Speaking to Dane Baptiste
From being the Independent’s ‘Face to Watch’ in 2015, to having a TV show commissioned by BBC3 this year, Dane’s style of charming satire and observational humour – focussing on the ridiculousness of modern life, as well as race and technology – is hard to resist.
The pilot for your show Sunny D is hilarious and was very well received. When can we expect to see more material, and what direction is the show going to go in?
The show has gone to series! A four episode season of Sunny D will be on BBC Three and BBC Two in June – The show will continue to chronicle the trials and tribulations of Dane juggling work, home, his brain and the ways I escape from all three.
The show is based in light-hearted self-deprecation and daily struggles. Are the stories based on your own experiences, or are you poking fun more generally at modern life?
The show is about my personal experiences, to an extent, but it’s also an attempt to capture the anger and angst of ‘generation rent’, the quarter life crisis, and the current state of a cash rich, time poor society. Modern life dictates you work and consume and breed, but what about what we all want?
You’ve gone from starting out on the comedy circuit to winning awards and acting on TV in record time. How did it feel when you first saw your own face on television? How do you react to being recognised?
I felt like how I imagine most artists and creatives do: fantastically awkward at the cringeworthy spectacle of seeing my oversized head bobbling on my disproportionate body in High Definition. Then it was okay. I’m okay being recognised every now and again, but living in London is almost a fail-safe, as the antisocial nature of the city is better than any disguise.
What made you first get into comedy? Have you always tried to make people laugh, or did you write creatively before moving into stand-up?
I think, personally, it has always been my way of rationalising things I found tragic, or frightening. Comedy was always the escape. Socially, it’s always been my defence mechanism from meeting new people, starting a new job, or talking to women. Also I liked the freedom of saying what I want, which I feel is a privilege not afforded to your layperson economically, politically or socially. So I relish the gift.
Who or what are you influenced by, whether inside or outside of comedy?
Outside of comedy, I would say anybody who does a job that stops society from regressing back to medieval times. So anyone who works in healthcare, social care, housing, sanitation or power, because as a travelling professional comic, I value good plumbing and access to water before and after a gig. Inside of comedy, I admire everyone working to maintain and further the art form who isn’t a conceited douche-biscuit.
You’ve spoken before about the role race plays in your act. Do you think that making humour out of racial issues can have a real effect on people’s existing prejudices?
I think it can. Once any issue is approached discursively it’s a good start. The thing with comedy and race is that jokes can always be at somebody’s expense, and it’s good etiquette to not punch down. I guess if I knew that if I had an equal chance of getting a mortgage, loan and benefit of the doubt legally, the need for jokes to rationalise that tragedy would be reduced.
What are your plans for the future?
Hopefully to be writing another season of the sitcom, and preparing for the 3rd Edinburgh show. Then return to the usual quest for world domination. And to have a fridge that can make ice, crushed and cubed.
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