2018 has been a busy year for comedian Darren Harriott although, with his Visceral tour starting in January along with a whole load of other things lined-up, it seems that 2019 isn’t going to be any quieter. However, as we found out when we spoke to Darren, life wasn’t always rosy.
Thanks for your time Darren. Can you tell us a little bit about the show you’re touring next year, Visceral?
“Sure, it’s about my early teen years and, because of my lack of a father, me and a few kids started this kind of a gang thing. We were influenced by what was on TV, characters we saw, that kind of thing. The show is a narrative about that period of my life so there is stuff about race, my upbringing, class and there is no politics in it. Every comedian has done that to death, Brexit, Donald Trump. The thing is that, I like to surprise people with my comedy but, this stuff, these comedians have such a hatred for Trump or Brexit that, it ruins the joke.”
You moved from Birmingham to London. How do you find life in London and how different is it to Birmingham?
“London is so fast-paced, it’s ridiculous. It’s like everyone has these goals that they’re going for. I’m actually in Birmingham right now and everything is so slow and chilled. I have to admit though that I am so a Londoner in my mindset. Even though Birmingham is seen as the second city, everything is calmer and more relaxed.”
“It took me a while to get used to living in London because it was the first time I’d lived on my own and not with my mum. I lived in a house with people but I generally kept myself to myself although I had a friend down here who I used to hang out with. The reason I moved here was for my comedy, I knew it was the place I had to be and it was something I had to do before I was 30. I had to get an agent and make something happen and I knew this was the place for it to happen because, back in Birmingham, because of my attitude and how I was seeing all these people having success, I knew that it would only happen if I went to London.”
Like you said, the show is about your time in a gang. What was that like and do you have any regrets?
“We were just 13 so it wasn’t a gang like you see nowadays. Basically we all loved So Solid Crew and wanted to be like them and have the attitude of a crew. We lived in Birmingham when it was the height of the gun crime and we’d go to the kind of parties that we had no business being at. It was all very silly, we didn’t sell drugs or anything like that and, to be honest, looking at it, anything could have happened to us.”
“I got out of it after I got beaten up by the other guys in the gang. When you’re being beaten up by your own gang, you know your time is up. I was about eighteen at the time and I took the path of comedy from there.”
Do you have any regrets about it?
“No, no regrets. Like I said, we never really did anything to have any regrets about. I came from a white area that was quite nice whereas the other lads they came from places like Handsworth and Smethwick which were poorer so it was almost nice for them when they would come to me. It wasn’t really like it is now, there are gangs of kids all over, they’ve all got their own postcode gangs and it’s all hateful. In our area at that time, there was only our little gang.”
How did you end up writing about that period of your life and do the other people involved know?
“I knew I wanted to do comedy when I was seventeen but I thought you had to be eighteen to play in pubs and stuff so I waited. I was always a funny kid and I saw that family was the way to go so I would do lots of jokes about my mum and stuff. I used to watch Def Com, Live At The Apollo, the Dave Chapelle shows. To be honest I haven’t really spoken to any of the other guys in years but I guess some of them must know that’s what I do because of the TV stuff. I think they’re the kind of people nowadays who, because of what they’re affiliated with, would probably not trust things like Facebook or Twitter and, if they did use them, they’d probably go under a different name.”
What are your favourite memories from your childhood?
“One of my favourite memories is about my dad and it involves the computer a Nintento which would be around 1996/1997. Both me and my brother wanted one and my Dad came home one day and he’d got one and he’d also got the James Bond game Goldeneye and we’d play that game all the time with him. That’s one of my favourite memories of him.”
What about comedy. We’ve talked about some of your favourite comedians but what made you want to go down that path?
“I was always quick-witted but it was always to hid the fact that I was pretty shy. I had a lot of insecurities as a kid, I was the fat kid, I had braces, that sort of thing. I made up for that by being loud and sharp-witted but, as you know, being funny in front of your mates is very different to being funny on stage. I did my first ever gig about twelve years ago almost to the day, it was December 14th and I heard a saying about comedy that you become trapped in it. You can get out but it will take over your life and, after that show it did. I would spend all my time on Myspace Comedy looking for gigs and I would read all the papers to find out what the gigs were. They’re right it does take over your life.”
Okay, moral dilemma time. If you found a wallet full of money but you found out the wallet belonged to someone you really disliked what would you do?
“Hmm.. I’d have to say I’d give it back to them. Three years ago it’s mine but now, I think I’ve had so much good stuff happen to me that I really believe in karma so I’d have to give it back to them. The thing is though, I’d still do it with a smug smile on my face saying like, I’m giving you this back and you really now have to be nice to me.”
Apart from the tour, what have you got lined-up for 2019?
“Oh there is loads of stuff. I’ve got a show on Radio 4 which is airing in April. I’ve got something for Comedy Central which is basically a bunch of comedians like Tom Allen where we going to where they live, it’s like a comedy travel thing which isn’t recorded yet but that’s coming up. I’ve got a thing called Hypothetical I’m doing with James Acaster, the tour and more live dates. I’m going to be trying out a new show for tour later in the year so it’s going to be a pretty busy year.”
Okay, good luck with the year ahead, just to finish. How would you sum up 2018 for you?
“I’d probably say busy and on brand and by that I mean that I’m not just a comedian now. People know my name. Yes, I’d say busy. This year is going to be just as busy and I will definitely have a long holiday this time next year. I’ll probably go to somewhere like Cuba before it gets things like a Starbucks and a Macdonalds. That will be the plan.”
TOUR DATES: JANUARY TO MARCH 2019
24th January Brighton: Komedia
https://www.komedia.co.uk/brighton / 01273 647100
26th January Liverpool: Hot Water Comedy Club
https://www.hotwatercomedy.co.uk / 07772 112344
1st February Birmingham: Glee Club
https://www.glee.co.uk / 0871 4720400
2nd February Bromsgrove: Artrix236
https://www.artrix.co.uk / 01527 577330
3rd February Manchester: Frog and Bucket
https://frogandbucket.com / 0161 236 9805
1st March Bristol: Hen and Chickens
www.henandchicken.com / 0117 966 3143
2nd March Swindon: Arts Centre
www.swindontheatres.co.uk/Online/ / 01793 524481
3rd March Colchester: Arts Centre
https://www.colchesterartscentre.com / 01206 500900
Tickets for all dates are available to buy via www.livenation.co.uk