Interview with Danny Wallace

He is the man you joined, the man whose country you became a citizen of and seemingly the man many of you exploited for a free pint when he said yes to everything for a year.

“Just after I had written ‘Join Me’, people used to send drinks across to me in bars as their Friday random act of kindness but just after I wrote ‘Yes Man’, people used to come and ask me to buy them drinks and of course, I had to say yes. I think it ended up being pretty even in the end financially.”

Author, radio producer, television presenter and journalist Danny Wallace has inspired people across the globe to good but it all started with him just wanting to have fun.

“My career plan, which isn’t really a plan, has always been to find something that’s fun then do it well and hopefully get asked back to have more fun. The only way to do it is to get on and do it but crucially, follow the fun.”

As the author of six and a half books (he co-wrote ‘Are you Dave Gorman?’ with his then flatmate, Dave Gorman) Danny has inspired people across the globe to put down their preconceptions of life and do good and positive deeds. In fact, after the interview, I bought dinner for the homeless man who sits outside the bank on my street.

“I tell you the stories in the way I’d tell you the story down the pub. I have a fear of people falling asleep while reading the books so I compress stuff and make the incidents into anecdotes and hope that people enjoy them. The books all have separate messages but they are about living your life in quite a positive way, I think. They all take on a little life of their own and the people in them are still out there. You can come to the meet ups, meet the people you’ve read about, they become kind of folk heroes.”

After dragging Danny upstairs to a quiet corner of the upstairs room of the pub because the one man talking to his beer downstairs may disturb us, a group of thirty tourists walk in.

“That’s the kind of thing, talking of anecdotes and the strange things in life, just having a quick chat to them and finding out that they were on a murder mystery pub crawl. I asked them if the murderer was in there and if we weren’t doing this interview, then I would suggest that we go and join them. I like observing people, seeing what happens and following the fun.”

He is a man who has taken risks but he derives as much pleasure as reading about other people’s successes as he takes pleasure from people reading about his own.

“I got a letter last night from a couple who are getting married. They both decided one day to say yes, to go out and do something that scared them. They met and now they’re getting married.”

At this point Danny begins to reel off summaries of letters he has received with a notable one being of a woman in Nova Scotia who bought the car behind her coffee and began a chain at a drive-thru that lasted for twenty-one cars until a grouch broke the cycle. As he talks he becomes animated and a joy emanates making it very obvious that he thrives in knowing that he has done a positive thing for the world.

“It’s been amazing, all the stories I get back from people. I wrote something down, set it free and now I get to read the stories that people send to me. It’s like people have read my stories and sent me stories in return. I enjoy being the reader now.”

Danny has a weekly column in the magazine Shortlist, a magazine aimed at young men who are often struggling to understand what it is to be a man in the 21st century. He has systematically put his life in the public domain but his manner and ethos that “you should be nice to everyone” mean that the consequences aren’t quite as dire as they could be.

“I haven’t had bad experiences so far. I keep things to myself, my wife (Lizzie in the books) and my son (my son in the columns) I mention but not in much detail, they are for when the door is closed at night. I think though, that when you tell a story, you have to let them in. When you write a book about your life and have that connection with people, you’ve got to be open, you’ve got to make friends. You’re going to be with them for the whole book so you should try to get on.”

He speaks like he writes and as he continues to talk, I began to imagine his words being printed on paper in front of my eyes. Far from sounding like a scripted celebrity with their works to sell, he seems natural, energised and makes me feel comfortable in his presence.

The latest book, ‘Awkward Situations for Men’ began as transcripts of his column in Shortlist but has now been made into a pilot for American television. Though he doesn’t know whether it has been commissioned yet, I think he would like it to be a continuation of the fun.

“I acted at being an actor and I think I got away with it. I worked with a guy who’d directed eighty episodes of Seinfeld but they decided that they wanted it to be a multi camera sitcom in front of an audience. That’s where we are, retooling and seeing how we can go forward with it.

“The chances of making a pilot are so small so I consider myself so lucky to have done what I have done so far. We’ll see but it would be fun.”

When I ask whether another adventure is in the pipeline, Danny is hesitant but not evasive.

“These things come along to fill in a gap, to plug a whole but at the moment I’m exhausted. Having a family is the best thing in the world and maybe we’ll all have an adventure one day.”

I was nervous about meeting Danny as through previous email correspondence Danny knows a lot about me that many others don’t know.

He is slightly taller than you’d imagine but to follow his own manner of describing others, “when I talk about my mate Wag, I don’t say he’s a strong six foot with rippling muscles, I say that he is a brilliant guy”.

Danny Wallace is a gentleman, he cares about others in a way you’d not expect and he shows a real interest in you. No hyperbole could encompass the experience that he gave me during our interview and when he wished me all the best, I knew he meant it.


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