When I spoke to rapper-turned-comedian Doc Brown, he was enjoying the success of his first preview show at the Comedy Festival on the previous night. His show, Of Mic and Men, takes a look at hip-hop culture through a mix of rap and stand-up.
“I had a ball, man,” he says. “The crowd was amazing”.
I ask how he discusses hip-hop in his show, wondering how he feels about it now that he’s older.
“I talk about it in relation to my life, you know, it’s something I grew up with, so I treat it with equal [parts] contempt and respect,” he says.
I ask Doc about when and how he reached the decision to become a comedian, but he contends: “Well I didn’t, and I still haven’t. I was working for the BBC as a script consultant on a series of comedy and I realised, not that I was funny, but that I knew what wasn’t funny, you know?… How to make it funnier… Then, one thing just led to another. I didn’t choose this as a job, it became one for a few years and now I’m still not a comedian. I do it part time. When I do it, I enjoy it. I don’t think I could do it as a living. I do it for fun”.
Doc tells me about the importance of keeping comedy balanced with his personal life. His insights into the world of a professional comedian reveal that it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, and that there are definitely two sides to the life of a stand-up.
“I’d say it’s a great career for the right person. You’ve got to be suited to it; you’ve got to be prepared to live your life alone. You’ve got to be prepared to sacrifice a part of yourself for complete strangers and you’ve got to be prepared for those strangers to either love you or hate you, in equal measure. So you know, there are a lot of personal decisions you have to make and, if that’s for you, you know you can do that and you’ve got skin that’s thick enough, then go for it. But if you want to like, have some friends, or if you want to have a relationship, if you ever want to fall in love, or if you ever want to speak to normal people rather than just up on a stage, then I wouldn’t advise it”.
Doc Brown’s career has been exceptionally varied and has seen him work with some extremely talented comedians and artists. I asked if he could identify any moments that were particularly memorable. Again, his response was honest and open.
“I think maybe the first time I rehearsed with Amy Winehouse”, he recalls, speaking of a time back in 2005. “The first time I met her and sat in her rehearsal studio watching her up close. It was an unforgettable moment, you know? Just seeing the raw power and talent,” he notes. “The vulnerability, the heart. Then getting to know the person [behind the voice]”.
I move the conversation to some more serious questions: what his choices would be if he were to survive on only three types of food for the rest of his life. I recommend something more exciting than a menu that is sadly quite suggestive of my own at the moment, of two-minute noodles, eggs, and free sausages. We deliberate about the versatility of marshmallows and the incredible creation of lasagne for a while. Then Doc reveals his third consideration: “And then, I guess anything I could sneak a recreational drug into, in order to take the edge off the depressing scenario of only having three types of food”.
So, Doc Brown may not have completely settled down just yet, after all.
Doc Brown is performing Of Mic and Men at the Banquet Room of the Victoria Hotel, from Tuesdays to Sundays until 20 April.