13 Dec 2016

The nine lives of David Baddiel

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 3:07 pm on 13 December 2016


If cats have 9 lives, then author, comedian and presenter David Baddiel must have something close to it. 

He was part of the sketch comedy show The Mary Whitehouse Experience with Rob Newman that became the first comedy act to sell out Wembley Arena in 1993.

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He went on to co-host the hugely successful Fantasy Football League with David Skinner.

Baddiel has published four adult novels and has forged a reputation as a successful writer of books for children.

He's just completed a one-man stage show about his life as the son of a philandering mother and a father dealing with dementia.

In the late 1990s he was briefly a pop star when the massive hit single with comedy partner Frank Skinner ‘Three Lions (football’s coming home)’ reached number 1 in the UK.

His latest childrens’ book, AniMalcolm, is about a boy who hates animals and is magically transformed into them after a school trip to a farm.

At the centre of everything he does, Baddiel says, is a story.

“People say ‘you do a lot of stuff’, I do stand up and I write books – but for me if I do one thing I do story telling in different ways. It’s not like I’m a comedian and plumber, I’m a storyteller - normally comic stories.”

Baddiel has two children, Dolly 15, and Ezra 12, with partner Morwenna Banks who is a comedy actress and writer.

He says being a father inspired him to write children's books.

“My first kids’ novel was the Parent Agency. It’s about a world in which kids can choose their own parents.

“That came to me one day when my son Ezra, who was 8 at the time, said: ‘Why doesn’t Harry [Potter] run away from the Dursleys and get some better parents?’ 

“And I thought, that’s so cool that a kid didn’t even consider that if you don’t like your parents you have to let the social services know!”

The Parent Agency went on to sell 200,000 copies and he’s writing a film of the book at the moment.

Baddiel recently returned to stand-up after a 10-year hiatus with a show about fame.

“I did really love it again. It is a drug, but it’s also a kind of good drug in that I think you know the experience of making people laugh in a communal way feels very positive, particularly now the world is full of divisive stuff. The communal experience of being with an audience sharing that thing is really lovely, and sort of nutritious.

“But I’m happy when I write books to imagine the laughter!”

As for fame he says he’s still seen as the guy who likes to “muddy” his reputation.

“If you’re famous there’s another version of you out there that is not you and that can be really weird. And what is really weird about it is it tends to be a very narrow version of you because in fact everyone is complicated.

“It isn’t just ‘the football guy’ or the ‘the lad’ or whatever it may be so what was called ‘muddying’ I call trying to get closer to the truth.”

He says his own kids, raised on The Simpsons, are a smarter audience then when he was a child.

“I never talk down to kids when I write for them. The language is not as adult obviously and maybe I won’t have such long words but apart from that I’m basically not changing my comic sensibility or my storytelling sensibility at all.

“I’m just trying to be as funny and engaging as I would be in any other form.”

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