TV Critic Morgana Chess looks at Panorama's documentary Weinstein: The Inside Story, as it offers a glimpse into an industry that failed so many womenWritten by Morgana Chess on 23rd March 2018
Dane Baptiste: Comedy and Sunny D
Paige Tracey discusses race, careers and fame with comedian Dane Baptiste ahead of the premiere of his new show, Sunny D.
Though not quite a household name yet, recognition of Dane Baptiste’s comedy stylings is certainly set to increase. With the pilot for his new show Sunny D hitting BBC 3 in the Autumn, Britain may have just found its answer to Dane’s biggest idol, Chris Rock. Dane plays himself in a show surrounding the frustrations of living in his parent’s box room, which he shares with his mum’s cleaning equipment. Though it is not clear how much of Sunny D is strictly biographical, its content is sure to be borne out of the many struggles Dane has faced growing up. As he chats to me from across the phone in his native East London, he provides a true snapshot of life in urban Britain. Apologising for the sound of people fighting in the background, my interview with the former Live at the Apollo comedian is one that is raw and unabridged.
Baptiste elaborates on an interview he previously gave to The Guardian, in which he exclaimed “if we lived in an equal society, I wouldn’t have to do comedy". “If I was asked what equal opportunity I would like as a black male,” Dane explains to me, “it wouldn’t be comedy. People may say that I’ve obviously had the opportunity to do stand up for a living, but essentially that was something the circumstances of my life forced me into. I’d rather just be treated equally in society as a whole, and have the opportunities any normal person wants: equal employment, equal treatment by law enforcement and good access to medical care. Comedy would never have been a full-time priority or job for me if there weren’t these other barriers I have had to face. I’d much rather being doing stand-up as a hobby, in addition to having a stable job with a good income and a house of my own".
“I’d rather just be treated equally in society as a whole, and have the opportunities any normal person wants
It’s clear that life’s curve balls, particularly in relation to race, are what drives Dane to take to the stage. “As my dad always says, everyone has a story to tell. My cousin had a normal car and he was never stopped by the police. Then when he bought a nice car he was stopped four times by the police. They said to him (and I quote) “how does a boy like you drive a car like this?” It really frustrates me, as stories like that show we are still not completely equal in terms of race in this society. My cousin earnt that car, he worked hard to pay for it, yet there’s still this suspicion surrounding black people. No one ever questions how the 1% obtain their wealth, even after its been shown they don’t always do so completely legally! So I definitely use comedy as a way to rationalise problems and frustrations like that. So much of my material uses social commentary; if there was no inequality in society, I’d have nothing left to talk about. In a world without racism, my comedy would be obsolete.”
“In a world without racism, my comedy would be obsolete
I can sense Dane hasn’t strayed far from his humble beginnings. Upon my asking of when he believes he rose to prominence, he brushes the question off with a laugh. “I definitely don’t think I’ve rose to prominence yet! I definitely wouldn’t claim to be on that level. If I had to pinpoint what moment changed the path of my career, I’d say the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards, where I won best newcomer. I mean, I don’t even know what you’d define as famous anymore. Some “famous” people are millionaires; others are out on the streets drinking! (in reference to reality shows like Geordie Shore). However, I’d never want it to mean anything more profound than me being an entertainer, and making people laugh".
While Sunny D will soon be released, Dane will also be continuing his already successful “Reasonable Doubts” stand up tour. He brings the show to the Birmingham Glee Club on November 25th, along with plenty of other dates in the Midlands. “Obviously I’d love people to come along”, says Dane. “If people like Chris Rock’s kind of humour, they will enjoy it. Obviously I don’t imitate Rock; I have my own style. However as well as being funny, his comedy is often very poignant. I want to take that, and bring to light many issues that we have here in the UK as well as the US, but which we don’t always acknowledge. I want my show to break down taboos, I believe there should be no taboos in comedy. A lot of my peers will say “I can’t talk about this in my act, because I’m not this,” but you limit yourself so much as a performer! Being able to emphasise with people, and see the world outside of what’s below your nose; that’s what makes you truly excel as a comedian. That’s what I hope to deliver on my show and in my tour".
Sunny D launches on BBC3 in September.