Radio doesn’t want a maverick like me says Danny Baker ahead of East Anglian tour
- Credit: Steve Ullathorne
Legendary broadcaster Danny Baker’s back on the road, sharing stories spanning more than 30 years. He talks about holidaying on the Broads and the joy of being shallow.
I hope Danny shares the stories of holidaying on the Norfolk Broads as a kid when his tour comes to East Anglia. It is, if he says so himself, terrific.
“We went there about seven times. There was a reason why, my old man didn’t like mixing with people,” laughs the broadcaster and writer, whose supposed farewell tour Good Time Charlie’s Back visits the Ipswich Regent on May 10, Colchester’s Charter Hall on June 1 and Norwich’s Theatre Royal on July 29.
“He was from a big family, had his friends... my mum always wanted to mingle but he would say, ‘What do you want to mingle for? You don’t go to a pub and mingle, do you?’ We went to a holiday camp at Caister, lasted 35 minutes. They tried to put him [in] like hi de hi [mode].
“We went out of there and got in a cab. It’s a long, hopefully uproarious story about how we ended up in a bungalow called St Elmo at Potter Heigham and me old man said, ‘This will do, we don’t have to see anyone else’.”
The show, he laughs, is about as interactive as this phone call. He loves telling stories and has a knack for anecdotes, be it about Sir Paul McCartney or just his mate and some fireworks. The name of the show is no accident. There’s no message, no morals. Just fun about things we can all connect with.
Describing himself as extraordinarily shallow - a good thing, he adds - too many people want to show they’ve got a deeper side. It’s the modern way to share.
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“I don’t. I don’t know anyone who’s interested in any deeper side; just entertain people and get off. It’s like all these documentaries and dramas about comedians - ‘I want to show the dark side’. I hate the dark side. I’m a genuine, absolute euphoric.
“The amount of people who was interested when I had cancer; bad enough living it, you don’t want to read it. When people want to talk about something terrible that’s happened to ‘em, that’s all well and good but my mum would lean forward as they started, put her hand on their knee and say, ‘God love you, but it’s none of our business,’ and there’s not a lot of people who say that.
“I think doing dark stuff is easy, light is very hard. I don’t look back. All it amounts to is the raw material for, what I hope, are crackingly entertaining books; very indiscreet and funny, and equally on the radio. It was a tremendous amount of fun but we only get 70 odd years in this theme park floating around in space, get on with it. I’m 61 this year but I don’t look back and go ‘Wow, what I’ve achieved’. Shut up, nobody wants that.
“You walk through the BBC and they all look like they’re having a terrible time talking to people who had a terrible time. I have had the hat on the side of my head whether its touring with rock bands, making crackpot TV shows or just talking to people on the radio. Most people don’t think that deeply about things, but if you listen to the media everyone’s walking around wringing their hands - they ain’t,” he laughs.
It seems nobody now ever says “I don’t know”, “I didn’t hear about that” or “I haven’t got an opinion on that” because that’s not how media types work.
“God love you, there’s a place for that but it’s so overwhelmingly the currency now that everything else seems not just irrelevant, but a threat. The reason I can’t get arrested in radio is they don’t know where I’ll fit into the station’s overall agenda.
“Today, all you hear is, ‘It’s your show, tell us what you want, we’re here for you’. No, you’re being paid for it. Come on, it’s an abdication of responsibility. So I hope, certainly with the shows, that anyone who bought a ticket would say, ‘That was a pretty wild ride you’re not going to get anywhere else’.
“I don’t get hardly any work in radio any more, even though I’ve won every award in the book. That’s how radio works these days, they don’t want a maverick or somebody who just makes stuff up.
“If I went on and spoke heavily about Brexit I think they’d probably give me a lot more work but my shows are absolutely light as a feather. I just try to cheer people up. Everyone tells us ‘oh you’re great on the radio’ but nobody will actually hire me,” he jokes.
“So I’m taken it into me own hands and gone out and met people on the stage. Instead of retiring. My wife’s furious I seem to be doing a second tour.”
He laughs off talk of being a broadcasting legend, simply saying he’s been around a long time. And confessing to doing some “really rotten things” during his career. Radio’s really his first love. Coming to it after almost 10 years on telly he clearly relishes the way it and his shows exist in the moment. There’s no re-takes and then you’re gone again.
Barely drawing breath and walking miles backwards and forwards across the stage, he’s more prepared for the follow up to last year’s smash Cradle To The Stage tour; jotting down bullet points of possible topics and a list of the stories he told last time at the side of the stage. Full of relentless enthusiasm, he’s prone to forgetting some of the best bits.
“I didn’t even put in the last tour the night I got shot, twice,” he laughs.
“There was so much left untold. I don’t think it’s a matter after all these years of needing applause because I generally do nothing most of the week. I’m doing this tour this year, I do me radio show on Saturdays but I’m like everyone else - I don’t want to go to work.”
I’m not sure I believe him.
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