WRITING a letter of a complaint is a real art, but Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy has taken it to another level by turning complaining into the basis of his latest stand-up show, which comes to Theatre Royal Wakefield in September.
It all started, as so many things do, one afternoon in a pub. Danny said: “A friend and I were sitting in a pub and we had a classic pub conversation which started with me asking ‘whatever happened to roast beef Monster Munch?’ and ended with me saying, ‘you know what? I’m going to write a letter to ask them to bring it back’.
“I never got a reply, but six weeks later roast beef Monster Munch was back! As soon as I saw a bag on a supermarket shelf, I started taking photos of it and sending it to friends, saying ‘I did this!’.”
Danny’s success planted the germ of an idea, which grew when he had to wrangle with BT over computer problems.
He said: “At Christmas, my computer hard drive died and I lost all my emails. So I ended up on the phone for days to BT trying to retrieve my email account.
“By the end of it all I was so exasperated that, as a kind of catharsis, I wrote a letter to the company explaining my ordeal to them. I never got a response, but it represented closure for me.
“The letter was really funny, so I sent it to some of my friends. Quite a few of them said that I should put it in a show. It was not a traditional customer complaints letter – it was very sarcastic. I wrote it as if I was a madman at his wits’ end – that was the only way I could deal with it. I certainly didn’t think at this time it would become a show.”
However, by now Danny had a taste for writing complaint letters to companies and missives to Epson and Gillette soon followed.
He said: “I really enjoy writing these letters. I also think it’s a very universal subject. The show, Dear Epson, is about aspects of life that everyone can identify with, the little things which irritate people, which they would find too frivolous to write a letter about. So I’m doing it for them.
“People will think, ‘here’s a man who has taken the time to do the things I have always wanted to do!’. It’s one man’s crusade against the big bad world.”
It also allows Danny to change the format of a stand-up show. He said: “This offers a change from traditional stand-up. I’ll have a desk on stage from which I will read the letters. There is a theme to it, but it is still very much stand-up.
“After all, stand-up is to a large extent about complaining. There is just more purpose and structure to this.”
Danny also hopes it will make a difference: “I get so frustrated dealing with these big corporations. You can waste entire afternoons on the phone to these companies because you never get through to somebody who can help.
“These little frustrations may not matter in the grand scheme of things. All I’m doing is writing letters for a comic but cathartic end.
“However, often the fight never gets fought because people have better things to do - but I don’t! None of these letters are abusive, they’re all done tongue in cheek. People will never laugh at someone being nasty. There has to be a human element and a shared joy in what the comic is doing.
“I think this will be a lot of fun.”
Danny Bhoy is at Theatre Royal Wakefield on September 21. Tickets cost £13-£17, available from www.theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk or the box office on 01924 211311.