British comedian and rapper extraordinaire, Doc Brown returns to Ireland. Mark Roche of The Daily Shift was lucky enough to catch up with Doc Brown before his gig at Clonmel Comedy Festival this weekend…
Doc Brown is a man of many talents; Producer, Actor, Entrepreneur, Rapper, Comedian and most difficult of all, Father. Starting out as a rapper, real name ben Smith has worked with the likes of Lily Allen, Mark Ronson during his musical career and appeared on our screens as a member of many panel shows including one of his best performances, on Russel Howard’s Good News.
How have you been, you seem to tour pretty regularly?
Yeah not too bad – had my first experience of real burn-out back in September and suddenly realised I had been working non-stop for 19 months; gigging, filming, writing and producing, as well as running my own business and looking after my kids! Mental. So I’ve been on a kind of break, doing some gigs in warmer climates overseas, trying to catch some sunshine.
You played in Kilkenny during the summer, for Cat Laughs, how was it? Do you enjoy Irish comedy crowds?
This is gonna sound like some sycophantic nonsense because of who’s asking the question but hand on heart, I’d say Irish crowds are possibly the best I’ve ever performed to. They love to unwind so there’s a great party atmosphere but they’re also very knowledgeable when it comes to comedy so it’s the perfect mix – a dream for comics.
John Bishop believes that Irish audiences seem to be the most willing to listen to a story; does that suit your style?
Definitely. I’m a storyteller so I always require a little extra patience. I’m not Jimmy Carr, there’s not a punchline every five seconds. That’s not to say you have to wait ages to laugh with me, I guarantee all the content will be funny, it’s just more of a journey.
I’m a big fan of rap and saw you judged a Don’t Flop event earlier in the year. How does it feel to still be respected as a rapper to such a critical and somewhat underground movement?
It’s an amazing feeling. I didn’t know how I would be received going back into the world of Rap in the UK cause I know that there’s a few idiots who haven’t really seen my comedy but just assume that I’m taking the piss out of Rap so they’re on the defensive, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. On the contrary, I feel like I’m elevating Rap and showing you what can be done with the art form if you really put your mind to it. Plus 99% of the time I’m a better Rapper than them anyway so the haters really don’t have a leg to stand on.
You were recently even mentioned in a bar during the DF 4th birthday; would you ever consider battling again? Maybe an April Fools event?
Ha! Never. I earned my stripes in a different era. I was a Jump Off Champ back in 2003/04 when you had to freestyle everything. Battling is way more complex now and a lot more entertaining. These guys are studying each other in order to outwit their opponents with a mix of superior intelligence and performance and it’s incredible to watch. Shotty Horrah, Tony D, O’ Shea, Arsonal, Loaded Lux… These guys scare the shit out of me. I’m totally happy as a spectator.
Did you always have an interest in comedy/rap? Did rap inspire your comedy or did comedy inspire your rap?
Rap definitely inspired my comedy. Before that, I was always a fan of sitcoms but I never had an interest in Stand Up. Never really watched it, didn’t know any of the names or anything… One thing I would say is that if you listen back to my albums, there’s always a bit of humour throughout, alongside the serious stuff; I think I was always a lighthearted guy so obviously that’s gonna come through in my art.
Can you help settle the argument; is it jokes over bars, or bars over jokes?
No, because it’s a ridiculous argument. It’s like in the Oscars when Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List were up against each other. How can you say “This fantasy about dinosaurs is better than this grueling biopic about the holocaust”?
They’re entirely different approaches to making a great film. It’s the same in battling with Bars and Jokes. The verse can be amazing with just jokes and the verse can be amazing with just serious bars. It’s all about the execution of your approach – which approach was more entertaining in that moment?
So while you’re talking to The Daily Shift, whats the best song to shift to?
Love is a Losing Game by Amy Winehouse. Might as well let her know that if she’s getting involved with me? She cannot win.
Why Doc Brown? Do you just really enjoy Back to the Future?
I was a nerdy know-it-all at school so I was christened Doctor Smith (my real surname). Can’t remember if I added the Brown or if it was someone else but it was definitely a reference to the Christopher Lloyd character. Then when I started rapping, it became the perfect nickname because I felt I was “ahead of my time”.
What is your favourite difference between Ireland and England?
I love the accents, Southern and Northern. I love the Cork accent especially and the way people say “ting” and “so” after everything – it weirdly reminds me of Jamaica cause we do the same ting so!
Clonmel is the home of cider in Ireland, what’s your poison of choice and will you be sampling some when you visit?
I’m a big drinker and love a bit of everything. My favourite drink is probably Hennessy and Ginger Ale, but I also love the basics of course - a cold beer or a glass of Prosecco… I’ll definitely be having a Guinness or two and you can’t beat proper cider so I should think I’ll be trying a snifter of that too! Hopefully not all in one night as mixing my drinks always ends in tears, so it does.