Dane Baptiste: Citizen Dane @ Pleasance Courtyard
It’s interesting watching someone's first show. Dane Baptiste’s Citizen Dane is the straightest comedy I've seen in my deluge of Fringe shows. No props, no characters, except for the odd impression. The usual standup terrain is crossed – family, relationships, childhood – but his low-key delivery makes for an excellent, earnest show, with his understated comedy investigating the modern immigrant experience in Britain. People so often rely on gimmicks to make themselves memorable at festivals, but Baptiste’s strength is his honesty of the awkwardness he feels in everyday life, but the community he feels in comedy.
Born to parents from the Caribbean, Citizen Dane is much about his childhood in England – how he felt left out because he wasn’t born into dysfunction, that he’s been riddled with neuroses that make him a natural comedian.
The strongest part of the show is recollections of his childhood, from camping with the scouts to never being allowed to bicycle, and a salty relationship with his twin sister. One particularly strong bit looks at the kids who grew up around him in single family homes who were given material things to be kept happy. “My parents gave me everything I needed,” he says, “but not everything I wanted.” While his friends would get new trainers and go to McDonald’s because their parents were alcoholics or getting a divorce, he could only see the lack of cool things in his young life – “Aww my parents will never get a divorce. They’re Catholics!” or, “My dad only drinks on the weekend…” – blind to the stability that family unit will provide. He taps into the implicit jealousy that every child harbours while also exploring light satire.
The show lags when he covers the generic territory of relationships and cheating, despite doing so through the lens of how Superman and Lois would deal with infidelity. But that’s one misstep in what is a very strong debut. The Fringe needs more comedians of colour – the overwhelmingly white programme doesn’t lack quality but it does lack perspective. Baptiste gives a much-needed political show that engages with and deconstructs diversity in Britain, and how that blend of being from here, but coming from there, gives an implicitly funny point of view for the modern age.