doc

Expectations were high ahead of my interview with comedian Dane Baptiste.

The Londoner was the first black Briton nominated for an Edinburgh comedy award in 2014, losing out in the Best Newcomer category to American Alex Edelman, and his self-penned sitcom Sunny D has been commissioned as a series by BBC Three.

In fact when we speak I discover filming has just wrapped on the comedy show, which is based on his journey to becoming a stand-up.

But when I ask if the 34-year-old is enjoying his new-found success, I discover Dane's real-life story is not exactly a barrel of laughs.

"It’s OK. I’m just happy I don’t have to argue with my mum about giving her petrol money for the car and also not having bailiffs coming looking for me anymore for unpaid fines."

He quickly assures me all his debts are now paid but snippets of his former life emerge throughout our chat.

Such as the fact he used to get migraines while driving to gigs because he could not afford to buy food and the shame his family felt when he had to go on Jobseeker's Allowance.

"I have gone without money for so long now that it can’t be held over my head and I’ve become detached from materialism," the Lewisham-raised comedian says philosophically.

On paper he had a promising start to his working life, he went off to university to do a degree in business studies and then got a job in sales. But deep down he could not forget the joy he felt growing up watching comedians such as Hale and Pace, Russ Abbott, and Cannon and Ball.

"My biggest influence was Chris Rock, explains the 34-year-old. "I saw his show Bigger and Blacker when I was 14 and decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life. But I suppressed it and carried on like a normal conformist.

"My parents are first generation immigrants and the only jobs they thought were worth having were legal, clerical or medical. And at my school and the area I grew up there weren’t really any outlets for being creative.

"So I suppressed a lot of ideas trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be."

He kept comedy on the sidelines as a hobby but six years ago, after having disciplinarians at every single one of his jobs, he made a decision.

"I thought ‘I am not going to make it in this environment’ so I started researching comedians like Russell Brand and David Chappelle, who have very natural styles on stage but had studied performing arts. I thought maybe I could level the playing field instead of winging it and research this hobby in order to make it a career."

So he moved back in with his parents and began studying creative writing and improvisation and took a comedy course at the Comedy Store in Camden.

"To pursue an artistic dream in London without sponsors is nigh on impossible," says Dane who sacrificed several romantic relationships to the cause.

"In theory it sounds very noble giving up everything and risking the respect of your peers and family but about three years in I went on Jobseeker's Allowance much to the shame of my family and then there was a computer error and they forgot to pay me and I thought ‘I can’t have my hand out to the government. I need to make something happen’.

He invested all his savings in his first Edinburgh show Citizen Dane, which earned him the nomination and praise from critics and fellow comedians.

"I supposed I just had to make it work because I had no plan B, " says Dane. "I was quite rational with my ambition and just wanted to make money from what I enjoyed doing. I still feel like that today."

He adds: "At the end of the show I had just enough money to get back to London and had to borrow £20 from my sister who is a single mother so I could afford to get a haircut. And then six months after that I had made all the money back."

His latest show Reasonable Doubts is born from this sudden success and the fears that have begun to creep in.

“Inside I was like ‘oh my god what if I fail and it all goes away and everyone thinks I’m just a fluke?’. That neurosis ended up snowballing into more and more fears and the show is about the fact I wanted some level of success, which I have now, but that having your own TV show and tour and awards could make you complacent, it’s about my fear of believing my own hype."

There are of course positives. Dane is planning to move out of his parents house after the tour, is in a relationship and is proud to be seen as a role-model.

"I can understand why some people think it might be reductive to be referred to as the first black British nominee but I don’t think that’s the case because we need someone to do it first."

He adds: "I just found out Sunny D is the first black British sitcom in 20 years. So I’m very happy to have these firsts in my career.

"My aim is to be one of the best acts of my generation and hopefully be a catalyst for a change in the landscape of comedy both locally and globally.

I’d like to bridge the gap between the urban circuit and arts festivals such as Edinburgh and help form an identity for black Britons and performers of colour."

Dugdale Centre, Thomas Hardy House, London Road, Enfield, Thursday, March 17, 7.45pm. Details: 020 8807 6680, dugdalecentre.co.uk, danebaptiste.co.uk