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I TALK TO Darren Harriott

"The only thing I've really got as a comedian is honesty."


Darren Harriott is one of comedy's brightest talents and if you've switched on your TV at all in the last 12 months you're bound to have seen him, a level of exposure that's rare for someone about to take their third show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.


But as I talk to Darren Harriott about the successes of the past year, the topics he's banned from this year's show he reveals how he is already considering giving up stand-up.


How was last year for you?


Last year was fun but to be honest, I felt like my show got a little bit slept on. No one seemed to be talking about the message in my show and what I was talking about. But then again, maybe I was comparing it to my first show which was obviously my debut and got me nominated.


I feel like I came to Edinburgh with a better show last year, I felt like I'd improved, I learnt how to play the Fringe a little bit better but no one seemed to be talking about it. Maybe everyone feels that way, I don't know. But look I'm just going to try and keep pushing forward. I enjoyed it, I loved the room which is why I'm back there this year.


Overall I was very proud of the show and it's one of those shows that I've been pretty sad to say goodbye to. Luckily I've been able to tour it and have bled it dry! I've done bits of it on telly, I've done bits on sketch shows, in my Radio 4 series - I have used everything I could use from that show. The show has lived.


You might feel like your show was slept on, but lots of TV opportunities appear to have come your way ever since?


It's been crazy to be honest. I've done lots of TV stuff, love doing the panel shows and stuff, but what I was really excited about was my Radio 4 series Black Label which goes out in July. The first episode is about my family, episode two is about being in a gang and school, episode three is about me being a bouncer and the final episode is about moving to London and what that's been like.


It was recorded in front of a live audience and was lots of fun. It went down really well and if you look at me you think "This guy's not Radio 4" but we've made it work and it's something that I'm really proud of.


How have you found writing this year's show?


It's definitely been more difficult because the first thing I ask myself is "What do I not want to talk about?". This time around I decided that I didn't want to talk about my dad, I'm done with that. I didn't want to talk about my childhood and gangs and school, I'm done with that as well.


What can people expect from the show?


I knew that with this show I wanted to be more free and have a bit more fun. I wanted to be more outward with this show but already with the previews I've noticed that I'm starting to go all inward again. We're getting very inward but I know that I am definitely having more fun and there are no typical overly sad points where at 40 minutes you say something like "...and that was when I realised that I was lactose intolerant." and the curtain comes down and you take your shoes off!


I just wanted to have more fun this year because people see me on the telly and when you come and see me live, I want you to experience that energy I bring on TV in a live show for an hour. I'm slowly building a following which I hope continues to grow and people who come and see me now might not me coming necessarily for my comedy credentials but because they've seen me on telly.


So I feel that extra bit of pressure now to give people what they've paid for and deep down I want people to have a good time. I want people to enjoy what I do.


Why have you've called this year's show Good Heart Yute?


The only thing I've really got as a comedian is honesty. My own level of honesty, my own thoughts, no one else can really take that. Sometimes I get honest to the point where it can be a little bit uncomfortable but deep down I'm a good person, I have a good heart.


I like my off stage personality to be the same as my on stage personality. With some comedians there's a big switch, it's like night and day.


The overall theme, if there is a theme is that I've never been in love. That's it. But it's not coming from a place of "Oh my God, I've never been in love! Why haven't I been in love?" - for me, I'm fine with it. I have no problem with it.


I'm almost at the point where I look at people in love and go "What are you doing you loser?" WHy would you give yourself up to people like that? Like them. Liking people is fine.


What are you most looking forward to about the Fringe this year?


I'm really excited that as my career grows, people are starting to come because they know who I am for the first time. I never felt that before, I always felt like people were there because they were flyered but now they recognise me as that guy from whatever the show might be.


It's going to feel different doing the show this year and it's a nice feeling. I remember when I did the first show in The Attic and I just wanted to have a good show, that was it. It was a good show and it really worked out for me.


And then last year I felt the pressure because of the nomination the year before but this year I don't feel that same type of pressure because ultimately a lot of the people who come will be fans.


I saw on Instagram the other month that you said after this show you're quitting stand-up. What did you mean by that?


I've been doing comedy for 12 years, since my first gig, and a lot of the time I spend doing stand-up, writing it, performing it, I could invest that time in something else like acting, directing and more writing.


Luckily a few things have come through that I can't announce yet but could be my way out of stand-up. I do like stand-up, I do enjoy it but I asked myself "Is this something that makes me happy to do?" and the answer is "Yes, but I could be happier doing something else."


I feel like I'll aways have these skills, I'll always be funny, quick and engaging but I don't want stand-up to be the thing that pays my bills. I would rather it be something I can do every now and again.


All it'll take is for me to come up with some brilliant new material for me to want to do stand-up again. I will always try and keep my fingers in stand-up, people think I'm quitting comedy. I'm not, I'm quitting stand-up. Graham Norton for example doesn't do stand-up comedy anymore but he still does comedy.


Are there any other skills you'd like to develop?


Definitely, I did an extensive course in improv the other week for four days and I felt like maybe that was what I've been missing. I've done acting before and I like it because I've never been one to be silly on stage. I'm very much just a guy on stage with a mic.


I've never felt comfortable being silly and physical, but doing improv I've been able to be silly and physical and I've really enjoyed it. Improv is really underrated as a skill.


Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?


Darren has never loved someone.


Darren Harriott: Good Heart Yute runs from 31st July - 25th August (not 14th) at 8.15pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Beneath). Book tickets here.

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