Scottish comic Danny Bhoy talks to Saeed Saeed about his love of performance and meeting new audiences
From small-town storytelling to Dubai: Danny Bhoy to play Dubai Opera
Danny Bhoy likes doing things the long way. As one of Britain’s sharpest and best-loved comics, the 42-year-old is ripe to cash in with big television specials or to head his own TV series. But while such options were floated, Bhoy realised they came with their own share of career risks.
“There has been an explosion in stand-up comedy in the last few years and you are seeing people selling out arenas and releasing DVDs, which is all good, but I never did that,” he says. “I still like playing festivals and being on the road because you can always come back and perform in front of people who never saw you before.
“The danger of doing TV and the DVDs is that people would think: ‘Well, I saw him before. What’s next?’ I may have taken the longer road, but I have always been about building an audience gradually.”
The method is certainly working when it comes to his upcoming Dubai gig. Bhoy last performed in the UAE nearly 10 years ago. His memory of that performance is sketchy, so he views this Dubai show as his “proper debut” here.
“It was a small gig in some Irish pub, I think,” he recalls, with an apologetic laugh. “So to be playing at an opera house is just great, and the way I am approaching it is me dipping my toes in Dubai’s comedy waters.”
As a result, Bhoy will be bringing a greatest-hits type set to Dubai with material encompassing his near-two-decade-long career in the industry. Born to an Indian father and Scottish mother, Bhoy’s material derives heavily from observation and personal experience. He recalls that his childhood in the small town of Moffat – known for its wool trade and as a spa destination – was somewhat difficult.
“If I’m being honest, it’s a reasonably tough upbringing in that sense,” he says. “It’s not like you talk about Dubai in that is very multicultural; this was a very small Scottish town and we were very much the first non-white family so settle there.
“There was a real sort of fish out of water feel about it. We were a novelty to some people, and not so much to others. So I guess to some extent the comedy comes from a mixture of the celebration of this sort of weird upbringing I had, but also perhaps a self-defence against the bigoted [reaction to] being a non-white, non-Scottish family in a small village.”
Those following Bhoy’s comedy over the years would notice an increasing willingness to discuss hot button social topics such as racism, anti-corporatism and his experiences of being in the United States during the last four presidential elections.
He says that like all comedians worth their salt, he is merely reflecting on the current state of the world: “You have got to adapt your comedy to the world, to your personal world view, and to what’s going on in the world. I feel that it would be remiss of me not to mention it and talk about it in shows.”
Fortunately, in Bhoy’s hands such topics are more a fun conversation than a polemic. That perhaps, is his greatest asset, to be able to talk about difficult things in a disarming and jovial manner. There is an art to it, as he states:
“You have to develop that ability to tell a story as if you’re telling it to a bunch of strangers for the first time. And that is different from just telling a story to your mates in the pub. They will laugh at it because they know you,” he says.
“While in stand-up comedy the approach I’ve always taken is that I never make an assumption that people know who I am. I always treat an audience like this is me meeting them for the first time.”
Danny Bhoy performs at Dubai Opera tomorrow. Show starts at 8pm. Tickets begin from Dh150, at www.dubaiopera.com