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'None of us knows how to do life... we are all winging it'

Since swapping the classroom for the stage a decade ago, ex-teacher Greg Davies' comedy career has never looked back

By Gemma Dunn

Greg Davies is, entirely by his own admission, an "intrinsically lazy man". "I'd love to sit back - it's that thing where I don't have a choice," he cries, in reference to his hectic workload. "I'm very lucky that I've got these things to do, so I do them and I love them, but given the choice I honestly wouldn't get off my sofa.

"I am an absolute nightmare," he concludes, shaking his head. "Awful."

The teacher-turned-stand-up comedian has good reason to remain vertical, however, for this autumn alone he has embarked on his biggest ever live tour, You Magnificent Beast; returned to his throne for a fifth series of the brilliant Taskmaster and will once again star in his self-penned midlife crisis sitcom, Man Down.

Having enjoyed such success with Channel 4 hit Man Down, he assures me he feels "more relaxed than I ever have" awaiting the fourth series' reception.

"If you like Man Down, you'll like this," says Davies (49). "I could be wrong, but it's in a similar vein and, if anything, we've pushed the levels of madness.

"I'm not saying this one wasn't hard work. The writing process is sickening and stressful and I hate it, but I have seen this series back and I'm really pleased with it."

Having "founds its groove", fans can expect another frenetic dose of disaster as child-trapped-in-a-man's-body Dan (Davies) is blinkered by unrealistic hopes for his impending fatherhood.

He's quit his much-hated job as a teacher and, looking for a fresh start, is on an increasingly desperate hunt to find a new home for his soon-to-be family.

Add aggressive geese, desperate attempts to fit in at Dads' Club and the pressure of a christening to the mix and, as expected, there's little that doesn't conspire to keep this Man Down.

"I think he's just everyone's loser, isn't he?" Davies says, breaking into laughter.

"For me, I've taken actual weak aspects of my own character and put them in him - only we don't give him any of the coping strategies."

Grinning, he follows: "I am of the belief that we're all winging it - none of us know how to do life, really.

"Some of us are pretending we do, but with Dan it's fun to see someone who is openly winging it and hasn't been given the strategies to even disguise his folly, or to learn.

"But I love that he never learns. I love that he is so self-involved; we've taken the ugly aspects of human nature and put them in a bloke, but the redeeming thing we give him is he's relatively loyal and he is a trier. And I think people love a trier."

More crucial than the relatable characters, even, is the show's ability to have its audience in hysterics.

"The cloud above everything is, 'Is it funny? Is it going to make people laugh?'

"One of the mild frustrations I feel is when Man Down is described as 'slapstick'. We work hard to surprise people in the show and we don't want people to guess where something is going to go. I think that's when we're at our best, when something happens that no one was expecting."

Is the "torturous" writing process worth it, then? "It's always worth it. It is, I suppose, my equivalent of having a baby."

"Birthing" a sitcom is, however, understandably a far cry from Davies' teaching days: a stretch that has inspired much of his comedy since he left the profession over a decade ago.

"I'd always wanted to do comedy, so teaching - although I had great times doing it - was always a bit of an avoidance strategy, if I'm honest.

"I got to the stage where I was so miserable, that it wasn't fair for me to carry on. So, giving comedy a go was necessity, but it often is with me. I'm often driven by necessity, rather than actually doing things like an adult."

Aside from an impressive roster of TV gigs (including anything from panel shows such as Mock The Week and Never Mind The Buzzcocks to his Bafta-nominated performance in BBC Three's Cuckoo), the 6ft 8in comic is selling out stand-up shows country-wide.

He's currently on the road for the aforementioned You Magnificent Beast - and he couldn't be happier.

"I love it and I don't understand why I ever hear a comedian complain about it," Davies says of touring. "It's a mystery to me. It's wonderful.

"It appeals to my personality, stand-up, because it's instant gratification."

Man Down, Channel 4, Wednesday, 10pm

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