He’s full of cold and still trying to get his head around the last week of newspaper headlines, but Alan Davies is sounding remarkably chipper.
The cheeky-faced comedian is understandably keen to talk about his first live UK tour in a decade, even in a muffled voice and amid sneezes and sniffles.
‘It’s been exciting, good fun, and the response has been really good,’ says Alan, adding ‘I talk about all sorts of things – having kids, the world ending, Facebook and social networking, sex toys, the 1980s, condoms. So there’s something for everyone really.’
While any of those subjects would, no doubt, make a fascinating talking point, it’s social networking that everyone wants to discuss with Alan .
The comic recently came a cropper on Twitter after retweeting Lord McAlpine’s name in connection with false child abuse allegations.
He has since issued an apology to the peer who received a payout from the BBC after allegations were made in a Newsnight report.
Alan Davies has been in the public eye long enough to know what’s coming after his list of tour topics and is more than happy to give his side of the story.
‘It was an accident. I sent out this question asking who it was and dozens of people responded.
‘I was using Twitter on my iPhone and moving things to my favourites. The icon is right next to retweet and I accidentally retweeted a message. I had no idea I’d done it until my PR got a phone call from the Sunday Times.’
Before he knew it Alan was all over the papers, apparently facing the prospect of being sued by Lord McAlpine.
‘When you’re in my position you make a mistake and then people get hold of it and you’re in trouble. I’ve apologised and deleted the Twitter app from my iPhone. It’s so hard to type on the iPhone . I blame Apple for the whole thing,’ he says in his typically mischievous manner.
The star of BBC2 comedy quiz QI says he hasn’t received any letters or writs and has stopped reading the papers .
Besides he has plenty of other things to keep him occupied. As Alan speaks there’s the sound of baby babble in the background and he occasionally breaks off to speak to one-year-old son Bobby.
‘He’s just taken all the magnets off the fridge, that’s a favourite game,’ he explains. ‘He’s been given a ukelele and walks around the house strumming it and singing, which is quite comical,’ adds Alan, before breaking off to say: ‘Don’t put it in the bin.’
The funnyman and father is married to children’s author Katie Davies and the couple also have a daughter, Susie, who is nearly three.
Considering his croaky voice, it’s a blessing that he has a day off from touring and can spend some time at home. These days he works the tour around family life, which provides him with plenty of material.
‘I talk about how children change your life and how I haven’t been out for two-and-a-half years! We went to a restaurant once, but we had to come home after the starter. We brought the rest of the meal home in a box.’
The tour is called Life is Pain and Alan delves into deep-rooted subjects, like his mum dying of leukaemia when he was six.
‘I talk about how it affected my relationship with my dad. I feel I can be open about things like that now, because there’s enough distance. That wasn’t the case in my 20s.’
He says the weaving of the traumatic with the comic comes from years of experience. ‘I’m actually quite good at what I do. And it’s a cliche, but comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin. People laugh at wakes and cry at weddings. Happiness and sadness are two closely-related emotions when you’re talking about things you care about.’
And he adds: ‘ I don’t want people to think it’s all about my mum dying. I want them to know that I’m as hilarious as I ever was and funnier than the man they see on the telly.’
But, of course, 46-year-old Davies has given us plenty of entertainment value in acting roles like amateur detective Jonathan Creek and as Stephen Fry’s stooge on fascinating facts quiz QI. Alan has now played the panel fool and been the butt of Fry’s jokes for a decade.
‘I’m in an odd position really. As Jonathan Creek I’m the cleverest man in the world and on QI I’m the most stupid.’
But he loves it really. ‘I press the button, say the obvious things and make people laugh. Lots of comedians would give their right arm to be sat in that seat for 10 years.
‘I had a wobble a couple of years ago, worrying I might never get another acting part. But we did a QI tour of Australia and that gave us all a shot in the arm. It’s changed a bit, it’s punchier, quicker and we have more women on the panel.’
In real life Davies and Fry have ‘ a great deal of mutual respect’ and, of course, we all know that Alan is really as quick as a Twitter apology.
Fast and sharp stand-up comedy is at his entertainment roots and where he’s happy to be returning.
The comic followed up the QI tour with his own shows in Australia. ‘I’d written a book hardly anyone was buying and made a TV series that was canned. I thought I’d better do something I had complete control over and which I was good at.’
These days it’s not just the material that’s different. There are a few more greys in Alan’s curly barnet and he reveals: ‘I had this review, which was very complimentary about the show. But she said she liked the fact that a celebrity obviously wasn’t using Botox and had a bulge of a stomach.’
Nevertheless he’s laughing and is content with a few more comedy years under his belt.
‘I’m older, there’s not much you can do about that. Unfortunately, I’m not necessarily wiser.’
WHERE AND WHEN
Alan Davies is at Portsmouth Guildhall on Saturday and The Mayflower, Southampton on December 13. For tickets (£25 full price) visit portsmouthguildhall.org.uk (tel: 023 9282 4355) or mayflower.org.uk (tel: 023 8071 1811).