Dave Gorman

Dave Gorman

Date of birth: 02-03-1971
Dave Gorman started stand-up in 1990, when still a teenager, after dropping out of his mathematics course at Manchester University. But it took five years for him to start gaining recognition, hosting both the Comedy Zone showcase at the Edinburgh Fringe and appearing on Granada's Stand-up Show in 1995. Writing work began to come in, and he worked on Jenny Eclair Squats, The Fast Show and the Mrs Merton Show.

In 1998, he performed his first solo show, Reasons To Be Cheerful, deconstructing the lyrics of the Ian Dury song, which he followed the next year with Better World, in which he asked local newspaper readers how he could improve the world, then acted n their suggestions. This documentary-style show came into its own in 2000's Are You Dave Gorman? in which, egged on by flatmate Danny Wallace, he travelled the world to try to find 52 namesakes.

Are You Dave Gorman? was nominated for the Perrier award, and won the HBO Comedy Jury Award for Best One Person Show at the US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen Colorado. It was subsequently made into a BBC Two series, The Dave Gorman Collection, and a successful book.

His second TV series, also broadcast on BBC Two, was Dave Gorman's Important Astrology Experiment, a cod-scientific test to see if he could improve his love, health, and wealth over six episodes if he followed his horoscopes. His twin brother Nick, completely ignored the astrologers, so acted as a control.

In 2003, he embarked on another bizarre quest; this time tracking down people responsible for Googlewhacks - web pages that contain a unique pairing of words, so they are the only result returned when you type the phrase into the search engine. The show, which virtually drove him to a nervous breakdown, started at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, transferred to Edinburgh and a UK tour, and again spawned a bestselling book as well as a live DVD.

Since 2005, Gorman has also hosted the Radio 4 show Genius, in which members of the public submit their brilliant ideas to be put to the test, which transferred to BBC Two in 2009. He has also starred in Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive, a show showing a behind-the-scenes view of a fictional comedy panel game, as himself.

In 2007, he released his documentary feature film, America Unchained, in which he tried to cross America without using chain restaurants, hotels or gas stations. Again, a book accompanied the film.

In 2009, he announced a return to more traditional stand-up - but cycling between the 32 venues in his UK tour.

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Dave Gorman: Powerpoint To The People

Review of his major new stand-up toup

‘I like to play the long game,’ Dave Gorman says during his latest show which is, indeed, hallmarked by elaborate callbacks to ideas you’d almost forgotten he’d raised so much earlier.

Then there’s the very slow-burning prank, central to the second part, which is still ongoing and about which we are sworn to secrecy lest we spoil the ruse. It unites the audience in his conspiracy of mischief… even if it makes parts of the show impossible to review. 

The stakes of his practical joke are actually pretty low – which is partially the point – and done in a spirit of playful positivity, with Gorman leaning into the ‘good guy’ image he’s had to accept after one reviewer branded him the Ringo Starr of comedy. Elsewhere, he gushes with appreciation for the childlike enthusiasm of a particularly Tiggerish TV presenter, and the affection seems altogether genuine.

In contrast, his tongue-in-cheek attempt to break out of his lane by challenging the universal notion that Tom Hanks is the nicest man in Hollywood, is a long-winded waste of Gorman’s talents. Namely a forensic ability to get into the minutiae of a topic, seeing patterns and drawing out unexpected links, then presenting the evidence on that ever-present Powerpoint.

Such attention to what’s really going on leads into a more fruitful section about how the stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame are a con game. And who else would do routines – and research – on the weight distribution of crisp packets?

Those geeky instincts gave him a second job in lockdown as a compiler of cryptic crosswords for the broadsheets, which is still a parallel career now. It’s apt as even in his stand-up he likes to take apart and reassemble language – even the alphabet itself in a brilliant showpiece routine – like a Swiss watchmaker. 

You might expect that world to be one of genteel civility, but within it Gorman – aka Bluth, Django or Fed, to use his pen names – found a nemesis. He ramps up their one-sided feud wonderfully but rather leaves the business unfinished – one narrative loopback he overlooked. Also, if you are a cruciverbalist, you might find your attention divided between following the story and trying to solve the clues within it.

In the grammar of his new job, the verdict on PowerPoint To The People is: It’s erratic when a thousand and nine stand before a broken badge (1, 5, 3)

Highlights include the opening caper about what could go wrong with a PowerPoint-heavy show; the ‘found poem’ drawn from below-the-line internet comments that fans of his TV show Modern Life Is Goodish will recognise; and his particularly domestic brand of hot-take truth bombs. And most hilariously, his mother’s misunderstanding of what a Sliding Doors moment is brings such genuine tears of joy to Gorman’s face that infectious laughs roll around the auditorium as he tries to compose himself.

There’s plenty, then, to delight – even if not all of Gorman’s long-form routines fully reward the commitment. In answer to that cryptic clue, it’s ’a mixed bag’.

• Dave Gorman: Powerpoint To The People is on tour until June 2023. Dave Gorman tour dates and tickets.

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Published: 17 Oct 2022

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