Alan Davies prepares for his NZ tour

By Mike Dinsdale

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You're an international star, adored by millions for your television work - comedy writing and acting - so what do you do on your only day off on a gruelling eight-day, seven date tour to a country on the other side of the world?

Well, if you're Alan Davies - star of hit TV shows Jonathan Creek and QI - the answer is easy ... visit Whangarei.

Whangarei? Hardly the world's cultural capital, or a city renowned for its great tradition in humour or entertainment.

But Davies has a confession to make - he's a cricket nut and although initially declaring he wanted to play Whangarei on his Life is Pain comedy tour because he had never been to the country's northern most city before, he had to fess up.

"Whangarei is my only day off so the main reason is cricket ... I said to my agent that there must be somewhere up there for me to play because I wanted to watch the T20," he says.

A NZ XI will play the touring England team at Cobham Oval, Whangarei, on February 4, the day after he performs at the city's Capitaine Bougainville Theatre.

He's hoping Whangarei's fickle summer weather plays its part and the game goes ahead, but he's got contingency plans, and knows it's also the Waitangi week with lots of activities going on around the country.

Davies was last in New Zealand in 1995 and has fond memories of the country.

"I remember that (Waitangi Day) is the same day as Bob Marley's birthday. I thought it was great that a whole country celebrated Bob's birthday," Davies says.

"In 95 I did a show in Auckland and somebody came up to me afterwards and said what a fantastic show and gave me this bag ... I opened it up and it was a bag of dope! It was enough to last about two years.

"I don't smoke now, but I have very fond memories of that visit."

A year after that visit, Davies signed up to play the lead role of Jonathan Creek in the TV series of the same name, written by David Renwick. The show ran for 14 years and has been seen by audiences worldwide. Davies says some people who know him only as Jonathan Creek find it funny (as in strange) that he's also a stand-up comedian and that that's where he started out back in 1988. His work on QI, though, with Stephen Fry, should leave nobody in doubt about his abilities.

"People would come up who liked QI and say things like they didn't realise I was funny. A lot of people who only knew me from Jonathan Creek didn't know I was also a stand-up comedian. I think it was a nice surprise for them."

It was also a big surprise for his dad, who was an accountant and raised Davies and his siblings after his mother died when he was 6, when he signed up to study drama at Kent University after leaving his public school. Surely his father wanted him to pursue a subject far more productive and serious than that?

"I wasn't one of those kids that was funny at school. I didn't find out I had any kind of ability to do this until I started doing drama. Dad wasn't too happy about me doing drama. He said 'what sort of job is that going to get you?' "

What changed his dad's opinion was when Davies appeared on prime time British TV on Des O'Connor Tonight, then one of the UK's top-rating shows.

"That was his proof that I'd made it. It was the Des O'Connor show and that was massive in the UK at that time and it was a reference point for him. Des had been around for years and always had great guests on. It felt great for me that it had made an impression on Dad."

These days comedians such as Davies are the new "rock stars" of British TV, with many having their own shows and some making millions from making people laugh.

It's a far cry from when Davies started off, having to scrape a laugh out of the audience at places such as the Comedy Store, that were run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts.

So, after all these years tickling people's funny bones, where does Davies get inspiration for his new show, Life is Pain?

The name itself came from a 6-year-old girl he knows who was getting told off by her mum.

"The girl just said 'life's a pain' and that stopped her mother in her tracks and I thought it was great, so out of the mouths of babes I suppose, and it stuck," he says.

Davies' own young children provide him with plenty of comedy gold, though Life is Pain covers every aspect of life.

But whether it deals with the pain of watching his beloved cricket team getting hammered by a bunch from the colonies in Whangarei is another matter. We'll find out next February.

- Hamilton News

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