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The truth about fame – according to comedian David Baddiel

Comedian (and writer and TV presenter) David Baddiel is presenting his latest one-man show at the Theatre Royal

David Baddiel whose Fame: Not The Musical is coming to the Theatre Royal
David Baddiel whose Fame: Not The Musical is coming to the Theatre Royal

Slipping into the Theatre Royal on Monday will be David Baddiel. You might recognise him as he does so – then again you might not.

You might be tempted to shout out: “Hey, David!” Or even (like Andrew Lloyd Webber who mistakes him for Ben Elton): “Hey, Ben!”

Or you might just gurgle the noise that occasionally greets people off the telly when they are spotted by someone who can’t quite put the name to the face: “Er... oi!”

David will be taking to the stage – in one of the panto’s rare breaks – to perform Fame: Not the Musical, which he first aired in Edinburgh last year and is his first stand-up show for 15 years.

“It is my first stand-up show for a long time,” he confirmed yesterday. “But it’s really just a fund of stories of the many humiliating and ridiculous things that have happened to me due to being slightly more recognisable than a lot of other people.

“It is amazing how many of these stories I have. The show is really about what it’s like trying to get on with a normal life in a celebrity culture.”

He relates the time, just recently, when he was busy getting his kids seated on a Ryanair flight and someone he didn’t know from Adam muttered something about celebrities getting preferential treatment – which he absolutely was not.

Then there was the time, again the other day, when he was driving his daughter in school and in his rear- view mirror spotted another driver making obscene gestures at him.

“You wonder if you’ve just cut him up on the road or whether he just hates you. I was genuinely thinking of stopping and asking him, ‘Was it something I did on the telly?’

“It’s something you are aware of all the time, something that’s there in the background.

“I know that, because of Simon Cowell, everyone wants to be famous these days, but this show is about what it’s really like to be at all well-known. It’s not a whinge. It’s just giving people an idea of what it’s really like and I hope it’s funny. People seem to have liked it.”

David Baddiel has been part of the entertainment landscape for quite a long time. He went to Cambridge University and was a member of its famous Footlights entertainment troupe.

After uni he wrote sketches and jokes for radio and then formed a writing partnership with comic impressionist Rob Newman.

The pair broke new ground, becoming the first to perform in front of a capacity audience at Wembley Arena.

Newman and Baddiel met Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis and the result was The Mary Whitehouse Experience, a hit on radio and then TV.

Newman and Baddiel did not last. Baddiel said he has always been pretty open with people, even journalists who ask direct and loaded questions. “I would never try to put any spin on things. A journalist would ask a question and I would answer it.

“Rob Newman was affected by fame and he was a difficult person to work with. I told a journalist that and it made him worse.

Baddiel and Newman became Baddiel and Skinner. The pair of them are fondly remembered – although not, possibly, by the bloke in the rear-view mirror – for their Fantasy Football League show.

Riding on the back of the new craze for fantasy football, it enabled the pair to lark around laddishly. Baddiel said Skinner has been following him around. “He bought a house 10 minutes down the road from me.”

Can this be a rare incident of a celebrity being stalked by another celebrity? Worth a laugh or two at the Theatre Royal, surely?

But it seems the pair are genuinely just mates. “What’s great about not working with Frank is that when I see him it’s purely friendship-based,” said David.

David Baddiel is a brainy bloke. He got a double first at Cambridge and embarked on a PhD. He has written four novels and presented TV programmes.

Last time we spoke he was plugging his film, The Infidel, a comedy about a British Muslim (Omid Djalili) who has an identity crisis when he finds he had been born into a Jewish family but was adopted at birth. A musical version, he said, had just closed at London’s Theatre Royal, Stratford East. “We’d really like it to transfer to the West End.”

He has also recently written a children’s book, The Parent Agency, “about a world in which children can choose their own parents”, and is looking forward to presenting a series on Radio 4 called David Baddiel Tries to Understand. Subjects include electricity, cryptic crosswords, derivatives and the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

David Baddiel, you might deduce, is one who ventures where angels fear to tread. He insisted not – although he won’t be visiting St James’ Park parading his Chelsea colours again in a hurry.

Quite a few years ago he was going out with a girl from the North East. One day they went to the Newcastle United ground to see the home team play his team. The home fans, well knowing his allegiance, had a bit of fun at his expense.

“I remember a bunch of Newcastle fans hoisting me above their shoulders and passing me around,” he said. “It was quite alarming.”

David Baddiel, with a fondness for Newcastle stemming from that romance, looks forward to seeing you at the Theatre Royal on Monday at 7.30pm. Box office: 08448 112121.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer