Daniel Rigby is an actor and stand-up comedian who has performed comedy at the Latitude Festival, as well as winning the Laughing Horse Act of the Year in 2007 and a nominee for the So You Think You’re Funny competition of the same year. It was shortly after this that Daniel Rigby began to to move into television roles, beginning with his role in the BBC period drama Lilies. In 2011, Daniel Rigby won a BAFTA for Best Actor for his performance as the late comedian Eric Morecambe in Eric and Ernie. In 2016, Daniel Rigby really caught my eye with his role as Donald in Flowers, which also stared Julian Barratt and Olivia Coleman. I absolutely loved the series, and Daniel’s performance (along with the rest of the last) was amazing. I enjoyed talking books with an actor I really respect. Please enjoy my interview with Daniel Rigby…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
An actor, in the main.
I’m reading The End Of The Party by Andrew Rawnsley, a book about New Labour’s dying throes. It gives great insight into the effing and jeffing of the corridors of power. It also feels like a measured analysis of New Labour’s record, which is refreshing in a black and white world.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
The Voyages of The Limping Flamingo by Neil Jones. I read it when I was about 10 years old. I saw in the sleeve jacket that Neil Jones was 14 when he wrote it and it blew my mind. I became obsessed with getting a book published by the time I was 14. “You’ll be past it when you’re 15,” I thought. Sadly, Not Only People Play Sport, a psychological thriller about a hedgehog with magic football boots, never made it to the bookshops.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I saw the word “zoologist” in a Reader’s Digest dictionary at home and thought it sounded incredible. Years later I discovered it had something to do with animals.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
He’d wonder why I don’t have a dog. And what I did with my football stickers.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
I would gift myself Grammar For Grown Ups by Katherine Fry and Rowena Kirton.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
Not really. I’ll read in bed, if there’s not much else going on there. I read on the bus. I quite like reading while I’m eating something for some reason. I think it makes me feel like I have an extra skill.
I can’t think of any one book in particular. The books I find most inspiring are normally collections of interviews with comedians about comedy. Sick In The Head by Judd Apatow is the most recent of these I’ve read. I also loved We Killed by Yael Kohen, which is about women in American comedy. How I Escaped My Certain Fate by Stewart Lee was wonderful. These types of book are great for bits of sage advice but also a good reminder that no one path is the right one and that everyone has their struggles.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
My Dad went through a period where he’d sit in our bedroom with a can of Boddington’s and read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens to me and my brothers. That’s a book I’ll always associate with him.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Anything written by George Saunders. Especially his collections of short stories: Pastoralia, Tenth of December, CivilWarLand In Bad Decline etc. One of the funniest writers I’ve ever read. And one of the bleakest.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I read much more non-fiction than fiction. I guess that means I prefer it, but the best fiction can be matchless.
Do you think reading is important?
I think it should be in the same category as eating or having a wash.
The best book I’ve read in the last six months was The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. It’s a wonderful biography of Alan Turing, so wide-ranging and brilliantly written.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
I prefer a real book. Digital means you can take hundreds of books into a café etc, but I’ve never needed to take hundreds of books into a café.
Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.
Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliott Aronson. They’re a pair of social psychologists and the book is a fascinating look at why people do dumb, horrible things and can still justify them, or ignore them entirely. It covers subjects like confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance, and often delves into politics to illuminate its points. It’s very good on the extent to which we deceive ourselves we’re always right, and how difficult we are to persuade otherwise.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
This might sound very odd indeed but reading The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys helped me realise I had an obsession with history that I’ll have for the rest of my life.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace;
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke;
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole;
The Ask by Sam Lipsyte;
The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin;
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens;
Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut.
Or anything by David Sedaris or Caitlin Moran or PG Wodehouse or Douglas Adams.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
A debut novel I’ve heard great things about called The Outside Lands by Hannah Kohler is top of the list. And then after that I’m going to try and read as much as possible about politics because I don’t know what the eff is going on at the moment and I thought I knew what certain words meant like “left” and “right”, but don’t really.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Humble – My Story.