Daniel O’Reilly in his character (Is it a character?) of Dapper Laughs is the comedian who just keeps giving to journalists. He needs better PR advice. Or does he?
His ITV2 show was cancelled after phone footage emerged of him telling a woman in a live comedy show audience that she was “gagging for a rape”. Then he went on BBC2’s Newsnight show to apologise and say he was dropping the Dapper Laughs persona. Then he revived the ‘character’.
And now, yesterday, in a Sunday Times Magazine interview, he appeared to be saying that the controversy had all been because he was not actually taught that rape was wrong: “Not once was I invited to learn more about sexual violence, rape and sexism and the problem is the attitude toward men… Instead of attacking me, why not educate me? I would happily accept it and then help and educate the millions of men who watch my stuff. I haven’t been. Instead I’m told to fuck off and stop my comedy.”
Who knows if that is what he meant to say or did say or not.
The interview might or might not be a miscalculation and might or might not be unconnected with his upcoming tour Theory of Nothing and an upcoming DVD release.
“We used to run gigs for Dapper Laughs,” Ben told me, “and we got friendly with him that way.”
“Ben was the one who introduced all of us lot to Vine,” Lenny explained. “He got Dapper Laughs on Vine. I used to MC a weekly gig for Dapper Laughs – he’s very good at promotion and marketing and that sort of thing.
“You get exposure from Vine and our podcast has sort-of built-up from that: a cult following. We’ve got over 20,000 followers on Vine and about 3,000 listeners for our podcast. We’ve done over 40. It’s on iTunes. We’ve got the Twitter page, got the Facebook. We done a live show at the Lost Theatre last October. It all links up. It’s all publicity. We’re doing the Camden Fringe this year – two 25-minute sets of stand-up.”
“Why the Camden Fringe and not the Edinburgh Fringe?” I asked.
Ben told me: “I went to the Edinburgh Fringe once and, unless you’ve got money and the proper marketing behind you, it’s almost worthless. you go up there and almost every single poster has got 4 Stars, 5 Stars. It becomes meaningless.”
“And,” explained Lenny, “I just can’t afford it, to be honest. I would love to go. to be at a comedy festival – probably the best one in the world – I would love to. But I just can’t afford it, John. I’ve been going four years. The first year, I didn’t go up to Edinburgh because I was in prison.”
“For what?” I asked.
“Fighting at football. Millwall. I got attacked. I was defending myself. It’s not something I’ve ever hidden. I’m not really that sort of comedian. I’m more sort-of one-liners. I’m not really a storyteller, not personal – though there’s a lot of layers to my stuff. I play on the stereotype. People stereotype me. And it’s about switching the stereotype.”
“That,” said Ben, “is what I’m trying to do at the moment. I’m trying to become more of a storyteller. I started six years ago and it was joke-joke-joke and a lot of it was edgy, shocking stuff. But now I’ve got to a point where I don’t want to do that any more. I’ve got all this material that really works, but I want to move more into storytelling.”
“Someone,” said Lenny, “described my comedy as vulgar intelligence. But it’s not vulgar. Vulgar’s the wrong word, though it’s adult. It’s not mainstream; let’s put it that way. I mix it up as well. I done a lot of improv – I mix a lot in and try to be original and different. I am what I am. I can’t go on stage and talk about lentils.”
“I have found,” said Ben,” that, since doing the podcast, I enjoy telling stories a lot more. I think that’s where my niche is.”
“People say to me,” said Lenny, “You should talk about when you was in prison and, if you done that, you would get a Perrier Award.”
“Your podcast is very successful,” I said.
“We do merchandise,” explained Lenny. “and, on the podcast, I done this story about some geezer I was banged-up with who had a Born Evil tattoo. The feedback we got from that was great. We even had merchandise with Born Evil written on it.”
“So,” I asked, “you have managed to make money out of Vine and the podcast.”
“I,” said Ben, “have made quite a bit of money out of Vine. Adverts and things. We got a free watch as well. You get e-mailed by companies. We were going to do something for Domino’s Pizza but that fell through.”
“Dominoes are always falling down,” I said.
“Dapper Laughs,” said Lenny, “will get: Will you wear our jacket? We’ll give you five grand. Or McDonalds: We’ll give you three grand. The more followers you’ve got…”
“… the more money you get,” Ben completed.
“What about Dapper Laughs losing his TV show?” I asked.
“I don’t want to pass judgment on that,” said Lenny.
“I think his show got taken out of context,” said Ben. “A lot of people never even saw it.”
Lenny added: “I felt he should not have gone on Newsnight. I thought: What the fuck you doing? Not only that, but that fucked it up for everyone else. I notice now, when I do jokes, if they hear buzz words… I’ve got a joke. This joke pretty much sums me up:
“A geezer says: What are your views on Muslims?
“I say: Pretty good. I’ve got a penthouse overlooking a mosque.
“When the audience hear the word Muslims from a geezer like me – working class Cockney – they think Ooh-ooh-ooh. But then I switch it to a harmless joke. I switch it.
“When Dapper Laughs did Newsnight, I thought: What the fuck are you doing? I don’t agree with everything he done – don’t get me wrong – but… I’ve got very strong opinions on edgy comedy. My comedy is what’s natural to me. I sort-of get both sides. I like all sorts of different comedy. But I don’t like this edgy comedy when they’re just talking about rude stuff for the sake of it. Come on, you’re a grown man or woman! Why are you acting like a schoolkid?
“What we do is natural. Everything we do is natural to us. There’s no false anything. We tell it like it is. Then you get people on the other side who react to buzz words too much. There’s this culture of Oh no, you can’t talk about that! Why not? You can talk about whatever you like, provided you’re not being an arsehole about it.”
“If I do a joke that might be slightly offensive,” said Ben, “people never look past the offensiveness or that one buzz word. Because they don’t appreciate what kind of joke it is. They stop at the first hurdle and think: Hang on! I don’t like this!
“Someone described my comedy as Treading the line between offensiveness and playfulness expertly – which I thought was perfect. Frankie Boyle might say a joke and be a bit harsh., whereas I will be a cheeky little boy about it.
“I lost a lot of my love for stand-up recently. I wanted to change direction and it took a while to get the balls to do that. If you go one way, you might end up on TV on 8 Out of 10 Cats, then you might go on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, then you might get your DVD Ben Adams Live! But I don’t want any of that. It all seems unappealing. It sounds awful. I want to make my own way, which is why I film comedy sketches and we have the podcast and do our own shows. I like the idea of finding and playing to your own audience.”
“This is what we’re all about, really, really.,” said Lenny. “I’m not saying I don’t want to be on those TV programmes. I’ll do anything. If it’s right, I’ll do it. But I think the way forward is getting your own audience. With Dapper Laughs, I thought there was a lot of irony in that. People said: Oh! He shouldn’t do that! He’s going backwards! but a lot of what he done was very progressive and he’s shown people: Look! You can do it! You don’t need ‘them’. You can just do it yourself. That was really groundbreaking, if you take away the sexism and the other stuff. What he done was like really monumental.”
“You contacted me for a chat,” I said.
“The reason we asked to see you,” said Lenny, “is we wanna try and make a bit of noise now. We’ve been under the radar a little bit.”
“Well,” I said, “Oscar did say: There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”