Award-winning comedian Dave Spikey spoke to JMU Journalism this week, urging all trainee journalists to ignore aspects of their education and ensure that errors and misrepresenting headlines remain a common feature in newspapers.
The co-star and writer of the hit comedy, Phoenix Nights, incorporates local newspapers into his live stand-up shows, turning the happenings of the region and their poor journalistic coverage into something to laugh about. Talking about how this unusual but very effective comedic practice came about, he said: “I just thought I would see what I could find and get some comic value out of it. At first I thought there would be one or two, but there are bloody hundreds.”
Recent shows in Merseyside have seen both Liverpool’s Daily Post and Echo receive such treatment and become unwitting punchlines for the Chorley-born comic. Explaining how an article covering the vandalism to a sign in the village of Lunt was lifted from the Daily Post for one show, Dave said: “Obviously vandals had been using a bit of tape to change Lunt into what a local MP diplomatically put as ‘an old Anglo-Saxon word’. He thinks they are mindless idiots, but to me, if they know some Anglo-Saxon they aren’t mindless idiots at all.”
After being approached by a publisher, who witnessed this improvised comic take on local news at a live show, Dave has transformed a collection of these articles into a book. Entitled ‘He took my kidney, then stole my heart’, the book sees Dave’s comic take on the coverage of some of the most mundane stories to the downright bizarre. Even the title is taken from an article about a woman who donated a kidney to her dying husband only for him to run away with her best friend after the operation.
Dave is worried, however, that the publication of this book will encourage the writing and editing of local newspapers to improve, removing such stories and comedic opportunities. He said: “It would be a shame if these mistakes and stories disappeared. You want headlines and stories like that, you want headlines like ‘Pensioners make lovely rugs’ where you know what they mean but could mean something completely different.”
Many will know Dave Spikey from his involvement in the hugely successful Channel 4 comedy, Phoenix Nights. According to Dave, a return of the Phoenix Club does not look likely, sadly. He said: “No, I think we have left it too long now and Peter [Kay] decided he wanted to go off and do Max and Paddy.” So with the Phoenix Club having closed its doors for good, will we be seeing a new collaboration between Dave Spikey and Peter Kay? According to Dave the answer is again no: “From my part there would be, I would jump at the chance, but Peter seems to be following his own path now with his superstar status. He just does what he wants to do and doesn’t collaborate with anybody.”
There are a few projects lined up in the near future for one of the sharpest minds in comedy though. Following the release of his first book, Dave has now been commissioned to write his autobiography or “sort-of-biography", as he called it. He said: “I didn’t want to do it as I don’t really think anyone’s that interested so I’m making most of it up, just to make it more interesting.”
By Luke Johnson
Dave poses with one of the papers used in his live show; YouTube: Live footage of his use of papers