Danielle Ward is an award-winning comedian, having won numerous awards (including Time Out’s Best New Comic award) for both her writing and stand up. Writing credits include The Lee Mack Show, Newswipe with Charlie Brooker, The Now Show, and many more, as well as her penned musicals Gutted and Psister Psycho. She also co-hosts a weekly radio show with Dave Gorman & Martin White every sunday, 10-12 on Absolute Radio. In this interview we discuss all the stuff mentioned above, plus some stuff not mentioned above! Get into it!
The Humourdor: You were in a band and now you’re a comedian - what is it that draws you to the stage?
Danielle Ward: I am a pathetic and needy show off.
H: Music plays a big part in your work. You have written musicals and you host a semi-regular Karaoke night in London – what is it that you like about the relationship between music and comedy?
DW: Music, when it’s done really well, can transform a gig into a proper show. Look at Tim Minchin or Frisky and Mannish. I’m not talking about comics who use a uke as a proper to let the audience know when to clap - but a real marriage of music and comedy is wonderful (and time consuming and difficult). We see Karaoke Circus more as a live band with a bit of comedy, rather than comedy with a couple of chords underneath.
H: You’ve written two musicals: Gutted and Psister Psycho, what is it that you like about this format?
DW: I watched ‘Tommy’ on the TV when I was 9 and it the most terrifying and amazing thing I’d ever seen. As a writer I’m all about the story, but music is my first passion. Musicals bring the two together. Well musicals and concept albums. Maybe we’ll do one of those next.
H: How did Karaoke Circus, your semi-regular karaoke night populated by comedians, start? How do you find the task of organising an event like this?
DW: I suggested the idea to Martin in 2008 because I knew he could play any song. We wanted to do it as a full band line-up though. Rock and roll rather than whimsy. 30 people attended the first one, they got to see Ben Miller turn up with his shopping, sing Under Pressure, and then leave. The next one sold out, as they have done ever since. The hardest part of organising the show is deciding what songs to play. And lugging the backline to various venues across London.
H: Who are your comedic influences and how do you stop yourself from just imitating their work when writing your own material?
DW: I love the Monty Python films - I watched the Life of Brian while writing Gutted to try and get a similar gag pace (hopefully…). Chris Morris, Armando Iannucci, Steve Coogan, The League of Gentlemen, Tim Burton, Roald Dahl, Dennis Potter, Reeves and Mortimer, French and Saunders, Tina Fey. Everyone imitates when they start doing anything creative - Oasis didn’t even try and hide their Beatles love - but hopefully you develop your own style. Why bother doing it if you’re just going to copy someone else?
H: How much of “successful” comedy do you think Is branding/marketing as opposed to actual talent?
DW: I don’t know what successful means anymore.
H: Do you prefer writing or performing and why?
DW: I just want to be a comedian. I see no difference between writing or performing or writer/performance I just do what comes along at the time. It’s all the same thing. Being funny.
H: How do you write your material in relation to both your stand up and scripts? How do they differ?
DW: The way I write stand-up and scripts are totally different. Stand-up is very organic with material evolving over months from vague ideas. Most scripts I write, I’ll work on and re-draft until they feel pretty polished.
H: Do you have a career goal you are yet to reach? TV or film work, perhaps?
DW: Writing a screenplay and seeing it in a cinema would be amazing and in my heart that’s probably where I’m aiming. That said, I was incredibly proud of Gutted when we did the Orchestral Concert. 12 cast members and a 24 piece orchestra. And me and Martin White made it! How cool is that? It’s those kind of insane ventures that prove I’m not in this for the money.
H: Is there some sort of ideology to your stand up or is a laugh a laugh?
DW: No ideology. Though I tend towards themes. Love, death, revenge, pride, lying, and idiocy.
H: Should Stand Up say something as well as be funny?
DW: Not really. But equally it seems a bit pointless if it’s treading the same old ground as a million other comics.
H: How did you end up as a co-host on Dave Gorman’s Radio Show?
DW: Dave Gorman asked me and Martin if we’d like to do it. Or course we said yes. I’ve always loved those comedy/music show. Mark and Lard, Adam and Joe, Lee and Herring and the like. So being part of something similar is ace.
H: What do you think about Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Road show sort of becoming a launching pad for comedians who wants to gain a bigger audience in the UK? Is it good or bad for comedy? Are audiences just lazy in that they don’t seek out these people for themselves?
DW: For every John Bishop you’ve got ten Steve Williams’s. Loads of comics have done the Roadshow and it’s made naught all difference to their careers. The drip feed of a comic on TV is what builds them into a household name. There are some brilliant comics who totally deserve the recognition TV has given them, like Greg Davies or Sarah Millican. And then there are some whose success is baffling but they keep cropping up on stuff because a TV producer and a manager have decided to make them famous. Comedy is now how pop was in the 90s. And I’d rather be Shampoo than the Spice Girls.
H: How’s Sideways Smile going? How would you describe it to someone doesn’t have any idea what I just said?
DW: It is an excellent night of comedy curated by myself. Stand-up, character, sketch and we have a houseband “The Balconettes”. You just wont find a Y chromosome in the line-up.