Dave Johns recently came to widespread public attention as the lead role in Ken Loach’s searing drama, I, Daniel Blake, helping the film win numerous awards for its incisive critique of the UK’s social security system.
But Johns actually started life on the stage as a stand-up comedian in the North-East, and this year returns with a new show, which he is bringing to The Leadmill on 19 May, before taking it to Edinburgh.
How has stand-up in the UK changed since you started out in the 80s?
In the eighties everyone wore leg warmers. They were all too comfortable with warm legs. You can’t laugh with warm legs. Once they threw the leg warmers in the bin they were free to laugh.
Also comedy was a lot less slick back in the eighties and that was a good thing. There were crazy acts on the bills back in the eighties – The Ice Man, for one. His act: him trying to melt a block of ice in 20 minutes with a blow torch. The people loved it.
Compared with comedy, how is your frame of mind different when acting for film and did performing in Edinburgh help with that transition?
Stand up is about you alone on stage, connecting. It’s an immediate reaction you get – good or bad. With film, it’s a collaboration of lots of people making it work. I like that. And you don’t know what the reaction will be until maybe a year later, when it’s screened.
Did Ken Loach offer any tips when you started work on I Daniel Blake?
Ken’s only note was in every scene just listen, find the truth, and if you find the truth it will look right on screen.
Has being involved in the film helped boost your comedy work as well as your acting and do you have any plans for follow-up acting roles?
I’m probable more well known now. I’m shooting two more films this year and both are very different from IDB. I’m very excited about the scripts.
What will your new show be about and will you be taking it to Edinburgh this year?
My Edinburgh show is stand-up, where I’ll be also touching on the madness of the red carpets that I’ve been walking along all summer and all the other crazy stuff in my head.
Have you performed in Sheffield before and are you looking forward to coming to The Leadmill in May?
I love The Leadmill. It’s a great venue for stand up and the audience are well up for laughing. That’s all you need really – an open mind and no leg warmers. Remember, you can’t laugh with warm legs.
Dave Johns comes to The Leadmill on Friday 19 May. Tickets are priced at £12.
Words: Sam Walby