David Baddiel interview: the highs and lows of being famous

The former ‘Mary Whitehouse Experience’ and ‘Baddiel and Skinner Unplanned’ star speaks frankly about fame

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David Baddiel’s first solo stand-up show in 15 years is an open, honest examination of life in the public eye. He tells Time Out about the highs and lows of being famous.

  • © Rob Greig

    Playing Wembley

    The high
    ‘In 1993 I was half of the first comedy act to play Wembley Arena. As Newman and Baddiel, Rob and I had performed something like five nights in a row at Hammersmith Odeon, as it then was, in 1992. I guess there was an impetus to move the “live” thing up a gear, so our manager suggested playing Wembley. I don’t know if it was Newman and Baddiel’s best gig, comedy-wise, nor do I know that the precedent for arena comedy has been entirely positive. But it was fucking exciting listening to the roar of the crowd as we went out on stage.’

    The low
    ‘After Wembley, I asked my PR not to send me any reviews, because the press at the time all hated Newman and Baddiel. She was miffed by this, so sent me them anyway. They lay like an unexploded bomb in my room for four months. Then, a night before recording a “Fantasy Football League”, I couldn’t sleep, and ended up reading them all in one go while drinking whisky. Frank Skinner found me the next day on the sofa, out cold, on top of a bed of terrible press.’

  • © Rob Greig

    Making movies

    The high
    ‘In 2010 “The Infidel”, the movie I wrote, had its premiere, perhaps appropriately, at Hammersmith now Apollo. About 3000 people turned up, which felt like a massive vindication for a movie that had been very hard to get made: “A film about Muslims and Jews, with no big movie stars? And two middle-aged bald men in the leads? Can you leave my office?” was essentially the response from most financiers and distributors. And yet it was released in 52 countries, and there will soon be a musical about it, which I’m writing with Erran Baron-Cohen.’

    The low
    ‘A little known fact: in 2012, US TV network NBC commissioned a pilot script for a sitcom based on “The Infidel”. I didn’t write it, but the writer in question assured me beforehand that he thought I was, in his words, a “comic genius” and his script would be true to that “genius”. But it then seemed he didn’t take my notes on board. The real low point was when, in desperation that he should listen to my notes, I wrote to him reminding that he called me a comic genius. The sitcom was never commissioned.’

  • © Rob Greig

    Three Lions

    The high
    ‘England v Scotland, Euro 96. It had been a poor tournament for England, until suddenly David Seaman saved a penalty, then Gazza scored an amazing goal. Unexpectedly for Frank and me, who were in the stadium, the DJ put on our “Three Lions” World Cup song. Even more unexpectedly, the whole crowd started joining in. With every word! My manager said, “If you win an Oscar, it won’t be better than this.” So far I’ve not had the opportunity to judge, but I think he might be right.’

    The low
    ‘Q Magazine: “In the future, people will think of “Three Lions” as better than it was. In the future, folk-memory will have erased the memory of David Baddiel’s singing just as effectively as it has erased the memory of corpse-robbers during the Blitz.”’

  • © Rob Greig

    Being sexy

    The high
    ‘Being voted the “World’s Sixth Sexiest Jew” by SomeoneJewish.com, in 2006.’

    The low
    ‘Discovering that the vote for the world’s fifth sexiest Jew went to Sir Alan Sugar.’

© Rob Greig

Playing Wembley

The high
‘In 1993 I was half of the first comedy act to play Wembley Arena. As Newman and Baddiel, Rob and I had performed something like five nights in a row at Hammersmith Odeon, as it then was, in 1992. I guess there was an impetus to move the “live” thing up a gear, so our manager suggested playing Wembley. I don’t know if it was Newman and Baddiel’s best gig, comedy-wise, nor do I know that the precedent for arena comedy has been entirely positive. But it was fucking exciting listening to the roar of the crowd as we went out on stage.’

The low
‘After Wembley, I asked my PR not to send me any reviews, because the press at the time all hated Newman and Baddiel. She was miffed by this, so sent me them anyway. They lay like an unexploded bomb in my room for four months. Then, a night before recording a “Fantasy Football League”, I couldn’t sleep, and ended up reading them all in one go while drinking whisky. Frank Skinner found me the next day on the sofa, out cold, on top of a bed of terrible press.’

See David Baddiel in London

Ealing Comedy Festival

  • Critics choice

The Ealing Comedy Festival returns in 2014 for its twenty-first year! The annual Walpole Park bonanza always features spectacular line-ups, and 2014 is no exception. Across the five nights you can catch David Baddiel, Milton Jones, Rich Hall, The Boy With Tape On His Face and lots more. Check the dates below for the full line-ups.

  1. Walpole Park (Big Top) Matlock Lane, W5 5EQ
  2. Wed Jul 16 - Fri Jul 18
More info
See all David Baddiel tour dates

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