David Baddiel

David Baddiel

Date of birth: 28-05-1964

David Baddiel’s first brush with comedy was in 1982 when he wrote and performed in the Sixth Form revue at The Haberdashers Aske School, Elsetree, before developing his talents while a student at King's College, Cambridge. As well as graduating with a double-first in English Literature, he was vice president of the Footlights.

On leaving, he performed stand-up on the London circuit, while working on a PhD entitled Seductive Innocence: The Little Girl In Victorian Sexuality. There he met Robert Newman [then called Rob] and they started writing sketches for the Radio 4 show WeekEnding, which solicited work from any writers who wanted to contribute.

They were subsequently paired up with Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis for the Radio 1 comedy show The Mary Whitehouse Experience, which began in 1989. Two years later it transferred to BBC Two for two series.

Baddiel continued to work with Newman for the 1993 series Newman and Baddiel in Pieces –and later that year became the first comedians to play Wembley Arena, prompting the now clichéd saying that ‘comedy is the new rock and roll’. However, the duo’s relationship was under huge pressure at the time, and they subsequently split with some acrimony.

Baddiel then formed a partnership with Frank Skinner, who at the time was lodging at his London flat, recreating their living-room banter in both Fantasy Football League – which ran on BBC Two from 1994 to 1996, returning on ITV for the 1998 World Cup and 2004 European Championship ¬– and Unplanned, which started life as an Edinburgh Fringe show in 2000 before transferring to the West End and, eventually, TV.

In 1996, the pair teamed up with the Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie to record the England football anthem Three Lions, which has been a terrace favourite ever since.

Outside of these comic partnerships, Baddiel created the 2001 Sky One sitcom Baddiel's Syndrome and devised the Radio 4 panel show Heresy, which attempts to challenge received opinion. In 2009 he appeared in the 3rd series of Skins, alongside his real-life partner.

He has written three novels : Time For Bed, Whatever Love Means and The Secret Purposes and writes a regular literary column for The Times. He also wrote the 2010 comedy film The Infidel, starring Omid Djalili as a Muslim who discovers his parents were actually Jewish.

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Stand Up And Deliver

Review of Channel 4's show in which celebrities try comedy

The news that celebrities would be trying their hand at stand-up on TV was initially greeted with rumblings of discontent among some comedians. Why should these famous amateurs be given air time when established practitioners can barely work, was their understandable  complaint.

By its nature, Stand Up And Deliver has to overlook the years, if not decades, of gruelling work it takes to become a skilled comedian. But the show demonstrates a respect for the craft, will spark more interest in live comedy, and gave work to the five comics who acted as mentors – all of which are strong counter-arguments to those initial concerns.

Essentially, this is the Great Celebrity Joke Off for Stand Up To Cancer. There’s no pretence that these famous names are instantly going to be anything other than talented amateurs at best. But like its baking counterpart, the fun is in watching the process.

Producers have been savvy in the celebs they’ve chosen, too. As usual, they’ve spanned different fields and age ranges to broaden their demographic. But also stand-up aficionados might notice that they all encapsulate different archetypes of the bad open-spot newbie.

Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder is the naturally funny guy with zero discipline; Love Island’s Curtis Pritchard has the sort of geezerish banter that flies down the pub but flounders on stage;  former Coronation Strewet actress Katie McGlynn is a bag of nerves; while Rev Richard Coles and Baroness Warsi are used to public speaking, but have a wall of reserve that limits the amount of their real personality they allow to be exposed.

The mentoring addresses these comedic shortcomings head-on. Lyons constantly reassures McGlynn that to this day she’s nervous about performing, while Judi Love is visibly unimpressed at some of Pritchard’s performative shenanigans. Whether they can overcome their instincts is the key.

Jason Manford faces the most exasperating challenging in trying to persuade Ryder that he needs to plan, and can’t just busk it. It turns out the musician’s lack of focus is down to ADHD, and not the industrial quantities of chemicals he consumed in the 1980s and 1990s, but that doesn’t stop Manford struggling to retain his usual laid-back composure when dealing with such a wayward pupil.

There’s some better-natured tension between David Baddiel and former Communards musician Coles. The atheist comic wants the Church of England vicar to adopt his own iconoclastic, sweary style… but Coles has both immutable standards and a fear of losing his job that causes friction.

But much bigger tension exists between Nick Helm and Warsi, with the vehemently left-wing comic bluntly telling the former Minister from the very start that he doesn’t like Tories.

He, too, seems to want to turn the strait-laced politician into a version of himself, with aggressive, shouty swagger that’s anathema to her lifetime of political conditioning. That, as a socially conservative Muslim, she was prepared to lean into his intensity, trying to unlock something more primal in her comedy, is quite the revelation – and will surely win her a lot of admiration, even if you don’t like her politics.

The celebrities had two weeks of training before facing a socially distanced audience in the beautiful faded glory of Battersea Arts Centre in South London.  ‘It’s for a good cause,’ we’re constantly reminded – a cue, perhaps, to lower our expectation for their performances.

We’ll review their individual sets once the second episode has landed on the All 4 streaming service, straight after the opener airs on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight. But suffice it to say, their tentative journey into stand-up reveals something about all of them, as well as offering some insight into how any comedian must consider their sense of self, and how they project that on the stage. Interesting stuff…

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Published: 25 Feb 2021

God's Dice

David Baddiel isn’t the first creative person…
31/10/2019

Infidel

As film pitches go, ‘Omid Djalili plays a Muslim…
1/01/2010

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Products

Book (2017)
Birthday Boy

DVD (2010)
The Infidel

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