Doc Brown: ‘Rap battles prepared me for stand-up’

Doc Brown
Doc Brown
Isaac Waddington, from Portchester, came fifth in Britain's Got Talent 2015


Picture: Kim Barber

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Doc Brown, or Ben Bailey Smith as he would probably rather be known, might not be long for the stand-up world if things go well next year, so it’s probably best to catch him while you’ve still got the chance.

The comic/rapper/actor/writer has landed a leading role in Life On The Road, the movie that returns Ricky Gervais to the character of David Brent from The Office as he attempts to pursue a music career.

It has been a curious career path for Ben, who started out as a rap artist, before breaking through as a stand-up and has since gone on to win roles as a serious actor in shows like Law & Order: UK.

But with rehearsals for the movie due to start soon, he’s squeezing in a few more stand-up shows while he can, including one for Comedy All Stars on November 13.

Ben first found his feet as a teenager in rap battles – which turned out to be ideal training for comedy.

‘I would say the two toughest performance arts in terms of quick thinking are probably stand-up and rap battling .

I want people to be able to Google me and find me – not Christopher Lloyd!

Doc Brown

‘You might get unlucky with a heckler at a gig, but on the whole the audience is there to support you, whereas in a rap battle people actively want you to die (on stage), but it prepares you for being funny, off-the-cuff, being confident on stage, being solely responsible for the performance. It is great preparation for stand-up.’

And comic raps played an important role in his early stand-up, something he’s tried to focus less on – not always entirely successfully.

‘I don’t make music for stand-up any more unless I’m specifically commissioned. But I still do raps in my set – I do them without backing music now though which gives me a bit more freedom to do my gags and get my character across.

‘Initially I think that was the big thing that set me apart, but in your early years you’re still finding your voice, and now after seven years I’ve definitely found my voice and that’s definitely not necessarily doing the same song about tea every night.’

So where does Doc end and Ben begin?

‘There’s no separation really, apart from my wife wouldn’t call me Doc. I’ve been Doc since I was 15 and I’m in my late 30s now, it’s never been a character, it was just my rap name, and I do regret keeping that now when I started stand-up. When you see me do stand-up, it’s not a character, it’s just unfortunately the name I gave myself when I started.

And it is a reference to the crazy scientist from Back To The Future: ‘As a kid I was a massive fan of the movies, and as a stand-up that’s another reason I regret holding on to the name because there’s already a Doc Brown out there.

‘I never foresaw a day when I would cross over from rap to stand-up and acting.

‘In rap there’s a million examples of people named after comic book characters or other personalities or figures and it’s never confusing because they’re rappers, but I’ve gone from being a rapper to other fields. I want people to be able to Google me and find me – not Christopher Lloyd!’

Comedy All Stars at Barton Hall in Horndean Technology College also features Ed Gamble, Ellie Taylor and compere James Alderson. Doors 7pm. Tickets £10 advance. Go to comedy-allstars.co.uk