Two quick things we need to clear up: is it true there was a character in Neighbours named in your honour? Yes. Some of the writers came to see my shows in Melbourne and thought it would be a bit of a jolly wheeze. He existed for two episodes; a young lad taken in by Harold Bishop. Somebody stole a bike and suspicion fell on him – but it wasn’t him! – but he ran away. Whenever he was named, he was always given both names. It would go: “Karl, this is Dave Gorman. Dave Gorman, this is Karl”. Really weird episodes to watch, especially for me.
And you have your driving licence tattooed on your arm – any regrets? Yes. One hundred per cent.
Haha. How did the tattoo come about? There’s a whole book that you should read – Googlewhack. There is no short explanation. The long explanation is in that book.
The idea for America Unchained – your roadtrip across America attempting to only use independent businesses – came about after an unhappy period touring there. Post-roadtrip, do you feel better about the country? Much better, yes. It absolutely changed the way I view the country – I look back on it with much more fondness. It solved my relationship with America; as if anyone else cares about my relationship with America…
Which were the highest and lowest points? If you’ve got to the point where you are deliberately going to a strange hotel, by yourself, to film yourself making yourself sick – you hope that that’s a low in life. The highest point is harder to identify as a moment in time, because it is more ethereal than that. There’s an incredible thrill for me in driving, turning the corner and seeing a road that goes 100 miles to the horizon and not seeing another car, another building, or another person in the whole of your panorama. There’s something very beautiful and very odd about that and you certainly can’t do that in Britain. There’s an incredible freedom that comes with that. As tourists, we do quite like clichÃ©s at times and before I made the trip, if I stopped to think about what an American roadtrip would be, there are certain scenes that come up; the road shimmering ahead as the horizon melts and that kind of thing and you think, “wow, I’m fucking doing it now – it’s real”. And it’s really, really satisfying.
Americans are often thought, by us Brits anyway, to have no sense of irony. Is that a lazy stereotype? The Americans have a very good sense of humour. There’s certainly an appreciation of American humour in Australia – it tends to be on TV a lot: Seinfeld, Larry Sanders, The Simpsons, Spinal Tap. This is some of the most ironic comedy that’s ever been made and we go, “Americans don’t get irony”…
Ironic, really… Yeah. There is a sort of truth to it though, because I think Americans don’t tend to use irony in conversation to the same degree. One thing that Aussies and Brits have in common is banter with their friends and taking the piss out of people you know and love is normal and it kind of isn’t in America. I think they’re very comfortable with irony when it’s on stage, or on a screen – they’re completely tuned into that. They’re not necessarily expecting it in conversation and they’re more likely to take what you say literally. But that isn’t a criticism, that’s to do with the fact they’re quite happy to discuss how they feel and we’re really not. One of the reasons we have the banter and that sarcastic relationship with each other is because we don’t really want to tell our friends we love them. We’re not very comfortable – blokes in a pub – saying anything that means anything and so we hide behind humour. Americans don’t hide behind humour, they’re quite prepared to just be honest. I find that quite refreshing.
It’s hard to get on all the time on roadtrips. What’s the secret to staying friends? Keep your council – don’t assume that everything you’ve got to say is fascinating, for one. I think you have to want it to happen enough. It’s like flatshares; do you want to really move in with someone you really really like, because that puts something you really really treasure at risk? Sometimes you’re better off moving in with relative strangers. So, you have to know who you’re getting in the car with really really well to know if you’re going to be okay. But actually it might be okay getting in the car with someone you don’t know that well – and you’ve got a lot of finding out to do. For me, I’d like to go on a roadtrip with someone who you think you’re going to like but you’re not too sure – you’ve got two ways it can go: you can end up not liking them, in which case you haven’t ruined anything that was valuable, or you can end up having the best time and making a really close friend. That’s better than going with a close friend and having that ruined.
I found another Dave Gorman down here. How many have you met now? I’ve met 108, but I stopped looking some time ago. I still see myself described in newspapers occasionally as “the man who’s looking for every Dave Gorman in the world”, which is a myth – I never was. I was only ever looking for 54 and when I got to 54 I stopped, because that’s a sensible thing to do when you get to the end of something. But the world didn’t want me to stop and emails continued to flood in. It was like running a marathon and instead of being wrapped in silver foil at the end and given a glass of water, people ran up to me and said, “run another one”. It was like, “I’ve just finished!”. The last lot have all come to find me. It’s been a pleasure though to have met them all. I’m not the least bit begrudging.
You’re a Liverpool fan. What do you make of the current ownership difficulties at the club? It’s just so depressing. Liverpool for years have been quite broke, secretly. They’ve been clinging in and the old owner, Moores, seems to have been a decent bloke who wanted to do the right thing by the club. There were several groups wanting to buy the club and there were two Americans and they’d convinced people they seemed to have the right attitude. I thought, “well done Moores, for not just taking the first big money who came along and caring”. And then it all falls apart and it’s just fucking depressing. We all need to have Leeds United as a cautionary tale. I’ll be very upset if Liverpool aren’t in the top four – at least – next year. If it really goes wrong you can find yourself sliding out of the Premier League – it can happen to any team. It’s horrible and alarming. Though the last thing I read was that the two of them were trying to heal the rift… I could talk about this for fucking hours… [we proceed to talk football for fucking hours].
And what’s next for Dave Gorman? I’ve done a BBC radio show called Genius, which is being made into a TV series. Apart from that, I’ve no idea. But I never know – and I enjoy not knowing. I didn’t know months in advance I was going to drive across America.
America Unchained is out now