Dan Clark on ‘How Not to Live Your Life’

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He may have made it with little TV experience and even less cash, but Dan Clark’s new show could make him a huge star. He tells Time Out how not to make a bad sitcom

  • Dan Clark on ‘How Not to Live Your Life’

    Dan Clark and the cast of 'How Not to Live Your Life' engage in some madcap internal monologuing © BBC/Brown Eyed Boy

  • Comedian Dan Clark could be on the verge of becoming very famous. So it’s possible that this is the last time I’ll be able to have a coffee with him without people pointing and staring. As we speak, his new sitcom, ‘How Not to Live Your Life’, is about to start on BBC3, CBS are already developing an American version and he’s being courted by Matt Damon’s agent in Hollywood. So how is he feeling?

    ‘I’m absolutely shitting myself. They’ve brought the series forward in the schedules, which is nice because it means they like it. However, it does feel very much like a lot of pressure is on my shoulders all of a sudden.’

    He’s come straight from the editing suite, and has that slightly glazed expression of a man who’s spent too many hours in a darkened room staring intently at a screen.

    ‘We finished episode one yesterday. Only another five to go,’ he says, twitchily sipping away at his latte. On reflection, perhaps camomile tea would have been a better choice.

    I’ve been a fan of his stand-up work for a couple of years, but since he’s been working on the TV show his live work has taken a back seat. How has he found the change in disciplines?

    ‘In many ways making a sitcom is the polar opposite of live comedy. Before, I could write a joke at two o’clock in the afternoon and test it out at eight that evening. It’s that immediacy that I miss. Now I write a joke in January, re-write it in February, try it a few different ways during script development, then it gets rehearsed and then we film it four or five times. Finally I sit and watch it in the edit for weeks and end up having no
    idea if it’s still funny or not.’ He smiles, a little bemused. ‘It’s odd, it’ll be broadcast and I won’t hear the audience laugh.’

    So how can you tell if it’s funny or not? ‘You have to keep the faith. You have to remember how funny a joke was when you first wrote it and how much everyone laughed when you first rehearsed it. When you’re in the nitty-gritty of it all it’s so easy to make changes for the sake of it. You might drop a good joke that actually worked just because you’ve got bored of it. The process is just so long. If we could make a programme from start to finish in a day, it would be a lot easier.’

    What was his original pitch for the series? ‘It’s a sitcom where every time the central character gets into a dramatic situation you see the various ways he could respond. Like “The Five Things Not to Say After a One-Night Stand” or “The Four Things Not to Say When You Get Fired”. That’s what makes it a little different. The lists that work the best are the ones that people can most relate to. It’s like that thing where you walk away from something and think: Damn, I wish I’d said that. That’s the hook, but essentially it’s about Don, a flawed, morally ambiguous person who constantly says and does the wrong things. When he inherits a house from his grandmother he has to take in a lodger to cover the bills. She’s a beautiful girl with a dick of a boyfriend and the question is, will Don ever win her over?’

    Potentially, Dan’s life could be about to change dramatically after the series has aired. What’s the best scenario he can imagine?

    ‘That we’ll be doing our next interview in my Manhattan loft.’ He grins wryly. ‘Or, more realistically, that people find it, like it and that it gets a chance to be recommissioned.’

    He not only stars in the show, he’s also written, produced and co-directed it. ‘I’m pretty hands on with the music as well. I was going to do it all but people were getting suspicious about how many times my name would appear on the credits. I also just didn’t have the time.’ He looks excited but exhausted. ‘I’m in every scene. I’m a bit like the Kevin Costner of sitcoms. Hopefully this is my “Dances with Wolves” period and not my “Waterworld” one though.’

    How did he get that level of creative control from the BBC?

    ‘I would never have pushed for it. The whole thing came about after we did some short ‘Guides to Dating’ for the Paramount Comedy Channel. They had tiny budgets and simply said, “Go away and make them.” So me and the producer did it all ourselves. I’d never even directed before. Then the BBC asked if we’d do a pilot for them and, again, because we were given virtually no money, they just let us get on with it.’

    He seems to hardly believe it himself. ‘Something I’ve noticed is, the less money people give you, the less they’ll interfere. If the BBC hand you £20 million, they’ll want to know how every penny is spent, but with the amount of money we had to play with, we were allowed to pretty much do whatever we wanted. When the series got commissioned we thought they’d insist on bringing in some proper TV-makers but they said, “Just do it like you did the pilot, that seemed to work.” ’

    No wonder he’s feeling the pressure then. ‘I prefer it this way, really. I would rather know that if someone said it was bad it was all my fault and that I wasn’t being blamed for anyone else’s mistakes. Conversely, if they say it’s good I can take loads of the credit. It’s going to be one extreme or the other.’

    Back in the office I watch the first episode. It’s good. Very good. Who knows, it might just get him that New York apartment after all.

    ‘How Not to Live Your Life’ is on BBC3 on Tuesdays.

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67 comments
Ryan
Ryan

is there going to be a season 4. please say yeah

Lauren
Lauren

2nd series was definatley better! my favourite episode was the one when julian barratt was in it. Can't wait for the next series :D

Lucky
Lucky

When is the 3rd Season coming out??? Cmon Dan... don't short change us!

adam
adam

I think that it is the best tv comedy in years ..it is new and fresh ..dan clarke is such a funny actor and with all the extra scenes ..they add up a treat..I think that sam is the right bird for him as she is smart and know what don is like ...but abby is the girl for him cus he first loved her ...and she is fine ... I know that uve tried to make don more enduring to the audience with him being caring - ish and sympathy ..but i feel its better when don doesnt care about any one ...ie in the camping episode series 1 .. so carry on sexy pants

brian
brian

i love the show and dan clarck has to be the funniest man ever i wish i was as funny as him and abby is sexy and so is sam :P

mbn,knm
mbn,knm

The show is great is all i can say. It is hilarous and the characters are amazing. Great show !

Martin
Martin

Abbey was the big pull for me, hugely disapointed she wasn't in this series, Mrs Treacher not that funny, new girl looks great but lacks the innocence of Abby. Great show, loving it. Don Clark, now listen up mate, as long as Don is trying to get into Abbey's knickers and occasionally gets close, you've got a story that can go on and on, just as long as he never succeeds. Martin

James
James

disagree with the vast majority of the comments here. thought the second series was dreadful compared to the first. sam's character was poorly acted, very wooden (bring back abbey)and what was the point in the mrs treacher character and the annoying 'my husband's dead' routine. great shame that the 2nd series didnt live up to expectation after the cracking first series.

Tom D
Tom D

Excellent. Have only watched series 2 so far, but i'm looking forward to introducing my friends to this, if they don't watch it already that is.

Steve Milford
Steve Milford

Well Dan I have given my self writers cramp dashing off e-mails saying how brilliant you and your show are. (God it's great!) However, now I want to say how brilliant the casting is, Eddie is so strong you could do a spin off series with him and Mrs T. called 'How not to wipe her arse!' The girls...... what can I say Abbey and Sam are beautiful and not just eye candy but great supporting characters. Dan you old dog, imagine having to choose between them at a casting session,. well you didn't you got both!! Like I said your brilliant Dan!

wilson
wilson

Fkin love this show...so funny and damn is sam fine :P i say u knock about abby and sam :P see what happens lol!

Lesley
Lesley

This show is as good as sexy intercourse. The cast are brilliant. Love it.

conors
conors

well in dan! Ur amazing! The show is simply awsome! I never used to watch comedy shows like yours but this is in a completely different league, i cant get enough of how not to live your life. Ur gonna be huge all over! Im such a fan of your show mate. I hope u make many more series and every1 happy even though uv done that already! Cheers all the best! Conor

Mike
Mike

Best sitcom in a long while! Absolutaly love it!

paul
paul

absolutley brilliant please let there be a third series!!!!!

Harry Hayward
Harry Hayward

Dan, its finished, i want more if you could do that for me... that would be great thanks seriously make more. im being serious serious your harry

Russell Bromley
Russell Bromley

Top quality stuff, absolute p***er! That joke about Mrs T smelling like a shoe had me roaring too, hope you end up with Sam, man i'd love to have sexy intercourse with her!! Hope to see you back for season 3 soon. Good luck

Dean
Dean

Absolutely loved series 2 of this.. can't wait to see the next, whatever you have in store for us. Never thought I would get into anything like this, but this show has proved me wrong.. fantastic stuff.

Ellie
Ellie

I am addicted to your show. Just spent the last 3 hours watching series 1 on the internet and just watched the last episode of series 2 on BBC3 and I'm waiting for the repeat later on I loved it so much! Don & Sam... loved that they got together and the Abby cliffhanger at the end was a great way to end the series! '8 hours drive with Mrs Treacher in the car. Er, that woman smells. It was like drivig in a shoe.' - Could not stop laughing at that. Although you do write a ton of hilarious stuff. Never laugh this much at any comedies. Sinead Moynihan is lovely and I'm looking forward to her return but I do prefer the character of Sam - can't wait to find out who Don ends up with. :) Have so many more positive comments but I'll be going on forever if I list them all. Keep it up. Best show on TV atm.

xerxes
xerxes

hey don just watch ur last show. i have to say the gym outfit part was hillirious. keep it up don. lovee iTTTTTTTTTT.

Darren Papachango
Darren Papachango

This show is the most original and funny show I've seen since Father Ted aired years back. But 'How not to live your life' is relevant to people not priests! Almost everyone has lived in a shared accommodation situation at one point. How not to live your life is funnier than catching your flatmate at it with himself! 5 things not to say when you've caught 'Charlie' masturbating. Ha Ha, Quality!

xerxes
xerxes

literally da best show on tv. keep it up dan ur da man. ur so funny . hope u do a series about something 2 do ralated with da hood life. the gangstar shit know what i mean. love da show . respect

Angela
Angela

I absolutely love this programme, the first series in particular, the small details like the gran's dressing gown, the old dear, I hope it runs and runs and runs,

Richard
Richard

Dear Dan i just watched episode 5 and want to congratulate you on one of the best sitcoms on tv. I dont really laugh out loud at many comedies but i think your show is absolutely brilliant.I hope there is a series 3 already but if not work on something else please because i would definately watch it. Thanks for cheering me up with a great show because ive had a terrible year but at least when i watch your show im a bit happier :)

Chris Edmed
Chris Edmed

Saw the latest episode on BBC3 the other night and now I'm hooked, trawling the internet catching up on what I've missed (not watching a porn-com) I dont know how its past me by, was probably sandwiched between endless episodes of Family Guy or Dog Borstal, but I think its probably the best sitcom Ive seen since the boosh, and Dan Clark seems very natural painfully talented (as a massive dickhead) not that I'm a gaymen or anything!

Cecilia
Cecilia

Love,love your show,its hilarious am just bummed by the fact that its really difficult to find some of the episodes on the internet because they dont play it anywhere on the television here in Canada...I told my workmate about the show too and now she is hooked..your the perfect douche Dan,lol...

George Armstrong
George Armstrong

I literally only got sky plus so I can record this cringe-worthy show. I LOVE IT!! He's the inappropriate douche bag mate that everyone always laugh at because no matter what he does, however awesome, you know deep down, he's still an utter tool… but a selfish kind-hearted tool! I must say, he is a bit of a johnson for getting a blozza from his flatmate's brother - less of that, and more fake funerals please! Well maybe not another one... perhaps a fake birthday party of a child that isn't actually his, or a fake birth? Good luck with the series sweet cheeks.

doofus
doofus

I nominate TOM as the winner of your contest, Dan. Fucking Classy.

Dan Clark
Dan Clark

Hello guys this is Dan, i see you all like my show, well the person who writes the best comment about my show will have the their name mentioned on my next weeks show, its about edde. he has a really hot girlfriend right, and i get jealous..

Nathan Coll
Nathan Coll

I think this is the best comedy show on TV at the moment, it NEVER fails to make me laugh hysterically! I love it and look forward to the following week's episode after it finishes. Hoping for a few more series (3 and 4) and looking forward to see what happens when Abby gets back off her travels... Don and Sam are soooo going to get together!

steve
steve

Tricky second album syndrome has not affected Dan Clarke. Think Sgt Pepper Ziiggy Stardust Dark Side Of the Moon................ or fill in your own favourites, you get the idea. This man has a comic genius and what's more as a hetero man I have to say "Dan Clarke I love you and want your children!!2

anonymous west yorks
anonymous west yorks

I agree with bobbys post, dan clark is a genius. keep them coming, im loving series two, just recorded the latest one cant wait to watch it later. there better be a third and fourth series as well cos im fuly into it now. keep up the good work.

Tom Aves
Tom Aves

I love the show and 'Don' is sooo funny. When is there going to be a new series on t.v because me and my dad always sit together and watch it. Its the only thing that brings us together. By the way....What is the theme music because I can not find it anywhere because I am really interested in learning hoow to play it on my guitar. Great show guys. Keep at it!

julian lavanini
julian lavanini

just found this at 2am on bbc3 and absolutely class! Abi is a star, who is she? I like her acting..she acts like real Mancunian women (i'm a Manc) and i think she ir the next Anna Friel. Great to find its on dvd and that a 2nd Series is going ahead.

bobby
bobby

amazing program, Dan Clark is a genuis.

Jon
Jon

It's a brilliant show. Even though it is quite cartoony you care about Dan's character and want him to bed the girl of his dreams eventually. And the "things not to say" bits are really like what goes through my head when I'm in a crisis. Maybe I'm just weird! :-)

kelly
kelly

yes i agree if you haven't got anything nice to say don't say it. dan is great and if you dont like it don't watch it.

Martin
Martin

Dear Mr Clan Dark, Why don't you get off your slippery soap box and try and be clever somewhere els. for someone which such a remarkable command of the english language I'd like to point out that your grammmmma sucks. Develish Dan and the team are great, don't drag them down to your level. You obviously wouldn't recognise a good sitcom even if it sat on your face. bon voyage,

kflick@hotmail.co.uk
kflick@hotmail.co.uk

Hey this is so funny and i carn't stop looking at dan.he is mega hot and has like a well fit butt so i'm well up for seeing more sceans with that in. the acting is good and i love the music, all round good. carn't wait to see the second one. xxx. to Dan clark xxx

dean
dean

does anyone knw the intro song ? please get back to me, thankyou

christy ainger
christy ainger

i was watching this last night on BBC3 and i loved it , want to buy a box set but im guessing there isn't one

Dave hagley
Dave hagley

some off u dont see a comic genious when it comes along. this is the funniest thing eva. u need 2 get a sense of humour. dan clark ure a legend dude keep up the good work. is that felch enough 4 ya.lol

Tom
Tom

I am from Czech Republic and I just love the show for reasons Steve Milford wrote below me. After reading the interview I am not surprised that Dan had been so involved in the production process. I think he's a great talent and looking forward to see more from him. One of my (many) favourite scenes is from the second episode where he and kids get lost in the woods and he breaks down in front of them: "I am cold, I'm cold are you cold?"

Steve Milford
Steve Milford

This series is intelligent stupidity! Believable absurdity True love and ambivalence. Warm and achingly cruel Embarrassingly confidant Unbelievably believable and........funny funny funny!!!!! When is the last time you could say that about a TV comedy series?

Martin Rantle
Martin Rantle

One of the best sitcoms I've seen in years, please please please do another series, ps, Abbie is gorgeous, I loved her in Drop Dead Gorgeous and she's even more sexy now. Dan has done a great job. Martin

andy hems
andy hems

what a refreshing change to see a sitcom that is steady-paced instead of all the catchphrase-based shows of recent times that are trying to grab your attention from the word go. This one has had time to grow.

Dec
Dec

This is one of the funniest shows on at the moment, and a great comedian..or is it the striking likeness to my own life. Either way the Camping episode was seriously funny, thankfully SKY+ has got them all. Im not to sure the Hollyoaks girl/Abby is the best actress for the part, although top quality eye candy. She doesnt seem to be very relaxed..but hopefully things will improve...

Carolann
Carolann

Fantastic series, very funny and brilliant acting apart from wooden Abby character. Must show on BBC1 soon, dare I say Dan as good or better than Ricky Gervais??

Burton
Burton

"How Not To Live Your Live" is one of my favorite TV series ever! It is all in all such a great show because it totally addresses my humor. I am from Austria and actually don't like British English as much as I do American, but in this case I have to admit, I really don't care about it. Dan, you're doing so well! Keep up the great work! "How Not To Live Your Life" isn't comparable to any other TV series I've ever watched but in my personal ranking it is on rank 2, coming right after "Scrubs" (which is one hell of a series as well). I recommend HNTLYL to everyone of my friends! I hope the series will last for some seasons, unlike "Miss Guided", an American TV series about a school councelor, which also tended to be very unique and special. Unfortunately there were only 7 episodes... In conclusion there's only one thing to say: keep up the good job! ;-) Best, Burton from Linz, Austria