After searching the world for namesakes, Midland comedian Dave Gorman is bringing the world a touch of Genius, says Roz Laws.
When Dave Gorman embarked on a barmy adventure almost 10 years ago, little did he know it would have such a lasting effect.
It started as a drunken bet when his flatmate challenged him to find other people called Dave Gorman.
So began a 20,000 mile global quest to find his namesakes, which took six months and left him penniless. It paid off when he turned it into a book and a TV series – and now he’s found quite enough Dave Gormans, thank you.
For him, the project is firmly in the past. The Midland comic is so keen to move on that he even turned down the chance to make his story into a Hollywood film, but his fans won’t let it lie.
Dave says: “Barely a day goes by when I don’t get an email from someone telling me about another Dave Gorman.
“The other week, Antiques Roadshow had a diving helmet on made by a firm called Gorman and I had five emails about that. It will follow me forever.
“There’s a belief I’m looking for every other Dave Gorman in the world, but I only looked for 54 and then I stopped.”
The flatmate who started 38-year-old Dave on his quest is Danny Wallace, whose book on his own wacky adventure – saying yes to everything – was turned into the Hollywood movie Yes Man starring Jim Carrey.
But Dave wasn’t tempted to follow suit: “When the TV series, The Dave Gorman Collection, went out, I was offered a sequel, a film, merchandising deals for T-shirts and parts in sitcoms.
“But I turned down everything. There was the danger of becoming ‘that guy who’s looking for his namesakes’. And if they’d made a film, starring someone like Robert Downey Junior as me, it would be horrible – I would never be able to escape from my name.”
Dave grew up in Stafford and went to Walton High School, then dropped out of a maths degree course to become a comedian after meeting another Midland funnyman, Frank Skinner. Frank got him his first paid gig, at the Bear pub in Bearwood, Birmingham.
He started out as a writer, with Caroline Aherne, for The Mrs Merton Show before moving in front of the camera.
Dave’s other TV projects have seen him live his life according to his horoscopes and crossing America without using any chain stores, petrol stations or hotels.
His latest BBC2 series is Genius, transferring to television after three successful series on Radio 4. Each week he is joined by a celebrity, who decides whether the bonkers ideas are just silly or, actually, genius.
So far he’s had Catherine Tate, Frank Skinner and Jonathan Pryce, while still to come are Johnny Vegas, Stewart Lee and Germaine Greer, who Dave describes as “utterly fantastic”.
Among the ideas featured on Genius are a shower coat so you can wash your hair while the rest of you stays dry, and a child-swap scheme for divorced fathers who have to travel long distances to see their children.
“It’s sort of Dragon’s Den without any money and with no ideas that could ever go to market,” explains Dave.
“Although in the very first radio show, we had a mobile phone with a breathalyser attached which wouldn’t let you make a phone call to your boss or ex if you were drunk. That makes sense and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be made. And one person has got funding from an American university to publish their idea – a book of yawns, a coffee table book with arty photos of people yawning, used as an aid to sleep.”
Dave’s mum Fay, an English teacher, is worried sick about her son’s next madcap scheme. He’s cycling 1,500 miles around Britain on a 32-date stand-up comedy tour, called Sit Down, Pedal, Pedal, Stop and Stand Up.
“She’s told me not to do it because I’ll kill myself. I love cycling, it’s how I get about London, so I decided to do a big bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats. But I was put off by how many people do it, even fat bankers. So then I had the idea of going to the most southern, northern, western and eastern points in Britain.
“I’ve recently started doing stand-up again for the first time in eight years. I enjoyed it so thought ‘why don’t I do a gig every night as well as cycling?’ It means I have to get there as people are expecting me. The first gig is in a village hall in Cornwall, playing to 30 people, but I also have 2,000 seater-venues. I’m doing lots of places I’d never play if it was a commercial tour.
“It’s exciting, though it might be dangerous. I’ve had a couple of near misses on my bike in London – once a very elderly man in a very grand car was so oblivious to me that I had my hands on his bonnet before he spotted me and stopped, though thankfully he was going very slowly.
“You have to expect that everyone wants to kill you in London, but you don’t know what it will be like in country lanes. People come haring round corners and don’t expect cyclists.”
* www.davegorman.com for more information about the comedian.