I spoke to a chipper Dane Baptiste, surprisingly unweary of interviews in the run-up to his upcoming tour. “I’m happy to keep doing them until I’ve got a sold-out run” he jokes. Eloquently intellectual and relaxed, he doesn’t shy away from the hard topics, on or off stage. In the short time that we had, we talked about the nature of comedy, anger, dystopia and the state of the world.
“I focus on souls and consciousness,” he says, explaining his approach to comedy. “It’s about understanding a nuanced perspective, not adopting other people’s voices to speak for them”.
In the midst of his fourth stand-up tour, Baptiste has been on a run of success from the start. His 2014 debut ‘Citizen Dane’ landed him the nomination for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe. Since then he has become a familiar face on our TV screens, appearing on Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo, and Live at the BBC (available on Netflix) just to name a few, as well as writing and starring in the semi-autobiographical BBC Three sitcom, Sunny D.
His upcoming tour, The Chocolate Chip, tackles hot button topics, from alt-right politics to body image and mental health. “It’s about the rebellious move from millennials to discuss these topics, and in discussing them many millennials have been told that they have a chip on their shoulder with regard to mental health and identity politics. I have named that chip ‘Chocolate Chip’”.
As themes of the show suggest, there is a lot to be angry about. Baptiste has spoken before about anger being a logical response to the world around us. He says that comedy can be a form of catharsis and a space to rationalise these conflicts. “A lot of people are angry about access to universal healthcare, access to pensions, many things we’ve been promised. A lot has changed post-war. People are disenfranchised. We need to redraft the blueprints of society.”
His show also addresses the current discussion around trauma and the idea of race being left out of that conversation. “Acknowledgement is the first step,” he says when I ask him how the conversation needs to be started. “The Handmaid’s Tale raised a lot of questions about misogyny and made us examine current society. But really, it’s all historical. We need to look at dystopia and look at the events that lead to that, in our actual history.”
He delves into the idea of capitalist individualism and how this affects our ability to acknowledge our involvement. “People need to be open to listening”. He suggests it is capitalism that encourages us to think of ourselves as the individual first and foremost and to take things more personally. “It’s all about suspending your ego. I don’t pride myself on being a tolerant person, but I am always open to listening. People take things really personally. They don’t detach themselves from it”.
Baptiste feels there is space for this debate on social media but is aware of its pitfalls. “People’s spirituality is there, and they always try to convey that, but it gets skewed by social media”. He suggests that people forget how to express things due to technology, but there is an awareness of the feeling behind the words. “If there is anger there, it needs to be discussed. If it can be discussed face to face then that’s a positive. That’s what I want to do with the show – start a conversation”.
The Chocolate Chip tour will be coming to Leeds at The Wardrobe on Thursday 26th March.
Image Credit: Yoshitaka Kono