Cult Q & A: David Quantick

❉ We’re asking, they’re answering. This week: A blaggers’ guide to David Quantick.

Emmy-winning television writer David Quantick began writing for the NME in 1983, alongside Danny Baker and Paul Morley. As a journalist, he’s written for over 50 different publications, from the Daily Telegraph to The Dandy, and his radio and television credits include ‘On the Hour’, ‘The Day Today’, ‘Veep’, ‘The Thick Of It’, ‘Brass Eye’, ‘Harry Hill’s TV Burp’, ‘The Blagger’s Guide’ and ’52 First Impressions’. In March 2016 his first novel, ‘The Mule’ was published by Unbound Books.

What were you like at school?

Geeky, nerdy. My nickname was Joe 90. I wore glasses and read a lot. I was good at lessons and bad at games. I was quite annoying.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An archaelogist when I was six, because I could say it. Then a naval doctor because then I could join the navy and not do much. Then an actor for most of my teens.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

I’d lie and say don’t worry about spots, they go away. I’d say, you’re not going to die a virgin. Do more sport. Do less food. You’re not going to be thin for ever, it’s just a phase.

What are your best and worst qualities?

I am quite loyal, I can be funny, I’m a fast worker. I’m also vain, impatient, rude and drunk.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

I’ve never had a job.

Who were your pop culture heroes growing up?

Bowie, Buzzcocks, Beatles, Goons, Kingsley Amis, Stephen King, Ian Banks, Woody Allen, lots of comedy films, Mel Brooks, John Cleese…

What do you consider to be the single greatest piece of television ever?

‘The Fall And Rise of Reginald Perrin’.

Monty Python: Is it funny?

The earlier, the funnier.

What was the last film that you watched?

‘Suicide Squad’. It was awful.

What film could you watch every day?

‘Blazing Saddles’.

What’s your favourite film soundtrack?

‘The Long Goodbye’.

Which four actors would you like to see in a film together and which

See ‘The Naked Truth’ for details. Peter Sellers, Joan Sim, Peggy Mount and Dennis Price.

Which film, book or record last disappointed you the most?

An indie Xmas album called ‘It’s A Cool Cool Christmas’.

Which record would you recommend and lend to a friend?

‘Another Music In A Different Kitchen’ by Buzzcocks. Speed, melody, wit and melancholy.

Which record wouldn’t you let out of your sight?

‘Deadly Run’ soundtrack by Carla Bley. It’s hard to find.

Which book would you save if your house was on fire?

‘Travelling People’ by B.S. Johnson.

What’s your definition of what makes something cult?

It’s good but unsuccessful, with something about it that means it wouldn’t be a hit. You can’t make a cult item. The last cult movie I saw was Iron Sky. It wanted to be a hit but it wasn’t., even though it’s great.

What are you reading at present?

Wilkie Collins and Robert Goddard.

How did you first get into the music press and what inspired you to make a career out of it?

I wrote a letter to the editor of NME telling him the NME was no good, He offered me some work.

Can you tell us a little about how your parallel career as a comedy writer kicked off?

I sent some sketches to ‘Spitting Image’ and they bought one. Later, Armando Iannucci saw a column Steven Wells and I wrote in NME and offered us work on ‘On The Hour’.

You wrote a Doctor Who audio, The Dark Husband in 2008, and more recently your Blaggers Guide series tackled Doctor Who, in the show’s fiftieth anniversary year. What are your earliest or favourite memories of Doctor Who as a child?

My Dad says I saw the first episode from my pram. I do remember the Yeti, and I really did hide from them behind the sofa.

Which writers have inspired you over the years?

Julie Burchill, Danny Baker, Ian Penman, Paul Morley, Steven Wells, Kingsley Amis, Jonathan Coe, BS Johnson, NF Simpson, Spike Milligan, the Zucker Brothers, Neil Tennant…

What’s the best bit of advice anyone has given you?

“Well, why don’t you do it then?”

Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your life?

Probably Armando Iannucci, because every seven years he gives me work.

Do you think it’s true that you should never meet your heroes?

No. Meet everyone you can.

In 2015, you scooped Emmy awards as part of the writing team for ‘Veep’: How different is writing for US TV to the UK model, and was it a culture shock?

It was more efficient and more friendly and not a culture shock because half of us were British, and besides we are used to America.

Your debut novel, ‘The Mule’, was released by Unbound in February 2016. Can you tell us a little about the book’s genesis, and how did you juggle writing it against your other commitments?

I wanted to write a book about a stubborn man, and I wanted to write a book that I didn’t plan. I wanted it to be about a translator, so I could write it in a weird prose style. And I wrote it on train journeys at 6.45 am on the way to TV Burp meetings.

‘The Mule’ was published by Unbound, who use a crowd-funding model to publish their books. What was your experience of working with Unbound, and what advice would you give to writers considering using crowd-funding to publish their books?

You might not sell a lot, and you need many friends to fund it, but they will publish good books that other people turn down. And there are a lot of great writers on Unbound.

Who designed the cover for ‘The Mule’?

Mostly a brilliant artist called Moose Allain, with some input from the Unbound team.

You’ve also recently published two ‘how to’ books on writing; how did those projects come about?

I was asked if I’d like to write them! The first one has done very well.

What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Like lots of writers say, I prefer “having written” to “writing.” Also winning things.

What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career so far – and why?

‘The Mule’, and the TV play I adapted, ‘Snodgrass’. Things you work on for yourself are great.

What would you like to be your epitaph?


Thank you for taking time out to talk to us!

❉ ‘How To Be A Writer’ is published by Oberon Books, RRP £12.99. ‘The Mule’ is available to buy directly from Unbound Books.

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