very much stand-up. After all, stand-up is to a large extent all about complaining. There is just more purpose and structure to this!”
Danny is hopeful that the show might make a difference. “I get so frustrated dealing with these big corporations. You can waste entire afternoons on the phone to these companies because you never get through to somebody who can help.
“These little frustrations may not matter in the grand scheme of things. All I’m doing is writing letters for a comic but cathartic end. However, too often the fight never gets fought because people have better things to do. But I don’t! I have all this time on my hands, so I might as well use it!”
Danny’s shows have always attracted a very wide audience because he talks about subjects that everyone can connect with. “My humour does seem to be universal,” he affirms. “It’s about finding those things that everyone can relate to. It’s like watching a Billy Connolly video – it’s a uniter rather than the divider.
“But none of these letters are abusive. They’re all done tongue in cheek. People will never laugh at someone being nasty. There has to be a human element and a shared joy in what the comic is doing.
“I think this will be a lot of fun.”
Me, too. I can’t wait!
Danny Bhoy’s new show, Dear Epson” tours from August 3rd-8th Edinburgh EICC and then nationwide from 9th September and his DVD Live at the Festival Theatre will be available from 26th November. He’s appearing at Birmingham Town Hall on 4th October. For further details go to www.dannybhoy.com