Preston’s Entertainer of the Year Dan Nightingale is back in the city and writing for the newspaper he delivered as a young lad. The popular stand-up is happier than ever in his work – ‘I am doing what I love’ – and reveals to Aasma Day that he might just be in the market for a ‘good Lancashire wife’
Whizzing along on his BMX as he delivered copies of the Lancashire Evening Post, a young Dan Nightingale never imagined he would one day become a columnist for the paper.
But the paperboy turned top Preston comedian will be doing just that and on Monday he will make his first written offering to the LEP.
Born, bred and schooled in the area, Dan is a true Lancashire lad who is fiercely proud of his roots and after 12 years of living in places including Chester and Manchester, Dan, now 32, is back living in Penwortham, near Preston with his sister, her boyfriend and Dan’s four-year-old nephew Charlie.
Dan has featured on television on John Bishop’s Only Joking, is a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was voted Preston’s Entertainer of the Year.
Now he is back to where it all began. Dan, who was a pupil at Crookings Lane Primary, Hutton Grammar and Preston’s Cardinal Newman College, showed a love for comedy and entertaining from a very young age, something he blames on his grandparents.
“My granddad on my mum’s side was always a really funny guy. He is now 92 and still very funny and makes me laugh all the time - both intentionally and inadvertently.
“When we were younger, he would answer the door to me and my sister every week saying: ‘Not today, thank you!’ as though we were travelling salesmen.
“My grandma on my dad’s side was also very funny and had a very sarky and cutting humour so inspired by them, I always tried to be funny too.
“I used to watch a lot of comedy such as Abbott and Costello and Laurel and Hardy with my grandparents and I knew I also wanted to make people laugh.
“Comedy and joking around was always my way out of everything and I never got bullied at school because I just used to make people laugh.
“Joking about was always my way in with the girls too - in fact it still is.
“I’m not exactly wowing them with my bald head, am I!”
Dan’s entrance into comedy started with the world of amateur dramatics. His mum Norma Nightingale was a teacher at St Saviour’s Primary School in Bamber Bridge and was always very hands-on with extra curricular activities and she made sure she passed this on to her children.
Smiling Dan remembers: “My mum always made sure we had two activities on the go and we always did Cubs and Scouts and the like.
“But we also did things like cricket, hockey, tennis and judo and we could only give one activity up if we did another in its place.
“I remember going to air cadets, but I only lasted two visits because I got shouted at by someone a year-and-a-half younger than me and couldn’t get my head around that.
“When I was 12, my mum decided I could do drama and because I was a bit of a show-off and loved being funny, I really took to it and it seemed natural to me.”
Dan performed at Preston Playhouse with the drama group Utopia Youth Theatre and he began thinking of a career in the entertainment world.
Listening to people like Chris Evans and Mark and Lard on the radio, Dan initially dreamt of becoming a radio DJ, but a stint of work experience at a local radio station soon put paid to that.
“I just found it quite tedious” he confesses. “I thought it would be really exciting but the reality was quite different and my work experience put me off.
“Funnily enough, I never really though of stand-up as a career when I was younger as I tended to think of comedians as people like Billy Connolly and Peter Kay and thought it would be really hard to make it that big.
“I didn’t realise at the time that there are so many circuit comedians who are so good at their job and below them, some great amateur comedians too.”
Even though he loved drama, Dan soon realised he didn’t want to be an actor. He explains: “I did not want to be using someone else’s script.
“With stand-up, part of the fun is it is all your own stuff and you are in control.”
Dan’s mum Norma died of cancer at the age of 45 when Dan was 16 and his sister Katy was just 12.
Dan admits it hit the whole family hard as his mum was very popular and well-known in Penwortham and beyond. However, he says her untimely death spurred him on to follow his dreams.
He says: “When you see someone die at the age of 45, it spurs you on to make the most of your life.
“After Mum died, I knew I wanted to follow my dreams and I could not stick jobs I was unhappy in.”
Dan has now been a stand-up comedian for 12 years and has been making a living from it for the last 10 years.
Dan says: “With comedy, you are constantly developing and getting better and I feel I am always learning.
“Like everything, when you have been doing something for a while it becomes the norm. But from time to time, it suddenly hits me how lucky I am to be doing something I love so much and getting paid for it.
“By no means am I the best comedian around and I am not famous. But I am doing what I love and I have a fairly good hit rate.”
Dan has joked to people that he has returned to Preston to find himself a “good Lancashire wife” and he admits he is still looking for that someone special.
He explains: “I am not a fan of airs and graces and I can’t stand people who try to look cool or pretend that they are from the high echelon’s of society. But when you are from Preston, you can’t pretend to be uber cool to someone else who is from Preston and I find that refreshing.”
Dan jokes he is ‘quite fussy for a bald guy’ before admitting that his single status is because he is a romantic at heart.
“I have seen too many people settle for sub-standard relationships and I have had a few relationships like that myself and I do not see the point if it is going nowhere. I am waiting for that someone special.”
• Read Dan Nightingale’s first column in Monday’s Your Life section of the Evening Post.