‘I’ve had relationships with less commitment’: Darren Harriott endures brutal Dancing on Ice training ahead of debut

EXCLUSIVE: As a new series of Dancing on Ice begins, stand-up comedian Darren Harriott gives us all the behind the scenes gossip

Darren Harriott is set to make his Dancing on Ice debut with an epic performance this Sunday.

Darren, 34, moved from Birmingham to London to pursue his comedy career in 2014. He has since been nominated for Best Newcomer and Best show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and is ready to embark on a UK tour in September.

The stand-up comedian has a huge following of over 12,000 fans on Instagram and co-hosts the ‘Shame is Delicious’ podcast series with fellow comedian Eshann Akbar.

He spoke candidly to us about behind the scences of ITV’s Dancing on Ice and why he likens comedians to criminals.

How are you feeling about Dancing on Ice?

Dancing on Ice ITV1 Darren Harriott.

Darren admitted that he liked the idea of competing on Dancing on Ice because it’s physical but didn’t know what to expect ahead of signing up.

Darren said: “I’m feeling good, it’s good that it’s finally going to start and what will be will be. It’s very nerve wracking.

“There’s just so much information to do with ice skating - you have to move your shoulder this way, turn that way you’ve got to have your legs in this position, turn your head and look up - there’s just so much.

“I like the idea of it because it’s physical. A lot of shows I do are about how much general knowledge you know. And I don’t know any general knowledge so to do something physical I thought ‘oh I’ve got more of a chance at that’.

“But I think I’m wrong on that too. It’s equally as hard.”

Darren revealed that he has had several injuries since starting the show and is undergoing treatment due to a major fall on the ice.

“Whiplash, old school meat and potatoes whiplash, I fell backwards shoulder blades hit the ice, my neck went up and jolted it and so I’ve had whiplash for six weeks,” he said.

“Even now I’ve got physio, it’s not ideal - my left arm doesn’t really raise the way I’d like it to.”

Darren revealed on his Instagram stories that he suffered another injury during training. The comedidan had a nasty slice to the hand but assured fans that he will still able to perform on Sunday’s show.

Darren Harriott

Darren added: “It’s definitely not as glamorous as you see on TV - you should see the training, where there are a lot of people complaining and wanting to go home.

“I do it all the time - my partner Tippy [Packard] will say ‘shall we just do that routine again’ and I’m like ‘can we just go home’.”

Do you feel any pressure to be successful?

Darren said: “I’ve seen people leave the ice in tears - not because they’ve fallen and hurt themselves, but in tears because there’s just so much to take in. They just feel like they’re letting everybody down.

“It’s so so hard but when you get things right it feels so special. Sometimes I find it hard to see the progress but then two months ago I couldn’t even jump or spin around. It really is amazing.”

“This is way more nerve wracking than a comedy show. If a comedy show goes wrong I can just call the audience idiots on stage - you can’t do that to Christopher [Dean] and Jane Torvil it’s not gonna work in my favour - it’s very very different.

“Plus I have a professional skating partner who is gonna do everything right. I know if something doesn’t work out if something doesn’t look as good - I know for a fact that it’s my fault.”

Who is your biggest competition in this year’s series?

Refusing to name his biggest competition, Darren said: “I’ve got to become a bit more competitive because I’m not competitive as a comedian. Then I think I’ve got a good chance of winning if I can get over me.

“It’s my brain that gets in the way. That’s the only thing that will stop me from winning the show. There’s some really great skaters.

“Whoever wins the show really really deserves it. Give them the medal, the belt, the champions, give them everything because there are so many performances - it’s like nine performances, it’s a lot of live skating.”

Speaking about training, he added: “I do two hours on the ice; an hour to get there and hour back, then warming up. I mean I’ve had relationships with less commitment.

“It’s honestly, absolutely insane how much you have to put in just to get on the ice - then you just learn everything on the ice - but then when you get home all you’re doing is thinking about the show. It’s all the time everyday.”

What made you sign up to Dancing on Ice?

Darren Harriott

Darren described himself as a “fool” for agreeing to compete in ITV’s figure skating competion, while revealing that he didn’t have much ice skating experience before signing up.

He said: “I just wanted to learn a new skill, something I’ve never done before. I’d never even been to an ice rink. I remember walking into the ice rink and thinking this is cold. I had no idea.

“I was up for a new challenge - it’s easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

“I’d never ice skate again but I’d do a reality tv show for sure. I’d definitely do the jungle, if they ask me I will happily go into the jungle - once you’ve ice skated on live TV I’d be willing to eat some kangaroo bits.”

Do you feel ready for your upcoming tour?

Darren revealed that he was studying BTEC drama in college, when he decided to first give stand-up a go after seeing a flyer advertising a comedy and music night.

He explained that he was “sad and depressed” and needed something to occupy his mind, so he became “obsessed” with running a Myspace comedy page. He then decied to take a leap of faith and move to London to pursue his dream of becoming a comedian in 2014.

Darren said: “When I was growing up I watched a lot of UK comedians, Sean Locke, Lee Mack, and Frankie Boyle. I was the kid who’d watch Mock the Week and QI.

“It’s amazing that I get to work with Alan Davis [QI presenter] now because he’s an absolute legend.

“There are also so many great stand ups now with the rise of social media. There’s so many more people doing it and putting their content out there and becoming stars.”

Darren continued: “I’m touring all over the country starting in September, I can’t wait. I’ll be able to get back to some normality after the show, get back on stage and do more stand up again. That will be fun.

“People always ask me how do you stand up when you’re not in the mood - when you’re sad or angry or unhappy about something?

“It can be quite tough but you get used to it and I’ve realised now ice skating is even harder if you’re not in the mood to do it.”

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far?

Dancing on Ice ITV1 Darren Harriott (ITV images)

Darren said: “Sir Lenry Henry coming to my show in 2017 was a big moment for me. I was just doing my show and this guy walked in and he sat at the back of a 50-seat show and I was like ‘oh my god that’s Lenny Henry’.

“He’s got a very recognisable laugh - I can hear his laugh through the entire show and I’m thinking ‘Lenny’s having a good time, I’ve got a Sir at my gig that was crazy’.

“He’s so nice and that was a moment when I was like "whoa what is happening.”

Have you had any jokes that have absolutely bombed?

The comedian admitted that he’s had entire 20 minute sets that bombed, saying: “The worst gigs a comedian can have is a set where the audience is indifferent to what you do. It’s not that they don’t find it funny - they just don’t care and are not interested in what you are actually saying.

“Comedy clubs are designed for your attention. Everything is set up for their attention and to engage with laughter but if they’re just not giving it to you - because even though you’ve got all of these things set up perfectly for that you’re just unable to give them that. And it can be brutal.

“The thing about jokes not working is you get to a point where you don’t care - it doesn’t make them laugh, you just kinda look at them and go ‘ok well that’s on you, I thought that was good’.

“The best quote I heard about jokes not working is ‘an unfunny joke is the birth of a funny joke’.”

Darren Harriott

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into the industry?

“Do standup, with standup once you do it once you’re one of them. Unfortunately it’s like being a criminal once you’ve been arrested you’re a criminal for life - it’s like standup you do one gig and that’s it, you can call yourself a comedian.”

He continued: “Just get out there and do it. Write some material, there are open mic nights everywhere and the internet is your friend, especially Facebook - it’s a great place to find lots of gigs as a lot of the comedy clubs are run by people who are on Facebook.

“If you have an interest in doing comedy you are probably already following a lot of people already.

“Whether they’re more famous or not, look at where they’re gigging, DM the comedian. I guarantee you will get some replies because we love being like Yoda from Star Wars and giving out advice.”

How do you feel about people linking you to TV chef Ainsley Harriott?

Darren said: “Some people think I’m his cousin or son - someone even asked if I was his dad? Even though he is twice my age!!

“There is some relation there on my grandad’s side. His family is from the same part of Jamaica as mine and we have the same surname and look at the head on us!

“When he [Ainsley] did ‘Who Do You Think You Are’, we found out we were from the same part of Jamaica and that’s how I found out how I got my surname - the same slave master who gave him his surname Ebonisa Harriott from Scotland.

“I want to do his cooking show because I feel like people are gonna lose their minds seeing the two Harriott boys.”

Darren Harriott’s UK tour starts in Glasgow from 13th September 2023 click for Tour Tickets

ITV Dancing on Ice continues Sunday’s at 6:30pm

Find Darren Harriot on socials @darrenharriott