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August 4, 2021

Interview with comedian, Dan Willis about Best of British

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Dan Willis at Byron Comedy Festival

Brit comics take Byron!

Byron Comedy Fest presents Best of British  |  Friday and Saturday 17 & 18 May | Byron Surf Club  |  $40

Best of the British is one of the most popular shows at comedy festivals around the world. From Melbourne International to Edinburgh Fringe, throwing together a bunch of Brit jokesters has been a crowd pleaser, and is the reason why comedian and curator of the show Dan Willis continues with the winning formula. Dan headlines major festivals himself, and won the Time Out Comp at Edinburgh Festival back in 2001, changing his life forever, saying goodbye to life as a computer programmer to life as a full time world-travelling comedian! Dan spoke with The Echo about Best of British, one of the headline shows at Byron Comedy Fest in May

What is it about Brit comics that sets them apart?

I was told years ago that the funniest standup comedy is made from ‘tragedy plus delivery’, and for a race, we Brits are a grumpy bunch; we used to rule a third of the world and all of the waves. Now we get to live in one of the most cramped and damp countries on the planet… And we bloody love it! We are proud of everything British! We invented most sports and the rest of the world routinely slaps our arse, yet we still believe that we’re the best. Now that’s true optimism mixed with tragedy, so if you get the hang of the delivery, you’re slap on the money!

Does where you come from really influence your style of humour?

Environment is always going to affect what you’re talking about. If you’re raised on a pirate ship, and everyone knows you were raised on a pirate ship, then you do a full tour without mentioning the pirate ship, there’re gonna be a lot of disappointed Pirate fans out there.

Tell me a little about the history of Best of British. Where did it originate, and what are you doing with the show this year?

The show started at the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2006, mainly in a response to there being no real representative of the British Comedy Circuit here. If a comedian had some success, they’d fly them out and put on a solo show. But that’s not how the circuit works in the UK. If you go to The Comedy Store in London, you see four amazing acts and an MC. So I simply tried to recreate that in Australia with comedians who are world-class laugh-a-second quality. I fly them in, put them on, the crowd goes crazy, we have some beers, sleep and repeat.

What’s your fave ever Best of British show?

We had a show a while back that was made up of Sarah Millican, Russell Kane, Jimeoin, and Terry Alderton, all on the same bill, all of whom regularly make the top ten list of world-class comedians, but add to that Jack Dee and Tim Vine being in the audience, it was just off the hook!

You live here now. What’s it like being a Brit comic in Aus? Why did you decide to live here? How has your life changed?

I moved for a simple reason: I met my wife, and as she’d already spent three years living in my home town of Newcastle Upon Tyne, I felt it was my turn to drag my bum across the world. I now live in Palm Beach on the Gold Coast. It is absolutely paradise – though of course, I do miss the wet, wind, and dark clouds of the northeast of England.

My life has changed in a few ways: I now know what it feels like to have sunlight, and also I fly way more than before. In the UK I’d just drive to a gig; over here I have to fly everywhere; an average commute for me could be Brisbane to Perth, do three gigs, then fly back. It’s a big change from doing the Newcastle to Edinburgh run!

What should we expect for Best of Brit Comedy at the Byron Comedy Fest?

An evening of world-class comedy, no risk involved at all. The comedians we are bringing have done thousands of gigs. Along with me the show also features Jeff Green, a bloody comedy legend, and Bob Franklin, a man who’s never shaken when stirred.

Byron Comedy Fest presents Best of British! Two shows – Friday and Saturday 17 & 18 May at the Byron Surf Club. Tix are $40. www.byroncomedyfest.com

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