The King's address | Danny Wallace answers your questions

The King's address

Danny Wallace answers your questions

To mark the DVD release of his TV show How To Start Your Own Country, we asked Danny Wallace to answer questions from Chortle readers. He said 'yes'... but then again, he has to...

I wish I could make a living out of the stupid ideas I come up with in the pub with my friends. How do you do it? Geoff Tinidink

Either continue drinking the next morning, or just follow it through and see what happens. Stuff only happens when you make the first move. I think that’s a Chinese proverb.

You and Dave Gorman are credited/accused with starting a whole genre of comedy books, and then associated DVDs, TV shows, etc. of young men doing crazy things and following them through to the nth degree. How do you plead? Paul

Not guilty. Plenty of young men have done plenty of crazy things over the years. We’ve just had a bit more press.

Are you still in contact at all with anybody from the town of Wallace (from the Centre Of The Universe book)? Or have you been back there since the book? Simon Woodward

I haven’t been back there since, but I’m still in touch with Greg, the man who lives pretty much next door to the Centre of the Universe. He’s a former nuclear physicist who knows a lot about watermelons and newborn urine. I know very little about either of those topics, but hope to learn more about them the next time I’m in a room with Dr Greg.

I've read your books and I've thoroughly enjoyed them. When are you going to write more? Hannah

I’m writing one right now. Well, I’m writing this right now, but as soon as I’ve written this, I’ll get back to writing that. Although I should probably answer the other questions first.

How much input are you having with the movie conversions of Yes Man and Join Me? And how are they coming along? Nicholas Howie

They’re doing very well. It does seem, though, that making films takes about four hundred years. I believe ET was written at some point in the 1600s.

The Yes Man script is very funny, has a great director and a very big star attached (though I’m not sure I’m allowed to say who just yet, even though the internet apparently disagrees), and excellent producers. Every now and again we have a meeting, and they very sweetly allow me input, but they know and I know that they’re the experts, and they’re such a good team that I trust them implicitly. It’s going to be funny, though. I’m 90 per cent sure it’ll happen.

As for Join Me, it’s far more British in its scope and storytelling, and I’ve learnt so much about what you can do with films from hanging out with the writer, Frank Cottrell Boyce. Again, there’s a great director attached, so things are moving forward nicely. My aim is to make precisely the same hidden cameo appearance in the background of each film. ‘Man Dropping Biscuit’ – that sort of thing.

Which choice in your life do you wish you hadn't said yes to? David Ball

I have seen We Will Rock You twice.

Of all the real countries in the world (sorry, the 'other' real countries in the world) which one would you like to have started and why? Tim Parker

Belgium. For the doilies.

What's happened to Lovely since the series has finished? Captain Skank

It’s continued to grow, albeit at a much slower pace… having a weekly recruitment drive on BBC2 really helps. But as the show has been broadcast in different countries, I’ve been picking up a fair few Swedes, Australians, Kiwis, and so on… and so embassies have been springing up worldwide. Which takes the pressure off Britain a bit, and lends my case to the UN a more global appeal. New message boards have sprung up run by dedicated citizens, and more or less every day someone somewhere hails me as their King. Which is very nice. Although it gets you strange looks on the Tube.

Will there be a follow up series, called ‘How to run your own country?', please, please, please? Danny

It’s something we’ve thought about about doing – following up on the country’s progress, detailing the trials and tribulations of those citizens who’ve gone the extra mile and tried to kickstart the economy, seeing how rogue citizens have declared illegal wars on other micronations and so on. Also seeing how tourism has gone up after the country got eight pages in a Lonely Planet travel guide, that kind of thing. You never know. Although to be honest, it’s not really on the agenda right now.

Apart from you, Danny, Castaway was rubbish, yeah? Russell

There’s a compliment in there somewhere, which I thank you for. But yeah, the show never really caught fire, which was a pity. Once the scheduling had been shifted, though, from once a week on BBC One to three times a week, the ratings went back up again and we found the right style for the show. I do think that most of the shows, once you were into it, were very good, and my basic rule for the stuff I do is: only do it if it sounds fun. Spending three-and-a-half months on a tiny, beautiful island off the coast of New Zealand sounded fun… and it was. I’d finish every day by standing on a beach watching the sunset. Sometimes while dolphins frolicked and played. I sound like something out of a cartoon, now. But yes, I can understand why it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Did you get the chance to do any Random Acts of Kindness whilst away on Castaway duties? Darren Bartholomew

The crew drank the island’s only off-licence dry, and by the end, the lady behind the counter was giving us free beer, because she’d bought a car with the profits of the first month alone. She certainly saw that as a RAOK, even though we benefited as well… but then I got as many people as I could to leave all their books behind, and donate them to the island library, which was (and I employ no exaggeration here) a small shed near the beach with LIBRARY painted on the front.

Who are your favourite comedians? Hannah Smith

Dara O’Briain is the best stand-up working in Britain at the moment, I reckon. Julian Barratt has genuine funny bones. Flight of the Conchords I would see any time. Robin Ince analysing his own gigs is brilliant, I wish Stephen Merchant would return to stand-up and I have taken several people to witness the might of Ed Aczel.

From the days of black and white, Tom Lehrer was/is brilliant, the Smothers Brothers nailed their double act, and there are billions more I could and should mention. But it would take up the rest of the internet.

If you could have a one-to-one with a cartoon character of your choice, who would it be and why? Suzanne Burn

Can anyone say anything other than Homer to this question?

You're stuck in a lift at Broadcasting House with Graham Linehan, Ross Noble, and The Boosh Boys. Who gets eaten first and why? Rufous

How long have we been stuck? If it was anything under an hour, I imagine we would all forego our meals and wait it out. More than that and we would probably consider Noel Fielding (the Shoreditch Jethro) but he’s quite spindly so better off as a toothpick. I imagine we would plump for Graham Linehan as I know he eats a lot of organic food and so therefore we could rely on his rearing.

How did you get a job at the BBC? Gurjinder

I did media studies at Westminster University, which is a brilliant place to study media. I specialized in radio, where you’re taught by proper BBC people, on proper BBC equipment, under proper BBC conditions… you cover the legal side of things, the technical side, the editorial side, everything. I just wanted to learn how to make stuff, so that’s what I did. I’d just been on Comedy Review magazine (I was a videogames journalist as a kid and then me and a couple of mates were allowed to try and launch a comedy mag) and had been a fan of On the Hour, Armando Iannucci, Chris Morris, Steve Coogan and that crowd as a teenager – I’d never known that radio comedy could be like that before. The BBC announced they were relaunching their trainee producer scheme in Radio Entertainment, I applied, got in, and that was that.

Comedy Review folded after only a few issues. Do you think that such a venture might be able to survive better now? John Quel

The mag failed for all sorts of reasons. You couldn’t find a copy in London where all the clubs were, but you couldn’t move for them in Grantham and Loughborough. The company decided it should be glossy, that it should cost as much as GQ, that the advertisers should be the likes of Rolex and we should turn down ads from ‘downmarket’ businesses. Or maybe it was just rubbish. I don’t think so, though – the enthusiasm we got from readers showed there was a market, if it was done in the right way and at the right time. To be honest, though, I think Chortle’s got it pretty much covered now. It’s got the daily news (which means not waiting a month for the mag to come out so you can read month-old news) and debate (with the forums). Whack in a few more features and your comedy magazine is complete. Although if you’re thinking of starting one, you should – just because it’s fun.

How do you eat your Cadbury's Creme eggs? Sheila


  • Danny Wallace’s double DVD How To Start Your Own Country is out now, priced £19.99. But click here to order from Amazon and save £7.

    Published: 16 Jul 2007

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