Exclusive: Dane Baptiste Talks ‘Bamous,’ Black Representation & More

Published: Thursday 28th Jan 2021 by Sam

Dane Baptiste has long commanded the laughs with his unbridled brand of comedy.

And he continues along said trajectory with new BBC show ‘Bamous.’

The provocative special is centred on the NASBLAQ, a mythical stock index for black and famous talent.

Baptiste, who is joined by a cast of up and coming comedians, explores the NASBLAQ through a series of stand-up routines, topical updates and sketches that will no doubt leave viewers in stitches.

That Grape Juice caught up with the comic, who opened up about ‘Bamous,’ Black representation in the media sphere, and much more.

That Grape Juice: You’re no stranger to sharing how you feel. With ‘Bamous,’ why this show at this time?

Baptiste: Because there is no time like the present; and our current times present a real need for a show that approaches the conversation about race relations and inclusions directly and unapologetically. Racism has been reduced as an issue in the United Kingdom much to our detriment and so really, ‘Bamous’ has been years overdue!

We have a rich history of Black talent and shows in the UK, many of which tend to be unsung. Tell us a little about your inspirations.

I’ve always had a number of inspirations; but I must definitely state categorically that we do not have what I would refer to as a “rich history” of black shows in the UK, despite the sheer amount of Black talent in this country. That being said, the slither of black talent I was able to observe that has been massively influential, includes:

The Real McCoy
Desmonds
Porkpie (The short lived spin off of Desmond’s when Porkpie won the lottery!)
The A-Force/Blouse and Skirt
3 Non Blondes
Cleopatra (Great kid’s show!)
Top Boy (even though it was obviously a drama, it’s one of the most accurate depictions of the subject matter I’ve seen)
Normski (The DJ and BBC2 host, he used to have the cartoon Aeon Flux before The Cosby Show came on)!

With shows such as ‘I May Destroy You,’ ‘Famalam,’ and ‘Small Axe’ making waves, some feel the tide is finally turning in a more positive direction. What’s your outlook on the position of Black talent in the media scape here in the UK?

I think that these aforementioned shows have provided new dimensions to the aesthetic of Black British life. Historically, black creatives have had to exist in very binary states of being perpetual adolescents obsessed with sex, crime and contemporary music (referred to urban during one of the worst times for creative expression for the diaspora) to being the warm, asexual, sassy romcom sidekick non-threatening black person based on the obsession of white people with Morgan Freeman types since ‘The Shawshank Redemption.’

The democratisation of voices/audiences as a result of the prevalence of social media has validated the need for and the acceptance of black creativity, and thus you’ve seen the face of music and art change accordingly. The power of influence of talented black and brown executives has proportionately increased while the range, nuance and shrewdness of black creatives has too so overall, the industry has changed ever so slightly for the better. But there is still much more to be done while British TV still has more shows about sponge cakes and robots.

You address the corporate response to the Black Lives Matter movement head-on. What authentic actions do you feel need to take place for optimal change to occur?

The most obvious and yet bizarrely most overlooked solution would be to address, dismantle and punish white supremacy in all its forms. The Black Lives Matter movement was the largest humanitarian protest seen on earth, and yet was criticised. Now, the very same BLM detractors have attempted a coup in America and the repercussions don’t seem to be any near as severe. The only way we can address the issue is with an initially tense and uncomfortable discussion with the entirety of humanity. We’re in the midst of a pandemic but racism is the real disease tearing us apart.

What do you want people to take away from ‘Bamous’?

That Black culture is nuanced, rich and diverse but is ALSO A PART OF BRITISH CULTURE and so should be celebrated together. And also that it’s absolutely hilarious!

What’s next for Dane Baptiste?

Hopefully more ‘Bamous’ as a series; and then continuing to work and create an inclusive landscape for comedy. And to be recognised as one of the best comedians of my generation!

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‘Bamous’ is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer.

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