An exclusive interview with Dave Thompson – By Pete Austin

Heading to Kettering Arts Centre for the first time is quirky comedian Dave Thompson who has been making people laugh for many years on the comedy circuit. For full event details please click here.

Dave, who will be appearing at the June Rolling in the Aisles comedy club night on June 18 along with Mitch Benn and Sarah Callaghan, is also an author and a TV star. If you are parents or grandparents the chances are that you will have seen him in his most famous role, but maybe not recognised him. He starred in one of the world’s most popular children’s programmes, The Teletubbies, in which he played many people’s favourite character, Tinky Winky.

Shortly before taking off to the continent for a week to play gigs in Budapest and Vienna I contacted Dave and in a most revealing conversation he spoke about his life in, and out of, the entertainment business. As the saying goes ‘Behind every cloud is a silver lining’ however, on the adverse side it could be said ‘behind every silver lining is a cloud’.

Dave said: “Comedians are both born and created, they are paradoxes and I fall into that category. A majority of them, including many household names, come from broken homes and who have been adopted. They were desperate children who had been living with alcoholic or abusive parents, like me, they all just wanted to be loved. They make people laugh for there are tears behind the clown.”

Before turning to a career in entertainment Dave was a drama and movement therapist working with people who, for various reasons, were confined in padded cells and some constrained by straight-jackets. He said he liked what he was doing at the start but eventually realised it was not the job in which he wanted to remain. He said he may have become a psychotherapist had he not immersed himself in the world of entertainment which is fortunate for his audiences who he continues to delight with his quirky sense of humour which never fails bring peals of laughter around the room.

He writes his own material and also writes for other famous comedians including Bruce Forsyth, Jim Tavare, Omid Djalili, and Stewart Lee. Dave has appeared on shows including Harry Hill’s TV Burp and Never Mind the Buzzcocks and he also had roles in four films, the latest, ‘Harry Hill – The Movie’ released in December 2013, which also starred Julie Walters and Matt Lucas.

In materialistic and financial terms, the 6’ 3” performer says one of the highlights of his career was playing Tinky Winky in the original series of The Teletubbies, but not everything is sweetness and light in the world of children’s entertainment.

 “We knew it would be a world-wide phenomenon.” he said. “We were euphoric when we were making it and knew from the start it was something significant. The producer, Anne Wood, who is a bit like Queen Elizabeth I and Margaret Thatcher, knew exactly what was wanted.

“Company employees had visited nursery schools across the whole of the UK to trial the programme. They placed a camera on top of a tv and filmed the children as they watched previews of the show to gauge their reactions. From that the producer could see what worked then looked for ways to improve it.

 “It was a global programme sold around the world, transcending race. It has been dubbed into languages from French and Spanish to Chinese and it was one of the highlights of my career but I was fired by the production company. I was sent a letter telling me that my interpretation of the role was “not accepted” although I had only been doing what the director had asked me to do. I suspect the real reason I was sacked was publicity.

“People think children’s tv is innocent, but it is far from it. There is a never ending supply of new children to watch the shows and with merchandise and other spin-offs from a show the financial rewards for a production company are immense. They will always benefit from anything that creates publicity. It’s not a nice world. A television producer once told me there are three rules you should abide by, “Never tell the truth when a lie will do, always be prepared to stab someone in the back, and put money before anything else”.

Dave spends his time between performing and writing, the latter is not all comedy material. As a novelist he has published one published book and a second is in the pipeline.

He said: “It would be difficult to choose between the two as I like both equally as much. I enjoy performing, meeting other people, visiting different places but then it is refreshing to go home and not have to contend with traffic jams on the M25, delays at airports and living out of a suitcase.

“I want to get stuck in to my second book but for various reasons I have had to put that on temporary hold. However, my first book “The Sex Life of a Comedian” is doing really well on Kindle and has had some very favourable reviews by a number of well-known celebrities.

“It goes back to the tears of the clown insomuch as it is a spiritual book which talks about the entertainment business which includes some of the darker sides we spoke about earlier. However, it is an adult novel and should not be read if you’re under eighteen, or easily shocked. There’s no blasphemy or nasty sexual stuff, It really is quite a spiritual story and you can access it by clicking here if you want to take a look.

In the meantime, it is the stand-up circuit that is taking precedence. Doing so offers an opportunity to ‘test-run’ new material with others in the same profession.

He said: “There is competition amongst comedians, and there is not enough work to go round but we have a healthy respect for each other and bounce ideas off of each other, honour amongst thieves.

“We’re all on our own when we feel nervous before a show, while on stage during the show, and wallowing in failure after the show if it went badly, or enjoying the success if it went well”.

With a few UK gigs to do before heading overseas it was time for Dave to pack his bags once more and take to the road. Given the chance to take a break and sit down for a meal I asked him who would be his ideal dinner guests. His answer: “My late mother, Betty, and Mary Magdalene” surely gives food for thought.

Check out Dave’s website here for more info about him where there is also an extract from his book then why not Click onto to our Events – 2016 events page for details of the other acts appearing at the June Rolling in the Aisles Comedy Club along with booking details.


Tickets for this and other events are available from Waterstones, High Street, Kettering. By post including an SAE to Jaime Ferreira at 4 Litchfield Close, Kettering NN16 9BS (cheques made payable to “PCC of St Andrew’s Kettering”).

You may also buy tickets by emailing office@ketteringartscentre.com or online at We Got Tickets (subject to a booking fee).

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