Danny Wallace: “I’m a writer, definitely. The writing seems to have been the one constant in my life. That, and the curries”

Daniel Frederick Wallace (film-maker, comedian, writer, actor and presenter) was born 16th November 1976 in Dundee, Scotland, but moved to Loughborough, and in later years, Berlin and Bath with his parents. At the young age of 16, Danny began to work for Sega Power magazine as well as preparing for his GCSEs. What followed was years of writing for other games magazines, and then, when he was 18, for the comedy magazine Comedy Review. After a year out, Danny went to the University of Westminster and studied production, and by the age of 22 he was a BBC producer. Since then Danny has become most well-known for his bizarre and often hilarious escapades, including Are you Dave Gorman? (1999), Yes Man (2005), Join Me (2002) and How to Start Your Own Country (2005). He also often appears on TV and radio shows, and has even played a role in the video game Assassin’s Creed. Danny now lives in London with his wife (who is called Lizzie in his books) and son.

Danny Wallace

Danny Wallace

Hi Danny,

Writing your short biography above was incredibly hard- you’re involved in so much, we couldn’t sum it up! So a huge thank you for this interview (although if Yes Man is anything to go by, you couldn’t say “No” could you?).

Q: Ok, so you’ve probably been asked this a million times, but where do you get your weird but wonderful ideas from? And can we look forward to any other adventures in the future?

I’m afraid there’s no set rule – some develop, some appear magically, but all of them seem to happen when there’s something that’s in need of attention. With Join Me it was boredom, with Yes Man it was emptiness, with Friends Like These it was a yearning for the past and a fear of the future. So they all need to start in the heart somewhere. And then they become fun. I hope I’ll have more adventures in the future, certainly – though I’ve many more responsibilities now. But I don’t see why they can’t help…

Q: Your career seems to have evolved into different directions: you act, you present, you write, you produce, you direct, and you do comedy-shows. What primarily do you see yourself as? And do you have a favourite direction you feel most comfortable with?

– I’m a writer, definitely. The other stuff I really enjoy, but they all feel like really fun hobbies. The writing seems to have been the one constant in my life. That, and the curries.

Q: When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A stunt-man. Only because I’d seen The Fall Guy and loved it. I’m sure if I’d applied for a YTS Stunt Man scheme I’d have been absolutely horrified when they asked me to set fire to my arm, or whatever.

Q: Now, we’ve already mentioned it, but we’ve got a question about Yes Man (published in 2005). In this “fascinating experiment” you describe spending 6 months saying “Yes” to things you may have originally said “No” to- a recipe for potential disaster if ever there was one! The book was described by the San Francisco Bay Guardian as “one of those rare books that actually has the potential to change your life”. Do you agree with this? To what extent do you feel it changed your life?

Yes Man Cover

Yes Man Cover

I’ve had lots of amazing letters and emails over the years from people who’ve opened up their lives a bit because of Yes Man, which have meant an incredible amount to me. So I know saying “Yes” works for other people, in the way that it did for me. It definitely changed things – made me more open, more willing to take a chance on things. And not just things that scared me. But the smaller, more suburban things… things that you might have thought would be boring, or silly… they can be just as life-affirming and monumental, it turns out.

Q: In 2001 you worked with John Pidgeon and created the hugely popular The Mighty Boosh. Have you been surprised by its cult success?

– Not at all. Julian and Noel and Rich are entirely to blame for that. The first time I saw them I knew they were destined to be huge comedy stars, and I’m pleased and grateful to have been a tiny cog in the wheel.

Q: What is your favourite book? And who is your favourite author?

– That’s interesting, because you’d think they’d be linked, but you’re right, my favourite book and my favourite author are different.

Book: Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith. Funny, pompous, fascinating, silly.

Author: PG Wodehouse. Britain’s all-time greatest humourist. The Jeeves stuff is my favourite.

Q: Your step into acting has included your somewhat surprising decision to take a role in the computer game Assassin’s Creed. What made you take this work? And how would you describe it for all the incredibly jealous gamers in the world?! 

Danny Wallace vs Danny Wallace

Danny Wallace vs Danny Wallace

I’ve always been a games fan. In fact the first published and paid writing I ever did was for a Sega mag in the early 90s. So when the chance came up, I of course said yes. The character has done pretty well and they keep inviting him back. The gamers have been lovely about him – some of them write incredible fan fiction about him, while others literally dress up as him and go to ComicCon and places like that as him. There’ve been a few snippy comments from games journos, but that is to be expected.

Q: In 2009 you became a Dad (big aww!). Have there been many things that people failed to warn you about?

All the warnings were completely accurate. It’s just that beforehand, you don’t really take them seriously… “Your life will change” – oh, absolutely. I’ll have a kid, probably have to buy a different car. “You will be exhausted” – oh, yeah, I’m sure he’ll wake up once or twice. “You won’t have it any other way!” – uh-huh, okay, sure. And then it happens. And your life changes TOTALLY. And your exhaustion is TOTAL. And you would never, ever have it any other way.

Q: Ok so our standard World of Books question – World of Books is dedicated to providing good-quality second-hand books to the public. By sourcing a large amount of our books from charities, we are also able to support their cause, often sending books out to developing countries and recently to UK based Army barracks. Any book we can’t sell, we recycle; last year alone we saved 12,500 metric tonnes of waste from going to landfill sites. In a world with an ever-growing digital media base, and increasing environmental concerns, do you believe in the importance of giving each physical book the chance of a new home?

– The world changes a little more every day, and of course digital media will begin to stamp its mark on the world of books… but to hold a story in your hand, to get to know the storyteller in such a personal way with such a physical thing… that’s brilliant. And the feeling will never be replaced or downloaded. So thank you for doing what you’re doing!

Make sure you get yourself a copy of Danny’s newest book, More Awkward Situations for Men. And why not pick up a copy of Danny’s books today at the World of Books site, we promise you a brilliant read!

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