David O'Doherty & Chris Judge: 'There's a special bond when you've gone out with the same person: like you've fought in the same war'

The comedian and the illustrator/author met in 2001 in a nightclub in Dublin, and have collaborated on O'Doherty's 'Danger is Everywhere' series

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The Independent Online

David O'Doherty, 39

An Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning Irish comedian, O'Doherty (right in picture) has won a following for his whimsical musical comedy. He is a regular guest on TV panel shows and is also the author of the 'Danger is Everywhere' series of children's books. He lives in Dublin

I really liked the early 2000s – it's probably the coolest I've ever been, as I used to DJ at this condemned pub in Dublin. That's where I met Chris: he was in a band called the Chalets (though he had his illustration and video work, too), and he used to go to that venue.

As luck would have it, Chris lived in a house around the corner from me. I lived in a bedsit with no hot water while they had a big house with patio doors. I'd kill time while walking around, looking for killer ideas for jokes, by visiting them. They always had work to do: once they had two days to make a video for Super Furry Animals, but I'd still call over and stink up their downstairs loo.

We ended up doing a mixed-bill gig together – the comedian on first, the rock band after – at a local venue for New Year's Eve in 2003. I really wanted it to go well, but when you want that too hard you end up being eager and not funny. So I welcomed in the New Year by dying on stage. I don't think Chris was too impressed.

Then I dated his keyboard player, whom Chris had gone out with, too. There's a special bond between two people who've gone out with the same person and both been hurt: we talked about it over a few pints and it felt like two people who've fought in the same war and undergone massive casualties.

Chris being a rock star was not that great a fit. Even when he was in the band, his way of escaping the booze-soaked mayhem was to work on his illustrations: he always had a pad of paper with him.

 

I'd always wanted to write a book with him, but it took a while to pluck up the courage to ask. We met for a pint and I told him about this idea for seven-to-nine year olds, based around pointing out ludicrous danger, and he liked it. Working with another person is so different to doing stand-up, which involves a lot of navel-gazing, but I've been able to bounce ideas off Chris.

Going along to book festivals such as the Cheltenham Literature Festival was, for me, a little strange. We went to an event in an artist's tent there, and I remember glancing nervously around and seeing intellectual heavyweights like Salman Rushdie and Jeremy Paxman. But then [children's author] Michael Rosen came over to tell us that we needed to go outside as he wanted us to take part in a penalty shoot-out competition.

Chris and I take a lot of flights together now, for book readings. He's the sort of person who takes out in-flight magazines to draw pictures of vegetables on people's heads, or fill in crosswords with the wrong answers. He's got a creative nerd brain, which I love.

Chris Judge, 38

An illustrator and children's book author, Judge is best known for his picture books 'The Lonely Beast', which won the Irish Children's Book Award, and 'TiN', which was shortlisted. He has also collaborated with a number of children's authors as illustrator, including O'Doherty on his 'Danger is Everywhere' series. He lives in Dublin with his wife and son

We met in 2001 in a tiny nightclub in Dublin called the Thomas House. There was a guest DJ slot every week, and once a month David would have a go, playing soft-rock tunes by artists like Steely Dan, which he has a weakness for. And everyone was like, "Oh no, here we go with the bad music" – and they'd leave the dance floor for a drink.

I got to know him as we lived five minutes from one another. Myself and two friends from college had a four-bed house, and as we had all become freelancers, we always left the front door open, so that whoever lived in the area could come in and make tea. He'd just show up, make a pot of tea and entertain us for an hour or two, and break our toilet. Occasionally he'd show up with some oddball friends; one time he showed up with the Kiwi comedians Flight of the Conchords. It stopped us doing our work – but those three years were a great time to forge friendships.

I saw some of his very early stand-up: this crazy, shaggy-haired guy with his tiny keyboard, on the same bill as Dara O Briain. I was in a band at the time – the Chalets – and we went off on tour all over Europe and the States while he started playing up in Edinburgh. So for a period of a few years, while his star rose quickly, I went from seeing him in person on a daily basis to suddenly seeing more of him on TV shows such as QI.

I loved being in a band, but when I hit 30, I thought, 'I don't think I can do the day-to- day [slog].' I remember David saying to me, "I think, secretly, you'd prefer to be at home, sitting in front of the telly drawing animals." He was right – and I'm happy now.

When he arrived on the idea of Danger is Everywhere, I thought it was brilliant and it suited my style. We'd meet up, go through illustrations and have a laugh coming up with ideas together. I think we have an amazing dynamic few authors and illustrators have, as we were friends first. Rather than dancing around, we can say what we think.

One of the best pieces of advice I've had from him was years ago, when he was talking about stand-up and all these local [Irish radio] panel shows that he could have been on and got his name out there. But he said, "It's better to go slow and steady. Don't rush into it." It's the same thing I say now to young illustrators: go slow and develop your style.

'Danger is Still Everywhere' by David O'Doherty and Chris Judge (£7.99, Puffin), is out on 6 August

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