So, what’s the show all about?
It’s called Modern Life is Good-ish and I guess it’s more about the –ish than the good. It comes from the perspective of someone who genuinely loves the Internet and is not railing against it. A lot of it is informed by that strange gap that exists between what the Internet is, what we want it to be, what we think it is and that idea that it’s so important. Actually, it’s not important – it’s part of our everyday lives now. It doesn’t carry as much weight as somebody will want it to.
Give us an example…
Because Twitter and Facebook are so prevalent there’s that sense that anyone with a website is thinking, “How can I be that?” The website for Finnish dishwashing powders is aping the behaviour of Facebook. I don’t want to hang out on the Finnish dishwashing tablet website. You’re not where my friends are, you’re not one of my friends. All that anyone requires from your website is whatever information they went there looking for – what chemicals might be in it, where they can buy it, if they’ve got a complaint. They don’t want to hang out in it – that’s not what we use most of the websites we use for. I think in a generation’s time they won’t be trying to be social hangouts.
Why aren’t we all noticing these quirks of the Internet?
I think a large part of it is that we are bombarded by so much information now. For the first six years of my life we had a black and white TV with three channels on – the world is so radically different today. We’re subject to so much incoming information constantly and we’ve been conditioned to always being able to log on and get more information. There’s a battle going on to win your attention and you have trained yourself not to pay attention to the stuff that you think is peripheral and not important. And that means there’s a load of nonsense out there that if you stop and look at it, you go, “What on earth was I thinking? What made someone think that would work?” We spend most of our lives trying to shut out 90% of it so of course most of it doesn’t get noticed.
Does it frustrate you the people don’t notice as much as you do?
It doesn’t frustrate me, it fascinates me. There was an advert Michael Parkinson did for life insurance and the advert starts with the lights down they come up to show Michael Parkinson sitting in a chair and he says, “All my life I’ve interviewed thousands of fascinating people”. Every time I see that I think, “Why is no one else in their living room going, ‘why were the lights off?’ Why would he sit in the room with the lights off?” The only situation in real life where you would start to talk when the lights are turned off is somebody else’s surprise birthday party. There is no other situation on earth in which that makes sense, and yet we all watch that and accept it. I find it utterly fascinating that so many people have sat in front of that and gone, “Yep, OK”. Why? It’s weird to me.
Is it cathartic, being able to air your grievances on television?
Completely. I arrived at a place – and it might be to do with my age – where the things that make me angry actually secretly make me happy. There’s not piety to it – there’s no “When will this stop? Make it end!” It’s not railing against the system. There’s great pleasure in being that kind of angry.
You’re known for using PowerPoint presentations alongside your stand-up material – what does that bring to the show?
If you wanted to analyse an advert on stage in front of an audience and you didn’t have a screen, it was just a man and a microphone saying, “Isn’t that advert ridiculous?” you’d limit it to which ones you can talk about. You can only talk about the ones that we’ve already all noticed but then do we really want to hear another comedian talking about the Go Compare adverts? There’s no need. We’ve done it in the pub, in the kitchen, with our wives and they’re already ironically mocking their own badness. There’s no value in a comic pointing that out – I just think those things are done to death. But because I’ve got the screen, I can show you an advert you’ve never seen before. I can show you it in three-second bursts and explain what’s wrong with it and it still makes sense. It doesn’t have to be about stuff we already all know.
Did you hunt the Internet or stumble across the material for the show?
I think if you go looking for them you find a slightly different thing. If you’re going, “What can I find today that doesn’t quite make sense,” you don’t find the real thing. It’s the stuff you bump into. They’re more real and I think an audience can tell when you’re relating a thing that you searched for or when you’re relating a thing that you found – they’re slightly different. One of the first things I said to the production team early on was feel free to bring ideas to me, but never bring me something from Buzzfeed or those websites that collect that kind of stuff. I’m not interested in anything from there because that makes us a jukebox for other people’s comedy – it’s got to be our observation.
Do you think websites like Buzzfeed are good at what they do?
Oh yes. There’s nothing wrong with that and you can enjoy that content – I just think TV is sometimes very arrogant about the Internet. Much of the time you can watch TV and the host of a comedy show might be saying, “Here’s a funny video that we found online”. They show you this video and it’s had 40 million views already and it’s being shown to you as if this TV show – which gets 250,000 viewers – is somehow the gatekeeper of the Internet. And you think, “I’m one of the 40 million people who have already seen that – you’re much smaller than it, what are you bringing to the table here?” TV sometimes behaves as if the rest of us don’t have the Internet and we’re watching the TV in order to be told what it does. It doesn’t work like that anymore and it hasn’t worked like that for a long time. I think, especially as a comic, you have to be the person who’s noticing something.
You’re known for your work as an author, stand-up comedian and for your TV and radio shows – what’s your favourite?
What I really like is the mixture – I’ve never been one of those people who’s toured every year relentlessly and when a tour is over I quite like the idea of writing a book. When I’m writing a book I really quite like the idea of making a TV show and when I’ve made a TV show I think, “Oh it would be nice to go back on the road, wouldn’t it?” The next one always seems very appealing but if I only did one I think I’d start to feel a bit penned in which is ridiculous because they’re all such lovely things to do.
What have you got coming up next?
I’m planning a book and probably going to tour next autumn as well – not quite sure what order things are going to happen but those are the things that are gestating at the moment.
Would you do another series of Modern Life is Good-ish?
I would absolutely love to – it’s the closest to the spirit of what I do live without feeling like it’s a live DVD.
You’re also known for your crazy challenges – such as meeting 54 other Dave Gormans and crossing America without visiting any chain businesses – have you got any more in the pipeline?
I haven’t at the moment – they’re things that tend to befall you rather than be plotted. They’re not things I’ve ever thought, “I know, next year I will…” They’re things you don’t know you’re doing until you’re doing them and then they become something. I could never plan them.
Dave Gorman: Modern Life is Good-ish begins tonight at 10pm on Dave