The Penguin Q&A: Dan & Phil

Youtubers and BBC Radio 1 hosts Dan and Phil on being entertainers, their favourite books and Mary Berry's cakes


What is your earliest reading memory?

Dan: The first book I remember being read was actually the original Winnie-the-Pooh. That yellow bear has had a lot of influence on my life; mainly years of bullying for having a 'posh voice' because I said things like 'oh bother'.

Phil: I remember being obsessed with Point Horror and Goosebumps! I’d read them under the covers when I was meant to be asleep and then have horrific nightmares about evil clowns.

When did you know you wanted to write?

Phil: We both do a lot of writing for the content we make on YouTube or the radio, and I used to write short horror stories as a teenager. I don’t know if we ever thought our writing would be published!

Dan: For The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire we were just sat one afternoon thinking about this 'world of Dan and Phil' on YouTube, the future and the fleeting nature of existence, and decided we needed to make the ultimate celebration of Dan and Phil and our audience. We decided that would be a book!

What are your influences/inspirations?

Dan: For this book, we really wanted to make a celebration of our YouTube videos, adventures and the community we’ve formed with our audience, so it was all about reflecting that.

Phil: I get inspired by my own awkward encounters in life! If anyone’s had a bad day then they can hopefully laugh at my unfortunate situation with a stuffed badger. (Don’t ask).

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Books and authors you’ve loved include:

Phil: I’ve read loads of Stephen King. I love his short stories; I’d recommend The Jaunt for a really creepy one.

Dan: I keep trying to convince Phil to read the Millennium trilogy. Stieg Larsson’s characters are incredible.

What are you reading (or re-reading) at the moment?

Dan: I’m on a bit of a Young Adult kick after reading Paper Towns. I’m currently reading the Maze Runner trilogy (as I’m mildly infatuated with Dylan O’Brien).

Phil: I’m about to read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I loved the anime Sword Art Online, and I need something to fill that gap.

Who is your favourite fictional character and why?

Dan: I love Samwise, the unappreciated hobbit.

Phil: Buffy the Vampire Slayer! She fought demons and survived high school at the same time! What a hero.

Which fictional character would you like to go out drinking with and why?

Dan: I’d say poor old Professor Snape [from the Harry Potter series]. Someone to pat him on the back and tell him that one day everyone will appreciate what he did, y’know?

Phil: Probably Smaug [from The Hobbit]. He’d have enough gold for some fancy cocktails.

Which fictional location would you most like to visit and why?

Dan: Most fictional universes are terrifying, dangerous dystopias. Magic? Dinosaurs? No thanks. I’m happy sipping a tea by my laptop.

Phil: The Pokémon world! I’ve always wanted a Pikachu.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party and what would you serve?

Dan: Kanye West and maybe a cake with a picture of his face printed on it.

Phil: Mary Berry. I’d serve the cakes I asked her to bring. I want all the cakes.

Not many people know this, but I’m very good at…

Dan: Twisting my wrists all the way around: a disturbing and impressive party trick!

Phil: Remembering obscure celebrities and knowing what movies they were in.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Phil: Property shows! I’m all about the before and after; it’s like a drug to me.

Dan: High School Musical… Out of date memes… I’m not ashamed of anything I enjoy!

What do you always carry with you?

Dan: My phone. Sorry. I can’t live without the internet.

Phil: A cereal bar! You don’t want to see me hungry.


What moment in history would you have wanted to be present at and why?

Dan: A time in the vague future when everything awful and pointless stops.

Phil: Last week, with a handy set of six numbers.

How do you prefer to write – by hand, typing?

Dan: This will be a funny question to ask again in ten years. I don’t think I’ve 'written' things with a pen since I was at university. My handwriting is horrendous. Sorry, I’m a product of the cyber-age.

Phil: What is a pen?

Can you tell us about a problem you hit with one of your works and how you got around it?

Dan: During a video I made about a 'tour of my brain', I used a green screen to make invisible flaps opening in a cardboard brain. Being a doofus, I accidentally decorated parts of the brain in green, meaning I needed to do everything twice.

Phil: I spilled coffee all over my laptop around three-quarters of the way through my dissertation.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Dan: Light a scented candle and make the environment as clean and serene as possible.

Phil: I listen to some really quiet video game soundtracks with a huge mug of coffee.

How would you define the role of the writer?

Dan: As entertainers? I suppose it’s simultaneously the most pointless and important job in society. On the one hand we contribute nothing essential to its survival, but if you don’t enjoy life then what’s the point?

What’s the most useful piece of advice about writing you’ve been given?

Phil: If you are really not sure on something, don’t spend hours stressing out. Instead, have a sleep and look at it the next day.

The greatest sentence you’ve written so far?

Dan: 12-year-old Dan’s website – IfYouNoticeThisnoticeThenYouWillAlsoAnoticeThatThisNoticeIsNotWorthNoticing.

Phil: Hamsters are colour blind, so if Morpheus offered them a blue or a red pill they would probably just bite his hand.

How do you celebrate finishing something you’ve worked on?

Dan: Ordering a large pizza and deciding to feel slightly less guilty than usual.

Phil: Now I want pizza again!

And finally, what’s the question (and answer to the question) no one has ever asked you but you wish they would?

Dan: Q: In the end, was any of it worth worrying about so much? A: I dunno.

Phil: Q: Would you like this entire platter of cakes baked by Mary Berry? A: Yeah, go on then.

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