Clark’s larks come back to haunt him but he’s happy to be here

Dan Clark
Dan Clark
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DAN Clark knows he only has himself to blame.

As the socially hapless Don Danbury in the BBC3 series How Not To Live Your Life the comic actor gets himself into some of the most uncomfortable scenes you’ll witness on telly.

But he’s not entirely happy with having to act them out.

“There was this episode where I dated this posh girl and go to her family house, I’m running around the house tied up in leather gear,” he recalls.

“If I knew how awkward and uncomfortable that was going to be for five evenings in a row I probably would have re-written it.

“I seem to forget I’m going to be the person going to do it.

“When you stand there and say ‘I’m really cold’ or ‘I look like an idiot’ the cast and crew just look at me and go ‘well, you wrote it’... that’s not what I want to hear.”

Either way the success of his loveable rogue has made Clark – who also starred as Johnny Two Hats in The Mighty Boosh – one of the UK’s brightest comedy stars. The third series averaged 1.4 million viewers per episode.

“I’ve got a bit more of an audience than I had four years ago when I last toured,” says Dan, who makes his stand-up debuts at Chesterfield’s Winding Wheel on April 1 and Sheffield Memorial Hall the following Wednesday.

“We are trying to find the right size venues. Because it’s still quite a cult show and it’s on BBC3 I’m not playing arenas or anything.

“It’s also more ‘What are the audiences like?’ because it’s all well and good having a sell-out room but if they’re anything like Tunbridge Wells where they sat with their arms crossed, kind of smiling...

“If it’s half full and they’re really up for it, I’d rather have that.

“Obviously I’m not talking about earning money here, just audience appreciation.”

While live you get the man behind Don Danbury, Dan admits there’s something of a common thread in the two shows.

On stage he explores some modern issues that concern us chaps, such as a lack of interpersonal skills and how dating has changed recently with the rise of the internet.

“The difference between me and the character in the sitcom is he has no self awareness.

“He’s the person creating the awkwardness and the situations whereas I, as a comedian, am a lot more like myself and more of a victim of awkwardness. I’m more neurotic and self aware.

“A lot of my routines are about things like being on the tube or in a shop or how people interact or I’ll tell stories about dates where something went hugely wrong. They’re all tongue-in-cheek and a bit silly, but they’ve come from a real place.

“The first half of the show has a lot to do with how I’ve noticed my behaviour has changed since relying so much on technology and social networking, even things like text messaging and emails.

I’ve noticed I’ve become a bit nervous when I have to make a phone call to someone because I’m so used to interacting with people at arms length. When you call someone up it’s like a commitment, you’re going to interact properly in an old school kind of way.

“One of the interesting things about texting or emails is you can let someone down. Ten or 15 years ago you probably wouldn’t because you’d feel bad but it’s much easier to deal with the guilt if you’re just doing it by text. It’s almost like it’s not really happening, like when you pay for something on a credit card – it doesn’t feel like a real exchange so you don’t engage with it emotionally as much.”

There’s good and bad things to come of the tech and social networking revolution, of course, such as asking someone out on a date.

“If you do it in person that’s quite a big deal. Now, if you meet someone and find them on Facebook and ask them out, if they say ‘no’ in a message... dealing with rejection in the privacy of your home is much easier than if they said ‘no’ to your face.

Dan, who first appeared on our screens as a mugger in the Batman & Robin scene in a Christmas special of Only Fools And Horses 15 years ago – “I had two lines in it and I get royalty cheques to this day” – admits he finds dating weirder now he’s famous.

“If I ask someone out and they don’t know who I am four or five days later – or whenever we go out on the date – in the interim they’ve obviously Googled me, watched clips, gone on Wikipedia,” he says.

“They suddenly have this whole wealth of information about me that immediately means I’m sitting there knowing nothing about this person and they know something about me.

“There’s already a weird difference in the balance of the relationship.

“I feel like I’ve been analysed a bit before I’ve even got to the date.

“That’s a bit weird, but natural as well if you meet someone and you maybe find out they’re an actor or comedian or something.”