David Alnwick is a triple threat – part magician, part stand up, totally ninja. His particular brand of high energy fun has made him a firm favourite across the North West and beyond, whether performing mystifying card tricks or laid back storytelling. We chatted to David about moments of wonder, the Edinburgh Fringe and why comedy should look on the positive side of life.
How would you describe your stand up?
Rhetoric. I just tell stories. Anything that’s happened to me that I think is funny, I try and make the audience see why it’s funny. It’s just about conveying that.
How did you get into comedy?
I’ve been doing magic since I was a little kid. I literally can’t remember not doing magic. Then I met Ed from Jollyboat at University. After we graduated, Jollyboat were going to the Fringe and they needed someone to fill in a fifteen minute slot in their show. I’d done magic before and I’d done jokes but they were old jokes. As I was doing those fifteen minutes in Edinburgh, the magic I was doing got less and less and the talking got more and more. I’ve always had a bit of a presence on stage. It was at Opium bar upstairs and it was a great show.
Your act is part comedy, part magic. Do magic and comedy involve similar skills?
I used to think, because I studied acting, that acting was a generic skill. I don’t mean a generic art, I mean a generic skill. Anyone on stage has to be good at acting. It’s not about pretending, it’s reliving. You have to do that regardless of what you’re doing onstage. If you’re a comedian you’re saying the same script every night but every time it has to be the first time. The same for magic. You have to create every moment as if it’s a brand new moment of wonder. In that sense they’re incredibly similar. Magic is just a script like a monologue would be or a joke would be.
How much of what you talk about on stage is based on real life events?
There’s definitely an unquestionable portion that is embellished. Initially I wasn’t going to do that, but I was encouraging to do it. There’s a particular story I tell, and a few of my friends who are comedians told me to say something happened that didn’t. They said who cares if it happened, it’s really funny that way. Unless you’re pedaling some kind of political ideal, it doesn’t have to be specifically true, but a lot of it has happened to me. All of the things I say spawn from something happening, even if they’re not word for word gospel.
Who are your comedy influences?
When I was growing up I loved Billy Connolly. He just tells stories, and he’s amazing at it. I also really liked Russell Howard, because I was watching him just as I was starting comedy. He was doing a good job of telling stories that were positive. I’m not a very sad person and I don’t like going into emotional stuff, that’s just not me; it’s not how I interact. I like making everything fun and silly. And that’s what he was doing.
Famous actors as well, people like Kevin Spacey and Gary Oldman. That kind of intensity makes you want to be really good on stage.
What’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
Aziz Ansari. He’s not trying to convey any idea, he just says silly stuff and I can’t help but really enjoy it. Sometimes I just like being caught up in the whimsy of things instead of delving deep. He was talking about how 50 Cent didn’t know what a grapefruit was and I was pissing myself.
One night at the last Edinburgh festival. It had been going pretty well but one night, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to do the show. I got on stage and stopped reading what I’d written down and just started talking to the audience. I knew I was alright at riffing, but I’d never had the confidence to try it for a full hour. It went amazingly well. The story as it unfurled was that I was trying to make the crew from the starship enterprise from the audience. We had an electrical engineer and there was one guy in the audience who was good at Maths, and he became Spock. It became a really fun game and it went so well. It was a good moment of thinking, maybe I don’t always need to write things down if I just have confidence then I can carry it.
One that always sticks out in my mind was at an open mic night, really early on. I told a couple of jokes and did a bit of magic, and it just went horrifically badly. There was this women in the audience who got offended at something I said and walked onstage to heckle me! And then walked behind the bar, it turned out she worked there! That was horrible.
You can follow David on twitter @David_Alnwick.
David is the resident act at Another Comedy Night in Maguire’s Pizza Bar, Liverpool. Listings for Another Comedy Night can be found here.