True Tales of Romance and Failure
In the first series of radio play Woof, comedian Chris Neill shared the stories of his dating experiences.
I caught up with Chris Neill for a behind-the-scenes look at the play.
The first series of Woof sprung from the break-up with your boyfriend and your dilemma about whether to get a dog. What sort of response did you get to the first series?
I’d broken up with my partner of eight years, so the first series was about being single.
The dilemma of whether to get a boyfriend or a dog was something that I’d been exploring in my stand-up routines for a while. A producer saw it and thought that it would translate well to radio.
People on Twitter were very nice about the first series, and Radio 4 commissioned more programs, so that’s always a good sign.
You’re now in a relationship, have you run out of dating anecdotes to use for material for Woof?
I’ve been with Rory for five-and-a-half years now, so I have had to look at other stuff beyond dating.
There are still some dating anecdotes in this new series. In the first episode there’s my date with a violinist, and also my childhood crush on the drawing of a French boy. In the second episode we’re reflecting on a terrible blind date that I had. But then in the third episode we explore the relationship of neighbours of mine - an elderly Greek couple. Finally, the fourth episode is about getting older.
There’s no shortage of material.
When you look back at your experiences of dating, how does that make you feel?
Most of my waking thoughts are about how I’ve failed at most things - including relationships and dates that I’ve failed at.
One of the things that I’ve realised is that nine times out of ten, the reason that a date was terrible was because one of the people on the date was me.
For example, I don’t like leaving the house in the evening. I’m much more of a morning person. That’s one of the reasons that I stopped doing stand-up - gigs and dating are both things that happen in the evening.
Being in a relationship is perfect for me.
In the series, you talk about messaging guys on Gaydar and meeting up for dates after connecting with guys online. When you were dating, did you find it easier to make that initial connection with guys online or in person?
When I was in my 20s, there was no such thing as the internet. I didn’t like going out, but you had to go to bars and clubs to meet people.
I was never any good at small talk - I’d say something creepy, or wouldn’t be able to hear what the other person was saying. I’d catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror in a bar or a club, and think to myself - ”I look like a serial killer!”
When I’ve been single, I’ve met more people through the internet than I ever did in bars and clubs. I’ve never had any faith in my looks - I’m better at expressing myself in words. When I was chatting with people online, I could be more fluent and funnier.
I met Rory, my boyfriend, through a dating app. I’m glad I don’t have to think about dating anymore.
What does Woof tell us about the experience of dating and relationships for gay guys?
The comedy that I like is when people can find the funny in the mundane, or when you can find something funny about a subject that’s very bleak.
The short stories of Woof show us that it doesn’t all stop when you get older. We have an obsession with youth, but it takes a long time to develop your voice - I’d rather read a book by someone who’s 60, not 22.
As I get older, the days feel increasingly precious.
What do you hope that audiences feel when listening to Woof?
I hope people enjoy it. It’s meant to be funny. I want it to have depth and to be a bit bittersweet, but I want people to laugh.
Ideally, I’d like people to enjoy it so much that they bombard Radio 4 with emails and tweets to demand another series. If a publisher enjoys it and wants to pick it up for a book, then that would be marvellous.