COMEDY / As good as gold: Dominic Holland threatens to usurp Michael Palin's reputation as the Mr Nice of comedy. Benjamin Mee met him on the tube

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The Independent Culture
Michael Palin's position as the nicest man in comedy may at last be under threat. Dominic Holland is a very, very nice man.

I suspected it when I bumped into him on the tube and told him I liked his work. 'Thank you for your kind words,' he said. Eh? What about 'Yeah, yeah, piss off and die'?

He hardly ever swears, in fact - privately or in his act - and he takes every precaution against causing offence.

'My job is to make people laugh,' he says. 'If I've upset them instead then I haven't done my job properly.' Out go religion, sex and drugs. And it's completely safe to sit in the front row. Furthermore, he won the Perrier Best Newcomer Award - only given out three times in the past 12 years - at Edinburgh last year.

Dominic Holland has wanted to be a comedian since he was 12. He realised that he could work an audience at school, and he persisted, despite persecution. He was suspended for causing laughter at 15 while the real villains, embryonic lawyers and accountants, were encouraged with debating clubs and extra maths lessons.

He went to university and got a steady job while he planned his first move. He spent a year trawling the comedy circuit, admiring people like Jack Dee, Nick Hancock, and Eddie Izzard, but also encouraged by the relatively low standard of some of the other acts. So he put together some scripts and rehearsed them walking round the park.

'I must have walked about three hundred miles,' he says. 'In the end the dog was saying: 'No, I don't want to go for a walk. It's boring. I've heard it all before'.'

When he felt ready, he booked an open spot at the Comedy Store. He had to sweat for a month. He warmed up on the night with two friends and was told 'Sorry, we're double booked. You can't do it'. 'So I went away and didn't do it for another year,' he says.

He eventually made his debut at the Comedy Cafe. 'I died. I went home very encouraged that I'd done it, and wrote five minutes of material that stayed in the act for about two years.' He got his first booking from his next open slot.

And how did his parents react to him leaping into the uncertain world of comedy with such success?

'They're great,' he says, 'very supportive and totally unfazed. When I phoned up and said 'Mum, I'm doing a 52-date national tour with Eddie Izzard]'. She said 'That's nice, dear. How are you?' '.

His best material covers the minutiae of domesticity. Washing up, laundry and ironing are as rich in universals as any sphere of human endeavour. He is also not above simple ridicule, witheringly applied to anomalies such as the British Winter Olympics team.

Previous Perrier winners include Frank Skinner and Harry Hill, both now regulars on TV. But Holland has his feet on the ground for the moment, still anxious about his Edinburgh show, starting tomorrow.

I asked him what he would like his epitaph to be, and he thought about it carefully.

'Comic genius?' I prompted.

'Great dad,' he said.

What a nice man: kind to animals, doesn't like to offend, nice to his mum. He even does voluntary work during the day.

Of course, it could all be an act. He does have a degree in marketing, and his steady job before stand-up was as a sales rep. Has he just spotted a gap in the market for an overtly nice comedian? Saint Palin doesn't do stand up, Mark Lamarr defends the nasty end of the spectrum, and most of the others mill about the middle ground, swearing about gynaecological issues.

But something about the story rings true. God's always had a soft spot for the meek, and it looks like this one's about to inherit the Earth.

Pleasance (venue 33), 60 The Pleasance (031-556 6550), Edinburgh 8pm, 11 Aug-3 Sept (not 15, 23 Aug, 1 Sept). National tour from Sept

(Photograph omitted)