There aren’t all that many British writers that have had their moderately successful tale of a man taking on a weird and wonderful challenge, but mostly sitting around in his flat drinking tea, made into Hollywood movies.
But Danny Wallace is one such man. Yes Man was recently release with all the star treatment. Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel took the lead roles, both failing to break their stereotypes, Carrey pulling daft faces and making his character pretty unlikeable throughout, and Deschanel playing a two-dimensional love interest.
But even if the film was feelgood dross, with a cheesier ending than a packet of Wotsits, at least it brought the talent of Danny Wallace to the attention of the wider public.
Wallace’s stock has been gradually rising over the last few years. A drunk bet with a mate started his career in the public eye, after he challenged his friend Dave Gorman to find 54 other men called Dave Gorman. The pair’s tale then became a stage show, a book and a television series. Gorman and Wallace have since gone their separate ways, but Wallace’s career has gone from strength to strength.
His first solo venture into books came with Join Me, in which he starts his own collective (“it’s not a cult, it’s a collective” becomes the slogan) to avenge a failure of his uncle to start his own mini-society in Switzerland.
Join Me continued with the template laid by Are You Dave Gorman?, with Wallace travelling far and wide to try and persuade people to become Joinees to what was eventually dubbed the Karma Army. Joinees were instructed by Wallace to complete Random Acts of Kindness, starting with making an old man smile, and moving on to Good Fridays.
The charm of the book lay with Wallace’s boyish idiocy, coupled with his frequent laugh-out-loud moments of double entendres and faux-pas with the foreigners he comes across on his journey.
Wallace eventually reached his target of 1000 joinees after his friend Ian, who had ridiculed the project throughout, submitted his passport photograph to join. The Karma Army are still active, although Wallace now plays a more withdrawn role.
The idea for Yes Man stemmed from an unlikely encounter with a stranger on a bus, who told him that he should be open to more opportunities, that he should say yes more.
Wallace took the advice to heart, saying yes to everything and everyone, taking him on long, pointless trips and whistle-stop holidays. The book brimmed with vitality, similar to cult 70s book The Dice Man in that the next chapter could take Wallace anywhere depending on what opposrtunites presented themselves to him. It was that ramshackle nature that persuaded Hollywood to sit up and take notice.
Wallace since moved into television, presenting various programmes including Castaway and Horizon.
His third book Friends Like These was published last year and sees him trying to track down 12 old school friends who were listed in an old diary. The tale is tinged with sadness after he finds one of his old friends has since died, but also with great joy, as Wallace reacquaints himself with his best friends from his youth.
Wallace is a special talent. His books have that rare ability to make you guffaw out loud in public, while also having the page-turning quality of a thriller. But Wallace is also capable of tugging on the heart-strings. It all makes him a versatile writer, and one of Britain’s brightest talents.
[This article was originally written solely for my University final project Buzz, but was later published in both The Wear and on InJournalism]