Why Danny Baker’s gift of the gab has universal appeal

Danny Baker is bringing his new tour to Leeds.
Danny Baker is bringing his new tour to Leeds.
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Danny Baker is heading back to Leeds with his latest tour - with the Londoner certain he can win over audiences in Yorkshire once again. James Rampton reports.

Danny Baker had it all worked out. He and his wife Wendy were going to retire and move to sunnier climes in Portugal. But then something happened...

I’ll let Danny tell the story – after all, he does it so well. “When I was promoting my last book, I did a couple of festivals and they sold out really quickly,” he says. “I did them, and I enjoyed them, and people turned up.

“I said, ‘Do you know what? Let’s do a couple of them in London, just telling the stories out the books.

“The books are fine and great, and the TV series were fine and great. But I still tell the stories first hand, and that’s how they work best. Anyway, the shows sold out immediately. So the two dates become five, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50. I did two nights at the Shepherds Bush Empire recently. Bang! Again, same thing – sold out.”

What is most extraordinary about his first show - entitled Cradle To The Stage – is that Danny only covered a fraction of his upbringing in south London.

The 61-year-old says: “I hadn’t even left school by the end of the three-hour shows. I had 48 photos to show people. We got through six.”

He’s now heading back on the road with new show Good Time Charlie’s Back!, which will visit Leeds Grand Theatre on July 22.

The broadcaster is well-known for his roots in the capital but says his shows do translate wherever he goes in the country.

“One of the myths about me is that I’m ‘very London’,” says Baker. “But on the last tour, I went to Yorkshire four times, Manchester three times. I went right up into the North East – and we sold out everywhere. I think my stories are unique and universal.”

The broadcaster and writer has worked throughout print, television and radio for over 30 years and his recent bestselling autobiographies were adapted into the hit BBC series Cradle to Grave, starring Peter Kay. He also has a weekly show on BBC Radio 5 Live and relishes the experience of working with a live audience.

Looking back on his last tour, Baker says: “God, it was something. They were great nights, those shows. And there is no record of it. It wasn’t filmed, it wasn’t recorded. But that’s fine. That’s half of the shine of it as well, I think. About ten minutes into it, you could really see the audience think, ‘Wow, he won’t be able to keep up this!’

“I don’t have a fear of public speaking. Onstage, I like knowing that I’m heading into a really good story. Along the way they’re funny, but I like to know that they pay off.

“I’m having a terrific time myself, and I hope that is infectious. I don’t laugh at my own jokes, but I do clap my hands and think, ‘Oh, you’ll like this, here’s something, this is great, let me tell you’.

“If you asked me now, ‘What shape are the shows and what stories did you tell last time?’, I wouldn’t know. People say, ‘What’s your favourite subject you’ve done on the radio?’ But I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of reverie I go into when I’m on the radio. I can’t remember. No idea. Which is how it should be. You’d be like a mad person if you talked like that all the time!

“I have an ebullience that some people find annoying, but I’ve said it many times, I’m very shallow. That has become a bad thing, but it’s not in my book. Too many people today affect a darker side. I can’t bear the word ‘dark’. I’m a euphoric, and that’s all there is to it. I’m stuck with it. I had loads and loads of uncles and aunts. My wife is one of 10. Our house was always full of pushchairs and bikes and you had to be competitive to be heard. Our family was noisy. But even before I left school, I was fortunate enough to realise that when something funny happened, it would make a great story.”

Tickets for Danny Baker’s new show, “Good Time Charlie’s Back!” are available at www.dannybakerlive.com