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Docucomedy - the Life of Dave Gorman

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Dave Gorman is a comedian who has invented a whole new form of stand-up act. He calls it docucomedy.

The concept is this: while other comedians will think of an idea, and make a joke or sketch about it, Dave will take that idea and live it, recording the ups and downs of his experience, and report on the consequences of the concept and the effect it had on his life at a later date.

Dave does not just talk comedy, or write comedy. He lives comedy.

Early Projects

The first show he did that began to explore the possibilities of this format was Reasons to be Cheerful. In that show (created for the 1998 Edinburgh Festival, but still performed today) he analyses the words of the Ian Dury and The Blockheads song of that title, in order to discover whether they really are reasons to be cheerful. It may be argued that he does not quite show the full 'comedy life' seen in his later projects here, but it was the first stage in the realisation of that form.

The next show (originally from the 1999 Edinburgh Festival, but again, still performed regularly) was Better World. Dave wrote anonymous letters to a vast number of local newspapers asking for suggestions, from the public, on how one man could make the world a better place - to make a better world. He collated these suggestions together and tried to act on as many as possible. Here the 'comedy life' can be seen for the first time as he acted on the suggestions of complete strangers in the effort to make a change to the world.

Are You Dave Gorman?

The third, and so far most famous, project was called - well - various things really, depending on the format, but the most often occurring name is Are you Dave Gorman?. This show, and TV series (this being called The Dave Gorman Collection), and book came about almost by accident.

It started as the result of a drunken bet (followed by a sober clarification) between Dave and his (then) flatmate Danny Wallace. Dave had said that there must be loads of Dave Gormans around the place, but Danny didn't believe him, and so that night they got a train to Scotland, in order to visit the Assistant Manager of the East Fife Football Club (for his name is Dave Gorman). A short while later (on another train - going to visit their fourth Dave Gorman) the decision was made that 'loads' was too vague a bet, and so they needed a number. Danny held in his hand the deck of cards he had just taken from their packet, and said 'This many'. So began the world-wide search to meet 54 Dave Gormans (that being the number of cards in a deck - including the jokers).

The account from the book states that the stage show was only considered once Dave's agent asked him whether he would be doing a show for the Edinburgh Festival that year (2000), and the TV show only considered when a rep from the BBC suggested it after seeing the show. Dave initially turned the BBC down because he had not finished yet - he was still some way off the needed 54. Once the task was done, Dave recorded the six-episode TV series, and he and Danny wrote the book together.

In total, six months of Dave and Danny's lives were spent in this search. The 'comedy life' is given full flow as their normal lives are totally suspended (and Danny's almost destroyed) by the obsession to find more namesakes.

The Important Astrology Experiment

The next project was called Dave Gorman's Important Astrology Experiment (or DGIAE for short). The plan was to discover, once and for all, whether horoscopes actually work or not.

Dave followed his horoscope religiously (if that's not a contradiction in terms) for 40 days, while his twin brother Nick ignored his. It was all going very badly until the last day, and it looked like horoscopes would lose; but on that last day Dave placed a £500 bet on Ian Woosnam to win a golf tounrnament which came in, and so Dave won about £3000, making Dave very happy and proving that horoscopes work.

Again, Dave's normal life is put on complete hold, as he endeavours to obey his horoscope to the letter, which includes not doing the things that Dave would normally do (with the possible exception of eating, defecating and sleeping - but that's all), unless this horoscope tells him to. He only saw his girlfriend, Greta, when instructed to do so. To live like this forever would be tragedy, but for 40 days it's comedy.

Presentation Technique

When Dave reports on his various activities, he generally does so in the form of a kind of comedy-lecture (the only exception so far being the Are you Dave Gorman? book - for that is a book, not a lecture). This usually involves a slideshow, video footage, and a graph.

For the namesake search the graph plotted the number of namesakes found against the miles travelled, so that a resulting figure for mpdg (miles per Dave Gorman) could be found. Dave believed that only a madman would travel more than 500 miles to meet a namesake, so this was the mpdg average that was being constantly aimed for. It is, however, evident from the book that the graph was conceived during the search, and not before. It was not a guiding ambition from the start, but was (according to Danny) something Dave invented to try to keep Danny interested.

For the astrology experiment the graph was much more integral to the whole endeavour. The graph displays the difference between Dave's and Nick's happiness as the experiment progressed. Happiness, therefore, had to be calculated before the graph could be generated. For the purposes of the show it was decided that this equation is true:

Love + Health + Wealth = Happiness

The Love and Health figures resulted from the votes of a specially selected group - 144 people, 12 for every star sign. The wealth figure, however, was calculated from the difference between what Dave and Nick had gained or spent. The graph was split into three sections: everything below 40 happiness a day was 'The Triangle of Gloom', everything above 40 happiness a day was 'The Triangle of Delight', and the rest of the graph was 'The Void'. If horoscopes clearly work you should end up in the 'The Triangle of Delight', if horoscopes clearly don't work you should be in 'The Triangle of Gloom', and in 'The Void' no conclusion could be drawn. So, the audience vote was of crucial importance, and affected the ultimate outcome of the experiment.


There is comedy to be found in extreme situations, and part of the joy of Dave's shows is in seeing the extreme and bizarre situations he puts himself into in order to fulfil his mandate.

At one point in the namesake search he went to New York, because he had received an email stating their was a solicitor named Dave Gorman there. When he reached the office of the solicitor he discovered that Dave was that man's middle name - which means that he doesn't count as a 'real' Dave Gorman. After this Dave went to Israel in order to meet another namesake. He believed there would be five, but there was actually just one - who had five phone numbers (that was a tragic day for the mpdg). Sometime later, when the number of namesakes seem to reached a dead-stop, Dave offered £200 to anyone prepared to change their name to Dave Gorman by Deed Poll. Five people took him up on this offer, and so Dave managed not just to find some namesakes, but actually created five more namesakes - just to win a bet!

The things Dave did for the IAE were even more strange. One day his horoscope said:

Stand on one leg, Put a bowl of muesli in your left hand, and a tangerine in your right. Balance several books on your head. Jump up and down three times. Jump into a bucket of water. Sing the National Anthem backwards. Peel the tangerine in your right hand, and flick segments of the tangerine into the bowl of muesli.

So Dave did exactly that. In Trafalgar Square, of course. There were times when two day's horoscope would conflict badly also. One day Dave was told to visit an old friend, and the friend Dave was thinking of now lived in New York; so Dave went to New York, arriving at his friend's apartment at about half past eleven at night. While talking to this friend, and trying to explain what he was doing, he noticed that the clock had gone past midnight, and so thought he would illustrate the task by consulting a web-based horoscope. That horoscope said:

Spend as much time as possible at home today

So Dave immediately said his goodbyes (after spending just half an hour with a friend he hadn't seen for ten years) and left the apartment in order to get the next plane home.

Future Plans

While Dave has, for the present, ruled out a book on the astrology experiment, he has stated that there are some books he is planning to write. Though he hasn't revealed many details as yet, he has confirmed that one of these book will be co-written with Danny, as Are you Dave Gorman? was.

As for stage and TV, it seems likely that Dave has a lot more ideas up his sleeve somewhere. Hopefully they will leave his sleeve soon.


  • For more information on these projects, and up-to-date news visit Dave's Site.

  • Dave recently took part in a live webchat. The transcript can be found here. On the last page of the transcript Dave reveals himself to be a fan of Douglas Adams.

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