Alan Davies: The idea that there aren’t any funny women around is so outdated

The QI and Jonathan Creek star sat down with RadioTimes.com to talk his new format-less chat show

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Alan Davies: The idea that there aren’t any funny women around is so outdated
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Alan Davies's new show kicks off on Dave this week. But when it comes to telling you what it's all about, we're a little stumped.

You see, the thing is that it could be about anything. Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled sees a group of familiar faces sit around what looks like an old pub table and, erm, talk. The comedians discuss anything and everything - from embarrassing teenage tales to stories about their mate's failed job interviews. The conversation could literally go in any direction. 

We sat down with QI and Jonathan Creek star Alan Davies to find out more about the thinking behind his new comedy show.

So... what's it all about?

We didn’t know how it would go, but it does mean you can talk about anything really. It’s just up to the person speaking how much they want to say on any subject or about themselves or other people they know, and we’ve had some quieter moments as well as some quite raucous stuff. 

It’s about, 'Do you want to come and be in a conversation with some likeminded people about comedy?', and so far, people just said, 'Yes, that sounds good.' We pay them. They don’t always get paid to go on talk shows...

So there are no games? No points? No prizes? 

That was the pitch... You can’t win this, and there are no points.

Lots of things get in the way normally in TV - they’re all well intentioned because they’re intended to create a programme on the screen, and that’s great for the audience, but for the participants, sometimes it’s a pain in the neck... Over-recording or pre-written material that you’re being asked to work towards can get in the way of a fun night. You very rarely get left alone, and we just get left alone. 

You're basically just sat around a pub table chatting then... 

It’s a bit like having a party... You can have quite a long conversation with four bright funny people with lots of common ground and no one’s looking at a phone ever. No one leaves the table, even to go to the bar or the toilet. Everyone just stays sat at one table and speaks for an hour and a half in a very engaged and funny way, saying things that they mean or feel, truthfully, and that’s almost unheard of, I realised afterwards, in my life. 

Isn't the lack of format a little bit daunting?

I’m not bothered about running out of things to say, or will it be dull or not... A lot of the conversation here is about comedy clubs or TV shows or filming or some common ground that we’ve got, so we’re used to that subject.

The choosing of the people has been quite careful, at least the creating of a list... Getting the right guests at your dinner party. 

Do you do any preparation before the cameras start rolling?

It’s just good manners to know a bit about who’s coming on - what they’ve done, where they come from, have they killed a man, that sort of thing. We try and have a few things, you know, if I want to get the ball rolling. Just in case. So that’s what I’ve got - a fact.

The conversation must be quite revealing at times... 

I feel like sometimes you think if you’re a standup comedian, you belong to a class of people that get quite a bad rep – conceited, self involved, they’ve got bad taste and poor judgment, they cause offense and they’re overpaid. It’s not that none of these things aren’t true. It’s just not all that they are. They’re quite bright and they’re quite generous and they’re quite funny and they’re a good laugh, and I like knocking around with them.

Guests this series include Bob Mortimer, Phil Jupitus, Marcus Brigstocke, Bill Bailey... Would you like to have your QI co-star Stephen Fry on the show? 

I’d love to have Stephen on here. I think he was asked actually. He’s like the Royal Opera House, you have to book him about nine years in advance.

How about funny ladies...

There's a woman on every show. It's important. The idea that there aren't any funny women around is so outdated. 

How do you feel about female quotas and the BBC's decision to ban all-male panel shows? 

I don’t know what [the BBC] hope to achieve by announcing that to the press. They should just implement that internally they feel that’s the right thing to do. I think by announcing it as if it makes them good people actually puts unnecessary pressure on The Woman on the panel. You’re suddnely saying ‘And here’s our woman. Look we’ve got one!’ If I was the woman in that situation I’d want to go home. 

Might we see the show return for a second series? 

It’s up to Dave, but with any luck, we might get to do more of these, and people can come for repeat visits, and there will be other guests... This could run and run – there are hundreds of them.  

I think you could do this with four heart surgeons or four assassins. If you got them on their subjects and their experiences, with their intelligence and their humour, it feels inevitably that it would be interesting.

Watch a trailer for Alan's new show: 

Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled starts on Monday 16 June at 10:00pm on Dave.