We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Conor McCabe
danger is everywhere

'I was afraid of everything': How being a scaredy cat led David O'Doherty to pen books for children

We chatted to the comedian and illustrator about their new book. / YouTube

“I’M PIPPA O’CONNOR and this is my husband, what’s your name?”

When you interview a comedian, you prepare yourself for jokes. So when sits down with David O’Doherty and illustrator Chris Judge to chat about their latest book, Danger Really is Everywhere: School of Danger, we have prepared for a bit wackiness.

Only perhaps we didn’t expect getting to watch O’Doherty pretend to be blogger Pippa O’Connor, while roping in Judge to play her husband Brian Ormond.

“Brian and I discovered the secrets of living beautifully and I just thought I’d share them,” says O’Doherty – er, we mean Pippa – of his book.

“You know what I mean, like, people say it’s a book but I look at it more like – you know the ark from Raiders of the Lost Ark? Like that’s how big it is and if people look at it who aren’t qualified to learn those secrets, their faces melt off.”

A minute later, the pair have become Greystones brothers the Happy Pear.

“Well, as the Happy Pear guys we have delighted in bringing nutritious cooking to people,” says O’Doherty, as Judge flexes his muscles, “and also appearing in the nip a lot of the time really early in the morning on Snapchat or whatever – it’s just, I feel our civil duty really more than anything.”

And with that, they’re back as David O’Doherty and Chris Judge: comedian and illustrator, friends – not foes – and authors of a series of children’s books about an easily scared man.

Together, they’ve authored three books in the Danger is Everywhere series about a ‘dangerologist’ called Docter (sic – this guy didn’t go to any medical school) Noel Zone who’s scared of everything, and then some.


Scaredy cats

It turns out that under the jokes and japes, the origin of the Danger is Everywhere series lies in O’Doherty and Judge’s childhoods, during which they both admit they were absolute scaredy cats.

“I was scared of everything,” says O’Doherty. Judge, too, says he was of a nervous disposition. “My younger brother was really brave and I was a wimp,” he says. “So it was nice to meet another child scaredy cat.”

Noel Zone is “a part of both of us certainly, because he’s worried about everything”, says O’Doherty.

He is the person who’s going ‘don’t touch that, that could fall off the edge’ – but he’s taken that to the nth degree, like ‘don’t eat a sandwich on the loo because a shark could come out of it’.

Through Zone’s madcap adventures, where he imagines scary things like a snake shaped like a toothbrush, or a squirrel who steals credit card details, the pair are able to turn fear and anxiety into something that is, ultimately, quite preposterous.

Their books give different things to the reader, depending on their age. ”I feel if three four-year-olds read this book, they’re like ‘what, sharks that come out of the loo, agh’. But then once you start to develop that critical mindset when you’re probably about five or six, then you’re like’ oh this man is a wally’.”

Sharing fears

Vampire librarian (3)

For their live shows, they invite their young fans to share their fears too. Chris draws the illustrations while O’Doherty goes around the audience with a microphone, “Jerry Springer-style” chatting to them.

“We ask the audience always what are they scared of, and Chris draws pictures,” says O’Doherty. The fears have included sellotape and ladybirds.

“There’s something vaguely cathartic about saying these things out loud and then just basically mocking fear itself,” says O’Doherty.

He recalls a time when he helped a more scared person than him by removing a daddy longlegs from the family loo with a pint glass. “And I remember it being very empowering for a terrified kid to have one thing, to have that sort of perspective given,” he recalls.

We’ve tried to write loads of stupid jokes in a book, but I think there is a deeper thing of something about fear. So it was in the context of being terrified I thought it would be fun to write a book about a man who is even more terrified about everything than I was.

It’s also, says Judge, a way of noting that there are “stupid adults telling kids to be scared of everything as well”.

As a child, O’Doherty “had an obsession with the horrible death that I was going to have”. A brush with a basking shark on a fishing trip one summer, for example, was turned into Jaws by the time he was back in school.

The pair’s Irish childhoods presented them with some rather odd things to be afraid of.

For example, both men point out that they grew up in the era of moving statues. “It’s something that younger people don’t realise the psychological affect that had, I’m serious, on our generation,” says O’Doherty. “Because like it wasn’t even like it was a pokey documentary on it, it was on the news – it would be like ‘oh today another statue moved’.”

“We were about 11, just going ‘…what?’” recalls Judge.

“You know, everything we know about science, and physics, that’s all wrong because statues are magic, it turns out,” adds O’Doherty. “Just some blood came from a statue’s eye, not to worry.”

dr noel

Judge became absorbed in comic books as a young boy, paving the way for his illustrating career (he’s also responsible for the children’s book series The Lonely Beast), while O’Doherty, who has carved out a successful career as a comedian, fell for Roald Dahl and, later, the books of Flann O’Brien.

When writing their books, O’Doherty sends the full document to Judge, who then sets to work on the illustrations. What follows is a period of tweaking, editing and reworking as they meld the writing and illustration together.

The Danger is Everything series has picked up some incredibly dedicated fans. “People are coming to the readings sometimes dressed as the character,” says O’Doherty. “Then we’re experiencing that sort of William Shatner thing where people basically know more than us about it and are sometimes quite angry about the plot holes you could drive a digger through.”

Describes Judge: “‘There’s inconsistencies between book one and three’ – woah.”

“[I say] talk to Chris about that,” says O’Doherty.

Anaconda ruler (2)

Did they ever save each other from danger? “Chris used to be in a band and that was quite dangerous, so I like to think I saved him from a life in rock and roll… writing children’s books. I’m so sorry,” says O’Doherty.

Judge shrugs. “I could have got electrocuted or… who knows.”

Certainly nothing worse than what Docter Noel could dream up. / YouTube

Read: David O’Doherty got trapped in a Dublin venue last night, and had to ask Twitter for help>

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.