Alan Davies is performing far edgier material now he’s hit his forties –and he’s loving every minute.

Alan Davies first played Edinburgh in 1992, at the Assembly Rooms, but it was at the Gilded Balloon in 1994 that he had what he describes as “the best three weeks of my life.” He was in the Cowgate (“a tragedy when that burnt down”), with Phil Kay doing the show before him and Fred McAuley the show after.

“The whole month was one big party.” Plus he got a Perrier nomination and the critics were, “falling all over themselves to praise me.” He sighs. “That doesn’t happen as much now I’m on the telly. But I genuinely think the show I’m doing now and the one I did last year are waaaay better than the one I did in 1994.” I opine that a happy, fulfilled home life – which Davies currently enjoys with wife and two kids – isn’t exactly conducive to exciting comedy.

“My comedy is much darker and a lot bleaker than it was then,” he says. A recent review called his last show, “a middle aged howl of anguish,” he tells me, proudly. “I’m talking about wanting to hit your kids and not having any sex because it hurts…”

He grew up as a comic, he says, at the Gilded Balloon, doing the old Late’n’Live, a rite of passage for many a great comic and a graveyard for the less hardy. “I used to sneak backstage to watch the other comics. I remember in 1998 I’d go to watch Rich Hall do Otis Lee Crenshaw four or five times a week”

He’s here this year with Work In Progress, which isn’t really work in progress but is new material, in a show he has really put together to support Karen Koren in her Balloon’s 30 year anniversary. He’s a big fan of Big Fringe Comedy’s only female impresario.

“Karen is old school,” he says “she understands loyalty – and she’ll risk her own money on someone just because she has faith in them.” I mention the year I found her desperately trying to give away seats for a young Australian she had seen, loved, brought over as a complete unknown and trusted with the massive Debating Hall. “Tim Minchin,” nods Davies. “I remember she was keen to introduce him to Bill Bailey,” – another Koren protégé – “and when she did there was a distinct … frisson.”

An Edinburgh August is a very different experience for Daddy Davies than it was for his younger self. “Last year I saw 21 shows,” he says. “Ten kids shows and eleven for grown ups. Breakfast comedy for kids is a great idea. We’re up at seven.” James Acaster’s early shows were a big hit with the Davies family.

“It’s great, because kids get used to people standing talking to them. My lot were thrilled.” Do they know this is what daddy does? I ask. They don’t, apparently. When he’s off on tour, he says, he always has Face Time an hour before the show – usually when he’s sound checking. “That is all they see of my job,” he says. “My daughter did ask me recently, ‘Do you do a proper job Daddy, or is it just talking?’ and I had to admit that it is mainly just talking.”

Where & When
Alan Davies: Work in Progress 2, Gilded Balloon, 9-15 August, 7.30pm, from £15 Tel: 0131 622 6552
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Words: Kate Copstick   Photography: Tony Briggs

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