The first time David Reed appeared in De Grey Rooms Ballroom in his home city of York was as an 18-year-old in his ska punk band called The Soots.
Twenty years later he’s returning to the venue as a guest on The Fear: Live! podcast when he and his wife Danielle Ward will be talking about people’s greatest fears as well as their childhood terrors and the fears and phobias that they live with now.
Born and raised in York, David has moved back to the city with Danielle and their one-year-old daughter Lilian.
“The host of The Fear is comedy writer Sarah Morgan who’s a friend and we’ve worked together on things in London. She knew my wife and I are local to York now and asked us to do the show,” he explains.
David isn’t new to podcasts. He hosted Film Fandango for six years, first for Absolute Radio and then independently. “I watched two films a week for six years so that was quite an undertaking and now having a child I have no time to watch any films,” he says.
“My current podcast is Inside the Comedian which takes in my improvisation background. I interview comedies about a career they never had so we just make it up on the spot as we go along. Recent guests have include Dara O’Briain, Miles Jupp, Rachel Parris … all sorts of people.”
He sees podcasts as a way of creating his own opportunities and building an audience. Podcasts have advantages over other work. “They have a great creative freedom to them because often producers will want to have input and changes things but podcasts are a way of being creative where you can just pick up recording equipment, find an audience and do it. It’s a growing market,” explains David.
He sounds something of a Jack of all trades – actor, comedian, writer, musician – but acting was the starting point from a young age. “The first place I ever performed was at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre. I remember having such stage fright that I took off my glasses so I couldn’t see a damn thing and couldn’t see the audience,” he says.
“I remember watching the improvisation show Whose Line Is It Anyway? on television when I was 15 and thought this is the best job in the world, just pratting around with your friends and making people laugh but as far as I was aware no such opportunity was available for me.
“When I went to university in Edinburgh there was an improvised comedy troupe and so I immediately threw myself into it and thought ‘this is what I want to do’. I found some like-minded souls there and, after four years of neglecting our degrees and doing theatre and comedy, decided I didn’t want to give it up.”
Together with Humphrey Ker and Thom Tuck, he formed the sketch group The Penny Dreadfuls, who found fame at the Edinburgh Festival and got their own BBC radio series The Brothers Faversham on the back of that. He’s now written nine historical comedy plays for Radio 4 and is currently working on a tenth dealing with the War of the Roses and offering a more sympathetic view of Richard III.
He continues to work as an actor. One of his first TV roles was playing the comedian Peter Cook opposite David Walliams as Frankie Howerd. A recurring role in ITV’s Morse spin-off Endeavour and getting murdered on BBC’s Father Brown are among this other acting credits.
On stage he spent 18 months in the cast of the Olivier Award-winning Showstoppers which improvised a musical every performance. “That was an interesting tightrope to walk because if you get too good at it people go, ‘they’re not making this up from the top of their heads’.” At Edinburgh he performed his solo comedy character show Shamblehouse.
He has yet to appear on stage at York Theatre Royal as an actor but he did catch one of Dame Berwick Kaler’s golden Wagon Wheel during the millennium pantomime. “A very proud day,” he says.
His love of improvisation hasn’t gone away. He regularly guests at the Comedy Store in London which provided the inspiration for C4’s Whose Line Is It Anyway? and where original performers Paul Merton and Josie Lawrence still perform regularly.
He and Danielle met on a show called Karaoke Circus which featured comedians and members of the public doing karaoke. Danielle was the bass player and David the drummer in the band. “We’d get the most incredible comedians along – Tim Vine, Ben Milller, Tim Minchin have already done it. It’s just the most joyful show we’ve ever done. We did it for ten years – and then after our last show we got married.”
Danielle has done stand-up and has written two horror comedy musicals – Psister Psycho (“that was about a psychotic lesbian robot nun”) and Gutted (“about a vengeful bride who takes revenge on her husband on their wedding night.
These days David and Danielle still work together from time to time. They’ve both done BBC Radio Four’s The News Quiz and worked on an animated series for BBC3 called The Real History of Sex (“about sex education through the ages – a very odd show but a lot of fun”). Now they have a daughter (Lilian, two in November) there’s childcare to consider if both are working.
Danielle, a runner-up in the BBC New Comedy Awards, got her first break in radio on the late night Radio 1 sketch show The Milk Run. As a writer, her work includes writing for Idris Elba’s Sky comedy In the Long Run and Horrible Histories. As an actor she appeared in an all-female production of Julius Caesar in London and New York.
She presents the Sony Award winning podcast Do The Right Thing, which she invented and writes. She also has a politic podcast called Any Stupid Questions.
Find out more @thefearpodcast on Twitter and Facebook. The Fear is part of the Great Big Owl podcast family.