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Comedian Dane Baptiste: Portrait of an artist and a businessman
THIS summer, acclaimed Hither Green comedian Dane Baptiste will take his debut hour-long solo show Citizen Dane to the Edinburgh Fringe. He's tipped for big things. Vibe's Jim Palmer went to meet him...
AS THE interview drew to a close, Dane Baptiste handed me his card. It’s a classy card but not what I was expecting from a comedian.
It’s indicative of the funny man’s dedication to his craft. Comics these days are self-employed one-man brands.
Dane graduated with a degree in business and went to work in media sales.
He said: “The reason I did it was because I was subconsciously gravitating towards comedy anyway. There are a lot of parallels in sales.
“A lot of the time you have to try to convince someone who doesn’t know you that you are someone they can buy into.
“There’s thinking on your feet and improvisation and meeting so many different people.
“I enjoy comedy because you are telling the truth, whereas in sales you do a lot of lying.”
After hitting a dead end professionally in 2011, Dane decided to pursue a burgeoning career telling jokes, which he had been doing outside of work since 2006.
He started with a comedy showcase in Camden.
He said: “From there I got a list of gigs and I have never looked back. I maybe did two or three gigs a week and I was working part time.
“It got to a point where it was just before my first Edinburgh fringe three years ago and I thought I need to go for this full pelt, so I gave it a try.”
The 32-year-old’s star has ascended quickly. With his tireless work ethic, he has risen from five minute slots to 20 minutes and is now preparing his first one-hour solo show, named Citizen Dane.
He has been tipped on just about every ‘one to watch’ list and nominated for best newcomer awards.
Dane said: “It’s the first time I have done a show. It’s not the same as pub sets. I’m trying to get my head around doing a narrative and a story arc and pulling it all together at the end.
“It’s like going from a single to an EP to an album. It has to be a lot more conceptual.”
The show is more autobiographical than Dane’s previous work, which is something he admitted was not something that came naturally to him.
He said: “It was difficult at first. It was more of a cultural thing.
“My parents are from Grenada and there is a sort of parallel with Victorian culture where you don’t talk too much about what you do.
“It’s more talking about myself to find empathy with the audience.”
Being relatable with the audience is key for any comedian and it is something which Dane takes seriously - again his business background has helped.
He said: “What companies and corporations do is spend a lot of their time and money analysing people’s behaviour and what they can exploit and manipulate to make profits.
“Moving into comedy you need to know how people think, how to manipulate them and their emotions as well.
“It’s not as sinister as it sounds when you’re doing comedy.
“The return on the investment is not to get money , but laughs.”
Rather than superstardom for its own sake, Dane is focussed on refining his art.
He said “In the next three years, I would like to have a very good, maybe an award-winning show which allows me to do a small tour and visit some festivals.”
He added: “If TV is the vehicle by which I find my fanbase, then I want to be on television.
“I’m not really concerned with the medium. It’s more the product.
“I don’t mind if I’m on television as long as what I’m doing on television still maintains the same intergrity.
“As long as I reach who I want to reach and say what I want to say.”
In order to get to that point, Dane has to treat comedy like a full-time job.
When he’s not writing and telling jokes, he is securing bookings, maintaining a presence with fans on social media, travelling the country and doing all of the unglamourous grafting necessary to get on stage.
He said: “You kind of have to think of yourself as a business.
“When it is tough, it can be quite a slog but if you get it right it is like any entrepreneurial venture – it is a labour of love.”
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