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First Gig Worst Gig

Simon David

Simon David. Credit: Rebecca Need-Menear

It was the first of times, it was the worst of times. And it being almost Edinburgh Fringe time, no doubt lots of comedians are currently working up shows about their conditions, diseases or deceased loved-ones: it's what modern long-form comedy is all about! Or perhaps the latter idea is a bit dated now.

So much so that Simon David has ripped the genre a new one with Dead Dad Show, which concludes a run at London's Soho Theatre tonight, then is off to Manchester, Newcastle and a week-long return to the Edinburgh Fringe. It's a mega, meta takedown, but with its heart in the right place (there's probably a show about a comic with their heart in the wrong place). In fact, David's dad was one step ahead of him.

"Shortly after my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he decided to write and perform a show reckoning with how to spend his final few months," the comic explains. "I couldn't make the live performance but watched the footage the day after he passed away, which, as you can imagine, was profoundly moving."

"I was interested in sharing my dad's show but entirely against making a 'woe is me' hour. So, collaborating with my writer/director Chris Larner, we dug into the reason why most comedians do these kinds of shows: winning awards. So I'm performing multiple dead dad shows - a musical, a play, a Netflix special, a contemporary dance - to nab an Olivier nomination while amplifying my dad's message of grabbing life by the reins."

It's had tremendous responses from critics and crowds, appropriately enough - but how about his father's nearest and dearest?

"My family have seen the show and, infuriatingly for me, were mostly unmoved," he says, "as my campery and my dad's story is nothing new to them."

Simon David. Credit: Dylan Woodley
Simon David. Credit: Dylan Woodley

That's families for you. But now, to new beginnings:

First gig?

It was probably in a pub in North London. I worked at the King's Head (Crouch End) in 2017 and did the open mic night in the basement. My very forgettable material about meal deals and Donald Trump was a hit!

Favourite show, ever?

I'm the founder of Straight Comedian of the Year, a safe space showcasing the UK's most exciting heterosexual acts. 2022's competition took place at The Glory (rest in peace) and Heat Two began moments after England's Lionesses won the Euros. It was magic despite me having to disqualify a few of the acts for being gay.

Worst gig?

I was scouted for Britain's Got Talent last year. I had six months back and forth with the producers editing my set, a live audition at The Palladium, then they cut me out of the show. Though Amanda Holden said I had 'great legs', which I'll treasure.

Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?

My older brother. He can't hide his feelings so a laugh from him really means something.

And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?

I've met a few male comedians who wouldn't care if I lived or died.

Simon David. Credit: Dylan Woodley
Simon David. Credit: Dylan Woodley

Is there one routine/gag/song you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?

I tried this bit about people describing food as 'orgasmic'. I ate a brownie while making sex noises. Not my best.

Is this the end of dead dad shows now then?

Yes it's over. I've killed the genre. No, there's always room for people asking big questions in an interesting way, but I think audiences are wary of trauma dumping for the sake of it. Everybody dies, give us a bit of showbiz.

Any reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions stick in the mind?

The five-star Scotsman review was a highlight from our Edinburgh Fringe run. And after one performance, a woman told me she had terminal brain cancer which stopped me in my tracks. She fully embraced my dad's message.

How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?

I feel like an accomplished performer. But I'm a little exhausted that everything must be filmed and posted online to sell tickets. After this tour I'm writing some horrible new songs and watering my plants.


Simon David: Dead Dad Show is on a UK tour until August 2024. Tickets and dates are available at simongayvid.com

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