SS: You’re bringing your new show to the Liverpool Comedy Festival this week – give us a sneak preview
Doc Brown: It’s called Of Mic And Men and it’s an analysis of manhood, the more ridiculous side of manhood I would say, and becoming a man. How we view ourselves and how other people view us. It’s based on my own experience of attempting to become a man and failing miserably.
Stand-up and it’s a bit of a slog, you know, watching someone bang on about themselves for hours. Mine is more of a feature-length action movie, there’s a lot going on. Most of all it’s a proper Friday night show, you’ll feel like you want to dress up and get involved, there’s something for everyone. I’m going to keep it moving, full of energy and life and hopefully the audience will be too.
SS: How did a successful musical career evolve into a successful comedy career?
DB: Well, I got into music via the competitions; the first time I ever performed was in a kind of rap battle, competing for money. You make a little name for yourself and that’s what got me started – that was a long, long time ago.
I was in a band for some time with Mark Ronson. Before Version was an album – the very early performances of some of those really well-loved songs like Valerie with Amy Winehouse, Daniel Merriweather, Lily Allen, Santigold… it was a pretty impressive line up – and it got to a point where he didn’t really need me anymore, that was a kind of self-analysis moment: where do I go from here?
I think everybody wants to be the best at what they do and for me I was never really there, plus it was in a time that just preceded the insanity of internet promotion around 2005 and 2006. Obviously through the digital revolution things have moved very quickly and a lot of artists got left behind.
I sort of got left behind because I just wasn’t sure what I wanted anymore. I was drifting and at the end of 2007 I got a call from a mate of mine who used to work at Radio 1 and worked on this comedy/music show back in the day. He told me he’d started writing comedy and sitcoms, he’d written this vehicle for Lenny Henry and he asked me to look at the script and see if there were any lines I might be able to tweak and make funnier or more realistic – I don’t know why he thought I could do it!
But I made a few tweaks, they liked them, they ended up hiring me for the whole series. Then, bringing in the performance skills, it just eventually evolved into stand up and here we are.
SS: What’s your favourite comedy form?
DB: I think it’s definitely sitcoms. I grew up watching them, I didn’t ever really watch stand-up. Probably Porridge is my favourite but there I liked all of Chris Morris’ stuff, Armando Iannucci; Partridge and The Day Today and The Thick Of It. I just love the subversion of dialogue in sitcoms, you know, stand-up is monologue and that is entertaining for a lot of people but personally I find it a bit trying, which is a weird thing to say as a stand-up! I love people aping normal conversation and twisting it so it becomes hilarious.
SS: What’s the reality of being a comedian on the circuit these days?
DB: I was born on the circuit, you know, and you don’t develop an hour of strong material that you can tour on your own without spending years on the circuit and that’s what I did. Since 2008 I’ve been grafting in clubs, dying on my arse.
SS: What’s your best death story?
DB: I had a real shocker the night after I was at Wembley. I’d been at Wembley on the Wednesday night, doing a gig for Comic Relief and I was on after Paloma Faith, Russell Brand introduced me, I’m performing in front of 80,000 people and on television! Then the next night I was at a place called the Tabernacle in Notting Hill and it was another charity gig, for human rights lawyers.
I came on after a dude had done a 40 minute speech about human rights abuses around the world – really dark, really depressing, obviously very righteous. Then he just walked off and the organisers said: “Right, now you go on. So I steeled myself and I went to walk up to the stage and suddenly I hear “Dinner is served!” and these waiters came out with food. I had to say “I’m going to entertain you for the next 20 minutes,” and people were like, ‘Shut up! I’m trying to eat!”
It was just, initially indifference and then just anger, so I put the mic back in the stand and just shuffled back off stage. But it was nice in a way – it goes to show you’re never above a horrific death.
Doc Brown: Of Mic And Men