Interview with comedian Danielle Ward

As many of you across this fair nation will know, Danielle Ward is one third of Sunday morning’s Dave Gorman show on Absolute Radio. She is the one that is a girl.

I first saw Danielle perform live at Comedy Gold at the Old Queen’s Head, Islington. She burst onto the stage and instantly intrigued me with her immensely personal and frank comedy. She is of small statue but of big heart and her lengths to entertain an audience stretch far beyond what many may offer.

Danielle began her comedy career in Crouch End and was soon runner up in the BBC New Comedy Awards and got her first broadcasting break on Radio 1. She has written for a multitude of television and radio programmes and is one of only five women to hold the BBC Writers Bursary.

She is a real voice amongst the crowd of pretenders, someone who when she talks, you want to listen.

Danielle has been involved with the writing and production of two musicals (both available to download from itunes for free-they are AMAZEBALLS – do it!), Psister Psycho and Gutted. Psister Psycho was a cult hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was subsequently nominated for a chortle award.

I talked to her during the interval at Comedy Gold and was inspired enough after a minute of conversation to go out and write a whole joke. It wasn’t very
funny.

For all of her achievements, she comes across as a humble and kind person who really enjoys what she does and if people enjoy themselves, audiences tend to too.

Danielle was gracious enough to answer some questions for me and I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I did.

It is hard to put a finger on what you are best at or what you are best known for. You write comedy musical theatre, perform stand up, you’re an acclaimed writer and you appear on television and radio. How would you like people to think of you?

Delightful polymath.

Do you think your level of diversity adversely affects you or has it helped you become more rounded as an artist?

They say in Hollywood that diversity kills careers, and I guess that is fair up to a point. If I’d just stuck to one thing I might be really successful by now, but where is the fun in that? I’m crippled by the idea of being on my death bed and wishing I’d done it differently. I can’t bear the thought of only ever doing one thing with my life. If I just did stand-up I wouldn’t have a play in the contemporary theatre section of the British Library. I’m not bothered about being rich or famous – I just want to be fucking excellent. Also if it turns out all my eggs are rotten the scripted work is the nearest I’ll get to passing on my genes.

You have written Psister Psycho and Gutted, bringing scorn from the traditional world of musical theatre but plaudits from everyone else…what inspired you to write musicals instead of a more mainstream play where your talents may have been more appreciated by the establishment?

I’m not sure they would have been. If you put too many jokes in a play (as I tend to do) theatre goers think you’re not taking the art form seriously. Not enough jokes – like a normal comedy play – isn’t that funny.

I find the fourth wall in theatre a bit hard to get to grips with as a comic. At least with musical theatre you’re already well away from any sense of ‘realism’. And I love a bit of razzle dazzle. I want spectacle in a theatre.

You are currently adapting Gutted into a screenplay, what are the challenges of taking musical theatre to the screen? What are the challenges in changing your own work to a different format if you were happy with it in its original guise?

Well I’ve never written a screenplay until now. The big difference with theatre is you have a few very long scenes but films have a load of tiny short scenes (not that I’ve stuck to that) so the pace is entirely different. To be honest I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just writing something I think is funny.

Film is a director’s medium – I’m not a director so I’m leaving a lot of decisions up to whoever that is. Though I have put a dog in the cast. Something I couldn’t do onstage. Mr Dylan is now a dog (sorry Thom Tuck). It’s right up Tim Burton’s street. Maybe I’ll send it to him. Or John Landis. Through a series of clerical errors I actually have his personal email address. Total win.

There is always room for improvement in any piece of work. I’ve re-written the stage version to how I wanted it, though I’m sure lots of people thought it was OK as it was. But with the film I’ve been able to do even more. You’ll always be limited by budget in any medium but we were so so limited with the stage version. We weren’t even allowed a bloody revolve! (that is a joke that needs more context than I’m going to give).

Is there a current television or radio programme that you would, given the opportunity, love to take part in?

30 Rock, South Park and Masterchef.  And I’d love to do more radio presenting. I don’t even wash my hair on a Sunday. That’s why the webcam is never on me.

If you had to give a twitter style 140 characters of advice to someone wanting to break into the world of comedy, what would they be?

Gig loads. Find your voice. Don’t get hung-up on being on TV after 18 months (unless you’re one of “those” comics) – comedy is a meritocracy. Even though it doesn’t always feel like it.

Who would win a game of Battleships between Dave Gorman and Martin White?

Gorman. And if he didn’t win he’d demand a re-match.

Danielle is also trying to become friends with Grace Woodward – “I love her on Britain and Ireland’s Next Top Model. I’ve not really got anywhere with it so far though.”

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