Look for Dan Nightingale – recently named Preston’s Entertainer of the Year – online and you’d think he’d only been around a year or so.
One description suggests the Preston-born and bred 32-year-old, whose recent support roles include those with Ross Noble, is like ‘Moby meets Peter Kay’.
I put another rave notice to him, from the Official Comedy Club, saying he’s ‘widely regarded as the hottest new comic talent on the circuit’.
And he’s away.
“That shows what going on the internet will do, because that’s been around about 11 years. I’ll turn up to gigs and see posters with them on and think, ‘wow’.
“Unfortunately, there’s no way of saying, ‘well, that’s an old one’. I’ve got quotes from 2003 still out there – suggesting I’m the hottest new prospect, going somewhere.
“Now, more accurately I guess it would be ‘well, he’s taken a long way round, he’s very reliable and he does the job. He’s prompt. He will get to the gig on time’.
“It’s not really about that, it’s about being really funny. Look at John Bishop and Micky Flanagan. How long were they around before they made it?”
John Bishop certainly did his time on the circuit. Then there’s Chorley’s Dave Spikey, who called one of his tours ‘Overnight Success’, when clearly he’d trodden those boards a few years.
“Yeah, came from nowhere! Apart from that John Bishop was a performer for eight years on the circuit. Same with Micky. Then Spikey: 25 years, maybe even 30. I think what people really mean is, ‘well, we’ve never heard of them’.”
Whatever his PR, it’s been quite a year for Dan, crowned Entertainer of the Year at the recent Alive after Five Hospitality Awards for his compere work at Preston’s Frog and Bucket, which also won the venue award.
“It’s been a good run, and every year is as long as I haven’t got a proper job! Now I’m back to Preston after 12 years away, and within two weeks I’ve had these awards and I’m entertainer of the year!”
As well as regular slots at both Preston and Manchester’s Frog and Bucket, Dan’s become an Edinburgh Fringe Festival regular, appearing frequently since 2004. So is it a short step from that to regular appearances on TV shows like 8 Out Of 10 Cats?
“No. I try to avoid those panel shows, I like doing stand-up. I did a little bit on John Bishop’s Only Joking last year. That was good. But like Michael McIntyre, I mainly do stand-up.”
Although chiefly known around Preston for his Frog and Bucket work, he was previously a 53 Degrees regular.
“Students are a difficult crowd to get enthused, and comedy nights are few and far between these days.”
Preston is definitely important to Dan, who said: “I’m a Penwortham lad. I went to Crookings Lane, then Hutton Grammar, and Newman College.”
It was on Tyneside that Dan got his big break, at university in Newcastle, moving to Manchester within 12 months and there going from barman at the Frog & Bucket to booking agent, to hosting the new act night and finally compering weekends, turning professional in June 2004.
“I was doing a politics degree and not really enjoying it, then someone took me to a comedy club. That was the end of me in education. I’d seen Peter Kay at the Charter Theatre when I was 18, the year before I left. That was the tour he did just before he broke and went massive. I thought you had to be an absolute genius to do stand-up.
“I didn’t realise there was a circuit. I quit uni, ended up going into a comedy club and thought the best way to get involved would be to ask for a job there, ignoring my father’s phonecalls for about three months. When he eventually saw me do stand-up, he never whinged again!”
So can you really make a living out of this at that level?
“I have done for nine years. If you just watch stand-up on the telly, you assume this is the only comedy going on. When people ask if I’m on telly, I’ll say ‘no … but I’m good!’ It’s a meritocracy. People who are outstanding will get there.”
Is compering a good training ground?
“I’ve always liked compering. It depends what your style is. If you’re a gagman, dead pan, or a story-teller – if you only do one of those things, it’s difficult. But I just try and be myself, and my style’s quite chatty. I do stories, observations, and flick in and out of those. When I started out I just wanted work. If there was work compering I was willing to do it.”
Like most comics, Dan has experienced a few empty venues over the years.
“There are nights when you think ‘what on earth am I doing?’ and others where you catch yourself thinking ‘this is amazing!’ I did a gig two weeks ago in Richmond, North Yorkshire to eight people.
“If I’d taken a friend that night to Richmond who hadn’t seen me perform before, they’d have worried for my future.
“Yet without those gigs with small turn-outs, some of the famous acts won’t have developed. It’s those shows when you work out what you’re doing.”
“If I could come back after an even more successful trip to New Zealand and Edinburgh and win the 2014 Preston Entertainer of the Year award, things will be tootling along just fine.”
But before all that jet-setting, he sees out this year at Lancaster’s The Borough on December 29.
“It’s been a regular gig for around three years now, a nice pub in a lovely spot. Lancaster’s nice anyway, but it’s under-provided for in terms of stuff like that.”
His last show, a clever spin on Gabriel Garcia Marquez with Love in the Time of Cholesterol, was about being in his 30s and still living a single life.
“Doing a show about being single felt like an interesting idea at first, but by the end of August, was I sick about talking about that!”
So was he turning down relationships to avoid any unnecessary re-writes?
“Oh yes, left, right and centre! Actually, I’m looking for a Preston wife now. That’s my new line.
“I’m back in Penwortham, with my sister, her fella, and my nephew.
“I’ve never been happier. I’ve lived on my own, lived in shared houses, had a flat with mates, but now … I love it.
“All the fun of having a family without any of the financial responsibility.”
So what can we expect from Dan if we pop along to The Borough or Frog and Bucket?
“It’s subjective, stand-up. It’s not for everyone.
“But I am Preston’s entertainer of the year for 2013, so you’d expect fireworks!”
Dan Nightingale’s forthcoming gigs also include nights at Preston’s Frog and Bucket on November 20 and December 4.
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