ED2013 Comedy ED2013 Interviews ED2013 Week0 Edition

Dan Cook: Beyond the Banjax, serving some Fringe time

By | Published on Monday 17 June 2013

Dan Cook

We first came across Dan Cook as one quarter of the rather fine sketch comedy group Delete The Banjax, who we followed for a number of festivals, from their free shows into the bigger venues, before we plonked a ThreeWeeks Editors’ Award into their laps at Fringe 2010. Three years on Cook is returning to the festival with an almost solo show, ‘Community Service’. We spoke to him about working alone, and his plans for Festival 2013.

CC: Obviously we’ve seen you in the past as part of Delete The Banjax, what made you decide to go solo?
DC: The decision to go solo came from Banjax finishing. It wasn’t a pre-planned thing, but I wanted to carry on doing comedy once Banjax ended, so I did! We all felt that the Banjax thing had run its course, and had gone as far as it could go, basically it was time for a change for everybody.

CC: What’s the premise of ‘Community Service’?
DC: The premise is that I’ve committed a minor crime and was given a community service order. I had to choose between either litter picking in Peckham Rye Park for half an hour or doing a comedy show in Edinburgh for the whole of August. I chose the show. Lucky Edinburgh.

CC: How has writing a solo show compared to working as part of a sketch team?
DC: It’s been a much slower process, because I don’t have the others making sure writing deadlines are kept to. I love a bit of procrastination, and ‘Homes Under The Hammer’, neither of which help the writing process. Plus bouncing half-formed ideas around with the other guys is obviously no longer possible, and that’s something that I’ve really missed this year. Luckily my director, Ben Wilson (yes, he of Idiots of Ants) has been a good springboard for some of my half-arsed nonsense.

CC: You’re not on the stage all on your own, though, are you?
DC: No, I’m not getting on stage on my own, I’m not an idiot. In my show, I’m joined by Sandra, my community support advisor, who makes sure I complete my order, helps me out in the sketches, and tries to prepare me as best as she can for the real world. Actress / comedian / artist / glasses-wearer Jessie Cave is playing Sandra, and she is excellent at it. She really gets into character. Unlike me.

CC: How does the show compare to what we have previously seen with Delete The Banjax?
DC: It’s got a proper narrative running through the show, with a nice conclusion at the end, which is something Banjax shows never had, so it’s more rounded in that sense. Also, I’m in it a lot more. I wrote it. Those are the rules. It’s still got sketches, a few songs and stuff like that, but I’ve tried to make it different from a Banjax show, because I didn’t want to just be repeating myself.

CC: You’re no newcomer to the Edinburgh Fringe, but does it feel different bring a solo show?
DC: It does feel different, because of the gang mentality of being in a sketch group and all being in it together, and at first I didn’t particularly enjoy being on my own, I definitely missed being in a group. But the more I’ve worked on the show, and the more it’s come together to actually resemble something that I’m quite pleased with, the pleasure of creating a solo show has grown. I have the final say in everything now! It’s nerve-wracking that whether it works is all down to me, but it’s exciting as well.

CC: Is it important to showcase a new show in Edinburgh?
DC: Don’t bring a new show to Edinburgh if your heart isn’t in it and you’ve just done it for the sake of going to Edinburgh, because you’re just wasting time and (a lot of) money. I wanted to try something different, and I love writing and performing comedy so it’s important to me. Comics are also getting noticed for their work on YouTube etc now, so bringing a show to Edinburgh isn’t the only way to showcase what you do.

CC: What’s the worst thing about doing an Edinburgh show – is there anything that makes it feel like you really are doing community service by performing at the Fringe?
DC: I LIKE THIS QUESTION. I love a whinge (just ask Banjax).
1: Carrying props about. Stupid oversize things that you can’t believe you made an integral part of a sketch. Hate them.
2: Teching the show. Getting all the lights and sound cues ready is THE MOST BORING THING IN THE WORLD.
3. Flyering. Luckily I now have people who flyer for me, but when Banjax first started we did it ourselves. I say “we”, I mean Sam and Gareth. Caz and I would stand and smoke. “Hey, wanna see my show?” “No, go and die in a hole” “Okay bye” x 1000.

CC: As you’re not performing in a sketch comedy group this year, are there any other sketch comedy groups you’d recommend?
DC: These are the shows I’m gonna watch, not all are sketch, but deal with it: Birthday Girls, Sad Faces, Max and Ivan, Colin Hoult, Pat Cahill and a special mention to John Kearns who will have the BEST SHOW IN EDINBURGH 2013 (John, you can use that quote of you like). I have impeccable taste by the way.

CC: You’ve done some telly, radio and ad work in the past, do you have any project on the go other than ‘Community Service’?
DC: I’m doing a internet show called ‘Yellow Card’, which is loosely based around football. Depending on when people read this, there’ll either be new episodes out soon, or they’re out already. It’s nonsense, like an idiot child has been asked to produce a comedy show and failed gloriously, but it’s so much fun to do. We love doing it AND THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERS PEOPLE.

‘Dan Cook: Community Service’ was performed at Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2013.