Understanding Julia Davis' dark humor from 'Nighty Night' to 'Sally4Ever'

When talking about the acclaimed legendary comedian Julia Davis, the most common question asked is where does she source her dark humor from?


                            Understanding Julia Davis' dark humor from 'Nighty Night' to 'Sally4Ever'

Three episodes of the newest lesbian sitcom 'Sally4Ever' has established British comedian Julia Davis as the ultimate queen of dark comedy and it's not like we did not know that before, cue — her introductory character of anti-Heroine Jill Tyrell in 'Nighty Night' in 2004. But with the latest creation of Emma, the 52-year-old has unleashed one of the most monstrous comedic characters in the history of Davis' villains. It did not even take three episodes to realize that Emma (played by Davis), who first comes in as a relief helping Sally (played by Catherine Shepherd) and sharing a moment of ecstasy on the dance floor, is actually an abusive narcissistic individual, even more so than Jill, who uses her husband's cancer diagnosis as an excuse to seduce the husband of her multiple sclerosis-suffering neighbor.

When talking about the acclaimed legendary comedian Davis, the most common question asked is where does she source her dark humor from?

In 2004's interview of Davis, she is pretty specific that her glandular fever, that caused her to spend two years in bed at home in Bath, made her introspect her life and "think about God and life and death and why, and stuff that maybe at 20 you shouldn't."

Julia Davis attends the Sky Women In Film & TV Awards at London Hilton on December 2, 2016, in London, England. (Getty Images)
Julia Davis attends the Sky Women In Film & TV Awards at London Hilton on December 2, 2016, in London, England. (Getty Images)

Going through her other previous interviews, the comedian and actress also candidly speaks about her battle with depression, mainly sprouting from self-esteem issues as her field of work demands a certain type. Speaking to the Guardian, prior to the premiere of the second series of  'Nighty Nighty' in 2004, she explains that her personality "is prone to being depressive, dark and extreme."

Then in 2010, she tells the same publication that she still gets suicidal thoughts but the only difference is she has other people to think about now, mainly her twin sons. The comedian also confessed that she is against the idea of going for therapy because you're actually paying someone when they don't really care about you. "They're not listening in the way that someone who loves you does," she says. 

Now in 2018, Davis still holds "pain" close to her heart because that's where a portion of her comedy comes from. "There is something underneath comedy that is serious and if you flipped it round, it’s serious which is maybe why some people don’t like it because it’s so... painful,” she tells RadioTimes.

Add to that, motherhood has not diluted her dark sense of humor, it has only monitored the shows she watches.

"The only thing that's changed for me is what I watch. For example, 'Don't Look Now' used to be one of my favorite films, but I can't watch it now because there's a child dying," she says, adding; "Someone asked me then if my humor had changed since I'd become a mother and I said no. I wasn't meaning that I found dead children funny, of course, but I don't think for a second that my humor was going to change because I had kids."

Julia Davis plays Emma in 'Sally4Ever' opposite Catherine Shepherd as Sally
Julia Davis plays Emma in 'Sally4Ever' opposite Catherine Shepherd as Sally

Understanding Davis's dark humor has a lot to do with understanding her life and her perspective of it. Julia Charlotte L Davis was born in Bath in 1966 and went on to study English and drama at York University, and unlike her violent fantasy dramas, her upbringing was rather stable. "There is a vein of violence in everything I do," says Davis in the same interview. "I don't know, I really don't know," she answers to the question of where her dark sense of humor comes from. "It's certainly not my parents. My mum's not violent, and my dad is a really sweet, kind man. It must be from some emotional violence I've seen."

Her keen sense of observation must also be credited to finding dark remarkable humor. "I look at people all the time," she tells Guardian in 2010. "I was in Liberty the other day, meant to be writing. I saw these two blokes with their girlfriends — one of whom was this young Japanese girl who didn't speak much English. This guy was obviously so chuffed that he had her as a trophy he could show off and belittle. He was talking to her like a toddler and then started taking photos of the cream tea. I just thought, 'What the hell is that? What are you going to do with those photos? Put them on the wall?' I thought it would be good for some characters."

In her recent 2018 interview, she highlights that she observes people around her and continues to be shocked by their behavior. "I do see those people around and I continue to be shocked by their behavior and want to keep looking at it through a slightly different prism each time," she says. 

'Sally4Ever' premiered October 25 on Sky Atlantic and will premiere on HBO November 11. It was reviewed to be one of Davis' filthiest shows yet, with Emma being the latest comedy villain. The plot follows the story of Sally who has been married to David for 10 years but as their relationship hits rock bottom, Sally finds herself in a whirlwind romance with Emma, who bluntly confirms David’s deepest fear to his face that "She (Sally) hates you and she hates your penis."

While Jill definitely is one of the vilest comedy villains we know, followed by Davis' Fay from 'Camping', who is selfish and a nymphomaniac, Emma is already despicably monstrous by the third episode. We wonder how ruthless can she get because we still have four more to go.

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