The interview: Dave Spikey

Comedian: Dave Spikey
Comedian: Dave Spikey
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Dave Spikey tells TOM WALSH: ‘Peter phoned and said ‘what do you think about getting everybody back together?’

Dave Spikey might be talking of plans to call time on his days of extensive UK tours, but there is no hint of a suggestion the veteran stand-up and Phoenix Nights star will be slowing down anytime soon.

‘I thought about it for 10 seconds and said yeah’

Holding court in his local pub, Dave speaks enthusiastically about his past, present and future in a way that shows his continuing devotion to all aspects of his craft.

We meet the day after what he describes as one of the best gigs he’s ever done, to a packed crowd at Loughborough Town Hall.

Clearly passionate about what he does, the decision to cut back on his touring commitments can’t have been an easy one.

“I love it. Stand-up is so unique, and so gratifying, but I just want to concentrate now more on writing.”

With writing to become his main focus upon completion of his current tour – one which public demand means he keeps adding dates to – the work ethic is not in doubt.

Having started writing sketches for hospital pantomimes more than 30 years ago, Spikey’s comic mind is always working, taking notes when out and about, picking up on lines, stockpiling them for current or future projects.

“You can’t just rest on your laurels. I’m writing a sitcom at the moment, and I spend all week just collating all my notes, hundreds and hundreds of notes, lines that don’t mean anything on their own, but I know they’re funny in the right context.”

The current project – which he is co-writing and starring in with comedienne Janice Connolly – looks to be a ground-breaking venture, with public involvement interspersed with scripted material.

Due to be previewed in the coming months to a select audience at Salford’s Media City, this BBC-commissioned sitcom is just the latest reason for excitement in a long and eventful career for Spikey.

Alongside his successful stage shows, recent times have seen him gain regular TV slots, become a published author two times over, and also receive an award for his first foray into directing.

Then, earlier this year, the hugely successful sitcom he co-wrote and starred in, Phoenix Nights, returned for a run of 15 sell-out shows at Manchester Arena, making over £5m for charity in the process.

“Peter (Kay – co-writer and co-star) phoned out of the blue and said he’d had this idea for Comic Relief, and he said, ‘what do you think about getting everybody back together?’

“I thought about it for probably 10 seconds, and just said yeah – I’d absolutely love to. Then within a couple of weeks, he said everyone had agreed to do it.”

With the original run of two nights selling out within an hour, plans were hastily rearranged to make way for a 15-night residency at Manchester Arena.

“It was overwhelming – for people to have such an affection for this show from 15 years ago and be willing to travel the length and breadth of the country, to spend a lot of money to see us and support Comic Relief – it was unbelievable.”

The charitable nature of the shows meant time had to be managed carefully, allowing only a week’s rehearsal time in all.

With the premise of the show being a Comic Relief night at the Phoenix Club, the performers were each tasked with coming up with their own act to be performed on the night.

“It just all came together. The week before the shows, everyone came in and did their own slot at rehearsal, and then we all met up on the last day and put the show together. We ran it through, did a technical rehearsal, then a dress rehearsal, and the next day we were on stage doing it for real.”

Spikey says those weeks spent reunited with the group were some of the best of his life, both for the times he had on and off stage, as well as for the reaction of the audience.

“All of us watched every show every night in the wings. We all encouraged each other, cheered everybody on, came up with suggestions. We were trying to help each other all the time.

“It was one of the best experiences. I’ll never ever forget it. It was overwhelming . Some nights it was even quite emotional.

“I’d put Jerry (Spikey’s character)’s white jacket on and you’d hear the roar of the crowd as the second half started, and it’s what it must be like going out at Wembley for a cup final.

“Hairs all standing up – you’d get a lump in your throat…”

But with little rest between the Phoenix Nights dates and the start of his own tour, Spikey decided it was time to scale down his commitments on the road in the future, allowing himself more time to focus on writing.

“Instead of doing the big tours, with a lot of travelling, it’s a case of just picking and choosing really.

“I do love it, but it’s about getting the balance right. I’ve just got in my head that I don’t need to lump them all together anymore, so instead of it being the big poster with all the dates on, it’d be more like doing one-off shows.”

Already earmarking Edinburgh and Leicester Comedy Festival appearances for next year, Spikey’s future seems very much on his own terms. Who would begrudge much-loved comic success in whatever he turns his hand to next?

l Dave Spikey plays Blackburn King George’s Hall on Thursday April 30.