Mishcon de Reya partner Danny Davis is a self-confessed attention seeker who spends his evenings performing stand-up comedy across the pubs and clubs of the south.
“The worst gig I did was in Soho,” he recounts. “We were in a grubby old pub run by one of the most depressing characters I’ve ever come across. There were six acts and I was third on.
“The compere hated Australians – he even told the audience, ’I hate Australians’. The problem was, half the audience was Australian. So when I came on no one laughed, half the people left and there was a woman at the back of the room who had long black hair and she just stared at me shaking her head. I left the place in bits.”
This is just one of Davis’s experiences in a four-year comic career that was kick-started by a friend of a friend suggesting he join a comedy class, which happened to be in his local pub.
“I’m an attention seeker but I didn’t know it,” he confesses. “The course looked weird, different from anything I’d ever done.”
He decided to give it a go, but after a few weeks found participating in acting classes “boring”.
It was only when he was called upon to do some instant improvisation that the fear and adrenaline rush kicked in. By the fourth week of classes Davis was hooked on comedy.
As a “lowly jobbing comic” who still has a demanding full-time professional career, Davis has had his fair share of bad experiences.
“I’ve performed in front of just two people,” he says. “It was horrible. Another time there were 10 comics performing and six people in the audience. I was on sixth and didn’t realise until the fifth act that not one of the audience spoke English.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly Davis does not turn to his day job for sources of comic material. Audiences, he says, simply do not find this funny and prefer to hear tales of victimhood.
“They want to hear about how I fail with women,” he says, adding that that rule also applies to audiences packed with lawyers.
“I’ve developed a little sideline in after-dinner speaking and my agent got me booked to do the Stafford Law Society dinner,” he says. “I thought it would be really stuffy as there was a list of topics I wasn’t allowed to do.”
After speaking with the host, however, Davis realised that he had been booked to be funny, not to be a lawyer who can be funny.
“I came with my lawyer set but ended up doing the club set.
They loved it. It was a raucous, shouty, screaming night.”
Like the law, the comedy circuit is an intensely competitive space and it is clear that Davis has drawn a few critics.
“Comics aren’t very nice,” he says flatly. “They’re bitter and they’re bitter all the way down the line. They begrudge the fact that I’m earning a lawyer’s salary but doing comedy. The mindset is that you have no right to be taking the money away from them.”
Davis earns a small wage from his stand-up work, sometimes driving hours to do a gig for under £100. He says it is not about the money, but about achieving something outside of office hours. And a year off to have a benign tumour removed from his spine has made Davis all the more determined to make it in the comedy world. Now he is back on the circuit he is ready to make the move from “lowly jobbing comic” to part-time professional stand-up.
The bad gigs are less frequent but the nerves persist, yet Davis would not want it any other way.
“There’s been no gig – never ever – when I wasn’t standing up there cacking myself,” he claims. “That’s the wonder of it. I like to think of it as part of my personality now. I never would’ve thought I’d have the balls a few years ago. It’s great.”