Interview: Dave Spikey

Dave Spikey  who is appearing in Leeds and York as part of his critically-aclaimed Punchlines tour.
Dave Spikey who is appearing in Leeds and York as part of his critically-aclaimed Punchlines tour.
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Comedian Dave Spikey of Phoenix Nights fame will be returning to the live arena in for a further series of side-splitting Punchlines performances

Comedian Dave Spikey may be best known for his collaboration with fellow Lancastrian Peter Kay in the hugely popular television series Phoenix Nights, but there’s far more to the Chorley funnyman than that. He’s an accomplished scriptwriter, author, stand-up comedian, producer and broadcaster.

Spikey is back on the road again with the second half of his Punchlines tour – the first half was last autumn – and will be stopping off in Yorkshire, landing at the City Varieties, Leeds on April 2 and York Grand Opera House on May 7.

The show will examine just what makes us laugh. “It sounds hifalutin,” says Spikey, “but I do this thing about the brain and how it is a pattern-making machine. I thought that once you’ve told someone a story then if you tell them it again then they won’t laugh at it – the brain races ahead and gets to the punchline before you’ve heard the whole story so you may as well forget all about it.”

To test the theory he projects the punchlines on to a screen and asks the audience to get involved. “I’ve found that even though they know the punchline,”says Spikey, “the audience still laugh at different points during the telling of the joke.

“If you watch groups of people in pubs and restaurants they all laugh together and tell stories and try to outdo each other to make each other laugh – there’s something in our make-up that makes us want to make people laugh.”

Spikey was all set for a career in medicine when he left school. A stint in the laboratory at the Royal Bolton hospital was supposed to be a temporary taste of real life before going off to university but he enjoyed it so much he decided to stay, ultimately gaining promotion to become chief bio medical scientist. “I loved being part of the team and I felt liberated so I never took up my place at university. I got involved with the hospital review society and did we did pantomimes which were full of ‘in-house’ jokes.”

By the late 80s Spikey was taking part in talent competitions and found he loved being on stage and telling jokes. His painter and decorator father had instilled in his son a love of comedy and the pair used to listen to Round the Horne on the radio and then, in later years, watch Morecambe and Wise together on the television.

In 1996, TV comedy history was made when Spikey met Peter Kay at the north-west comedian of the year awards. Johnny Vegas was the hot favourite to win that year but he was beaten by a newcomer, the 23-year-old Kay.

Spikey and Kay realised they shared the same taste in comedy and went on to form a formidable partnership, collaborating on numerous projects, including the hit Channel 4 series That Peter Kay Thing, which won a British Comedy Award for ‘Best New TV Comedy’ in 2000. Spikey then went on to co-write and co-star in the massive, critically acclaimed Phoenix Nights in which he won the nation’s hearts as the legendary cabaret star Jerry St Clair.

Spikey managed to keep the two halves of his life separate for the best part of ten years until he hit ‘a crossroads’ in 2000. In the space of one week he was booked to support Jack Dee, Max Boyce, Cannon and Ball and Eddie Izzard and realised he would have to decide whether to stay on at the hospital or try and make a full-time career in comedy.

“I took a year’s sabbatical from the hospital but I never went back,” he says.

In 2003 he went on to star in his debut solo tour, the DVD of which got him a gold disc. And in 2004 he performed at the Royal Variety Performance in a line-up that included Shirley Bassey and was then a guest on the legendary Parkinson show alongside Paul McCartney – fulfilling two lifelong ambitions in one week.

After starring in and writing in a couple of TV comedy dramas Spikey became a regular as team captain alongside Jimmy Carr and Sean Lock on Channel 4’s panel show 8 Out of 10 Cats.

Spikey returned to stand-up and live shows in 2011 .