Dane Baptiste : "Comedy really can be the best medicine"
Alice Gee | 19/9/2021
Joining me over Zoom is, multi-award winner , comedian, podcast presenter, and general all-rounder Dane Baptiste, to speak about his smash hit comedic show The Chocolate Chip and his experiences with mental health. As we fall into conversation, Dane talks to me about how his frustrations surrounding the state of our world has helped form not only his hit tour at London’s Soho Theatre but also BAMOUS, his unashamed and provocative hit show centred on NASBLAQ, a mythical stock index for black and famous talent.
With the UK having just started to make moves post COVID we chat not only about the excitement of being able to get back to some form of normality but also about the worries and concerns we amongst others have. “As a kid, I was a real overthinker I would of been going mental about the current situation we find ourselves in.”
Similar to me, Dane’s concerns following what we learned from the pandemic and our way of life, flow into our conversation “I hope from the pandemic, that people hope or realise that you don’t have to live to work and you can survive if you can stay at home or work from home at a different pace. We live in a world where when people get their paycheck every month, the larger part of it goes towards rent, accommodation, and travel to a place of work, leaving so many to struggle. People need to readjust themselves and that’s one of the things that is supposed to come from this time of horror. Hopefully, we can turn to some sense of normalcy, because people lack routine and stability, especially with what people are used to having in this part of the world. My biggest concern as a very careful optimist is that things aren’t going to go back to the way they were before, which wasn’t working. But I feel like people should understand you can’t go back to that, we can’t go back to what wasn’t working.”
Having had to postpone The Chocolate Chip due to COVID, the two-week success is back in London, unfiltered and unapologetic to tackle difficult topics from a witty perspective. Having grown in profile considerably over the pandemic I wanted to know how this has impacted the show whilst it’s been postponed and him personally. “It was rewarding to see a very big increase in profile over 2020. But, I’ve been trying to say this for years, particularly in comedy, there’s a lot of validity that should go towards the critics and those performing in comedy who won’t play down the themes that were discussed.”
One of the things I love about Dane’s approach is he isn’t here to avoid the uncomfortable or to sugarcoat the reality. Ultimately he endeavours to avoid the BS involved, “I don’t believe in the whole idea of scaling it back. I don’t think that does any good. Don’t get me wrong I’ve tried it, but I can’t do it. It’s just not who I am, It’s very tongue in cheek which I think generation Z are responding to. I’m looking forward to the comeback, some things are a lot punchier, whilst some things still walk that tightrope, really pushing the show to the edge. I think that’s a big part of that what I discussed in my material, I don’t consider what I do to be particularly edgy, it is just making honest observations about the world that I can see. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve started to do some small gigs here and there and I’ve just been testing out that material. It’s gotten a very good reception, and I’m thrilled”
With Dane back on the stage with his UK tour rescheduled in October, I ask how he’s found himself keeping busy throughout lockdown with most of his work being at a standstill.“I’ve been supplementing a few things for the world of live work. We’re doing some zoom calls and recording my podcast series ‘Dane Baptiste Questions Everything’. So it’s been fun recording the podcast, embracing the new ways of contacting audiences through live stream and zoom. I’ve been enjoying learning a new skill of being able to perform down the lens of a digital camera.”
Having captured an active audience I wondered what’s been a pinnacle point from producing not only an in-demand show but his podcast. “What was particularly significant was a lot of the positive feedback from a lot of my black predecessors, who were like, you know, dang, this is amazing.”
Mental health and comedy are something I’ve always found interesting. As a. platform that creates joy in the good. and the bad, I’ve always been curious about the perceptions surrounding not only the content but also the comedians behind it and the stigma and stereotypes surrounding their job.
Something I imagine has its difficulties is that some expect them to be upbeat and funny finding light in everything all the time. Dane tells me it certainly is the case that many comedians have experienced this at some point in their careers and that at times it can be a difficult ideology to deal with. “It can be difficult, there most certainly can be repressed emotionally. I always tell myself that that’s ok as long as I can reference it. What’s great is when I may not have the tools or the words to articulate a certain emotion finding a comedic outlet can be great, comedy really can be the best medicine. You know all people say if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry and it is true but it’s important to note the sense of being happy all the time. Being able to laugh about something further down the line is a great part of our rationalisation process and our healing process but it’s a balance. I would never assume that comedians are funny offstage because of how they behave on stage, especially because given the year we’ve had. Many of us are observational comedians, and seeing the world around you can be rough, I’ve most certainly not dealt with the intensity of some of the issues emotionally but I use the darker thoughts or experiences or traumas that I observe or think of in my head to offer a method of coping, that helps people to rationalise it.”
I find it an interesting and almost a noble endeavour for so many to flip the darkness of reality into an outlet of laughter, and although I’m sure it has moments of overwhelming weight, as we’ve seen from so many comedians who suffer from their mental health, it can be seen as one of the most wonderful gifts one could give in a world with some many problems and difficulties to overcome. The power of laughter truly has and always will be a way to heal.