The Spotlight on … Dane Baptiste

Introducing another comedian making waves on the circuit, Dane Baptiste, who tells LiF about his ‘Chris Rock-Genghis Khan approach to comedy’

dane_baptiste1Where in London do you live?
Hither Green, a leafy-ish (sprinkled with canine faeces) suburb that borders Lewisham central, Catford, Eltham and Blackheath. The mix of culture, class and race, and being raised as a 2nd-generation immigrant to Caribbean parents who grew up in the north, provided all the love, adolescent angst and social isolation observational comics/high-functioning alcoholics need as inspiration.

How long have you been gigging for?
Three years, although I’ve been using humour as a defence mechanism and a crutch since I was about 5 years old, so I’d say I’ve been performing comedy for strangers and acceptance with little financial reward for 20 years.

What do we need to know about you?
You need to know that my comedy is genuinely a summary of not only my experiences, but those of people around me. I’ve grown up without ever having a comfort zone, so I create one on stage by making sure the detail in my observations has level of relativity with my audience.

I’ve been to school with people that bring replica guns and replica figurines in their bags. I’ve seen gang mentality from postcode gangs and Cub Scout patrols, and seen the icy cold stare of a young triad take the life of another – in Dance Dance Revolution in Trocadero. Some of my friends would never be in the same room with my other friends, so I hope my style of comedy will unite them all and society on a larger scale, F#ck them if they don’t like it. It’s a Chris Rock-Genghis Khan approach to comedy.

What do we not need to know about you, but you’re going to tell us anyway?
Stephen King is a big influence on my comedy as the live adaptations of his horror stories in the 90s ensured that I spent many a night sleepless in reflection; so as to prevent murderous clowns and goblins from getting me. Also I am 98.2% positive that my household was one of the first in London to have a Nintendo Entertainment System.

What would you like to achieve most in your comedy career?
To bring a new perspective to black/urban/British/whatever comedy that revives interest in the artform – and to create a whole new set of stand-up comedy fans. Basically I want to be Bruce Lee, but with comedy. There’s less exercise involved. That, and being one of the best comics of my generation. And world peace. And maybe to be the compere at the world peace ceremony.

What one thing about comedy do you wish people had told you before you started it?
I wish people WOULDN’T tell me how fun and lucrative comedy used to be; I sometimes feel like I’m an industrial jinx, the way people are always like: “You should have been here 5 years ago!”

What do your family think of your act?
The feedback is genuinely good, They’re a very critical bunch; I don’t have a “chase your dreams” family, I have a “don’t have your dreams embarrassing us and yourself” family.

What’s your favourite bit of your material at the moment?
I have a little rant about the younger generation, which is really a satire of my own generation, who are convinced that they are the apex of human civilisation, and we really, really aren’t. But you’ll have to see it for yourself.

Who makes you laugh?
A lot of people. My USP is being able to play urban and mainstream circuit gigs without changing or tailoring material, and I think I’ve been able to do that because of the other acts that I’ve worked with, who are very diverse themselves. Guys like Foil, Arms and Hog, Josh Howie, Tom Webb, Harriet Kemsley, Johnny Cochrane and Inel Tomlinson (I was a sketch writer on their TV series), Nabil Abdul Rashid, Ola, Darius Davies, Junior Booker, Celia Pacquola, David Mills, Nico Yearwood, Kojo, Jamie Howard, Funmbi, Paul Sweeney, Scott Adams, Prince Abdi, Eric Lampaert, Andrea Hubert, Slim, Joey Page … So many people.

Do you have a secret talent?
I have a talent for remembering obscure seldom-known 80s/90s American cartoon themes, which is a good conversation starter at house parties, long car journeys and circles where dutchies are passed to the left-hand side.

If you were to appear on a chat show as a guest, what would be your walk-on music?
A Death Row Freestyle by Notorious B.I.G. that showed his ability to adapt in a seemingly opposite hostile and world – and also the line where he says, “Hanging with the b#tches don’t pay the bills and being broke and 30 give a ni99a the chills.” It’s poignant to my life (I’m still broke-ish at the time of writing).

Describe your dancing.
Fred Astaire meets The Fresh Prince of Bel Air wearing clean underwear.
If you’d like to take your interest in Dane to the next level, follow him on Twitter here’s a clip of him in action …

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