Originally published at What The Frock!
Danielle is headlining for What The Frock! on Sunday, March 10 at the Women of the World Festival, London.
The Danielle Ward I meet at the Donmar Warehouse, Central London, is a deflated, blonde-haired version of the bubbly brunette who headlined What The Frock! in September.
I’ve caught her two days from the end of a ten-week run on stage, so she’s exhausted, poorly, and dosed up on Day Nurse.
Danielle has been appearing in Phyllida Lloyd’s all-woman production of Julius Caesar, an experience she describes as “amazing”, although it’s “not the kind of thing people expect me to be in”.
Doing this play has, “genuinely been my career highlight,” she enthuses. “I’m working with Frances Barber and Harriet Walter every single night, and I’m on at the Donmar, so that’s brilliant.”
For Danielle, appearing in Shakespeare has been a big change in direction. With the exception of What The Frock!’s Women Of The World gig on March 10, she’s now taking some time out from stand-up comedy.
“I haven’t had to do a gig for four months which has been a delight,” she says, tactfully adding that she’s still keen to be involved with What The Frock!
“I’m really looking forward to this gig because it’s in front of a great bunch of people and it’s part of International Women’s Day, but if it had been any other gig, I wouldn’t have taken it,” she says.
“If every gig was like September’s What The Frock!, people would love doing it,” Danielle says. “But there are a lot of gigs where if you go on stage and talk about being a woman, people go ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake’.”
Despite being one of the funniest people I’ve seen on stage, Danielle is reluctant to be described as a stand-up, or even a comedian: “Even when I get my hair cut I just tell them I work in admin,” she says.
“It’s a really loaded profession,” she explains. “People say, ‘Oh go on then, make us laugh’ in a way that they don’t about others. Jamelia doesn’t have to go on telly being a comedian, so I don’t see why I should.”
In fact, Danielle first got into stand-up by accident, after moving to London to work in the South Korean Embassy: “I didn’t know anybody in London really and I wanted to do a short course so I could meet people. I really wanted to do a tap-dancing one but I wasn’t able to do it around my work, so I thought ‘oh well, I’ll try this comedy one instead’.”
“I never really intended comedy to be my career, because what I wanted to do was policy and research,” she says, but at her first proper gig, in 2004, the compere was Russell Brand, “and it was him that made me keep doing it to be honest.
“I wasn’t planning on doing comedy beyond the little short course, but it was him that said ‘you should keep going at it’, so I did.”
It wasn’t until 2006 that Danielle left her day job, when the BBC saw her Edinburgh show, Take A Break Tales, and awarded her their Radio Writer’s Bursary.
A writer first and foremost, Danielle has “never lived solely on a stand-up income”, and never had any ambition to become a panel show regular: “Personally, I want to do something a bit more interesting, maybe a bit more arty, earn less money,” she says.
“Julius Caesar has been a real experience for me – working with such an amazing group of women. I feel it would be really letting myself down to go back to doing four gigs a week and trying to get on Eight Out Of Ten Cats.”
For now, her focus is firmly back on writing: “I’m taking some time off just to write because I’ve got some projects that need to be finished, and I’m very excited about this – I bought a new desk at Christmas and a really fancy new chair.”
As for stand-up, “I think it’s tough trying to do something that has a real meaning to it in comedy,” she explains.
“For me, just making people laugh isn’t what I want to do – I want to make people think as well, and I want to make people cry, and you’re not really allowed to do that in 20 minute sets – it’s frowned upon.”
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