Monday, 9 August 2010

The UNdane Interview: Darren Maskell

Darren Maskell is a 24 year old Stand Up Comedian living in Croydon, South London. He takes his abstract style all over the UK in the form of a bizarre set of comedy props and an even more bizarre (but wonderful) set of musings on life, the universe and everything. Mainly everything you wouldn’t immediately expect. He deals in talking about the little things – the big things are unimportant (it’s not about your career or your mortgage, it’s about Shergar. Yes it is.).

Darren is a unique comedy act who describes himself as ‘almost gaining the respect of the whole of a county’ after being runner up at the Reading New Act of the Year 2009 awards. He’s also ‘achieved the acclaim of half a county’ by winning the North Essex New Comedian of the Year 2009. He’s only been on the UK comedy circuit a short time but he’s clearly destined for much bigger things. Today he talks UNdane with us and shows why he’s the perfect person to kick off this series of The UNdane Interview...

Describe your style of comedy for me using only a haiku.

Fat man on a stage
childhood innocence he has
With props of wonder

You use a lot of strange and often absurd props on stage. Do you have a favourite?

I've been doing a bit with hangers. I really like that routine. We all have to deal with hangers at some point in our lives.

What has been your favourite heckle and how did you respond to it?

Ha! Hecklers. I was heckled with some fat comments once and I responded with ‘if you really want to heckle, be constructive. How about "hey, switch to wholegrain pasta and rice, its less calories and it fills you up quicker."' I liked that because its true and you cant really come back to that can you? That is the most witty I've ever been on the spot. I usually just crumble.

Who or what inspires you and your comedy?

Myself. I'm a complex man and I have to deal with myself and the way I think everyday. I think the biggest mistake people make is to try and look at comedy through other people's eyes. People are more interested in your own unique perception of comedy. It’s the best I can offer them anyway.

You hail from sunny Croydon. Tell me a fun fact about Croydon.

I think you can only truly experience the greatness of Croydon by subscribing to the magazine SPAN. Which is the Spring Park Association Newsletter. It always has great letters about cat kidnappings, bins overflowing, pavements with cracks in them and suspicious vans.

Tell me a bit about your tattoos.

I have 3. One is a forest spirit from the film Princess Mononoke. The next one is the Jurassic Park Logo and the other is the Daz automatic washing detergent logo. When Jurassic park came out in 1993, I was 7 years old. I was that films target demographic. All of the movie magic, the lunchboxes, the press hype, the McDonalds toys, they were all blasted in the face of a little chubby boy in Croydon and he was in awe. I really liked history as a child as well and loved going to the Horniman museum. The walrus is legendary. The Daz tattoo is because my nickname is Daz, but also I think the logo is very representative of British 90’s culture, if anyone remembers the Daz doorstep challenge.

You’re off up to Edinburgh for the Fringe this month. What festival essentials will you be taking with you?

The right attitude. Im a big comedy fan, and I just want to have as much fun with my comedy as possible.

In Edinburgh, you’re doing a show with comedian Hatty Ashdown called Ashdown and Maskell’s Trade Show. What’s it all about?

Hatty and myself share the same fondness for the tat that British homes collect. In the show we both talk about our upbringing and tat weve found. We've also brought along some of it. If people bring their own tat to the show, we invite them to trade their tat for our tat. However, they have got to convince us why their tat is so valuable.

You write a blog in which you often talk about the mundanities of life. Tell me a story about something that happened to you this week.

I had my ears syringed at the doctors because my ears were filled with wax. For the past week or so, the world has been muffled. It has been nice, as I've just kept to myself and got on with my own little routine. The nurse gave me a prescription for some ear drops and I thought to myself, ‘right, I'm a grown up now. Going in chemists and picking up prescriptions. Like responsible people.

Who is your favourite surrealist comedian?

I like Reeves and Mortimer, Python, Harry Hill, Brian Gittins. I'm a little confused as to what surreal comedy is to be honest. Is Caroline Mabey Surreal? I like her. I think Sean Lock can be quite Surreal.

‘UNdane’ is the concept that beauty, happiness and creativity can be found within the mundane – you embody this on stage by finding comedy in the little, seemingly unimportant or absurd things in life. Using this definition, what does UNdane mean to you? What is your idea of the UNdane? Give me some examples of UNdane things that make you smile.

I think my comedy is very much in the spirit of UNdane. I think the idea of the UNdane is so captivating for people as it focuses on the imperfections, and as human beings we are imperfect. We don’t want to hear stories about how great life is. We all hate our lives, or at least some aspect of it, and we want to hear how others hate theirs. On the London Underground escalators there's a black brushy bit. I always brush my shoes against it, pretending that it is giving me a little shoe shine and it always makes me smile that I've given the escalator an extra purpose.

What’s your favourite song at the moment?

I am totally out of the loop with music. I used to be very much about finding new bands and going to gigs. Let me have a look at my iTunes……It says the most played is Kenny Rodgers ‘She Believes In Me’, Scout Niblett ‘Wide Shoulders’ and Black Eyes ‘Deformative’. I am clearly lying about the last two.

Give me a must-see tip for the Edinburgh fringe (aside from you of course!)

Kitson and Lee of course. Two Episodes of Mash. James Acaster, Nick Helm, Ben Target, Daniel Smith, Caroline Mabey, Paul Foot, Alexis Dubus, Richard Herring.

Darren Maskell is at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival all this month. You can catch him at Ashdown and Maskell's Trade Show for the Laughing Horse Free Fringe at Espionage every day at 2pm (except 23 Aug) and with Alistair Greaves and Laurence Tuck (now in 3D!) at the 3 Sisters every day at 5.10pm.


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