Danny Baker (born 22 June 1957) is an English comedy writer, journalist, radio DJ and screenwriter. Throughout his career he has largely presented for London's regional radio and television.
Baker in 2012
|Occupation||Radio DJ, presenter, journalist|
Baker was born in Deptford to a working-class family and raised in Bermondsey. From 1977, he wrote for the punk zine Sniffin' Glue, and from there was hired by the New Musical Express, where he worked as a writer, reviewer, and interviewer. Moving into television in 1980, he began presenting London Weekend Television's Twentieth Century Box and reporting for The Six O'Clock Show. In 1989 he began radio presenting for BBC GLR and in 1990 joined the newly established BBC Radio 5. In 1997 he was sacked from the latter. That decade, he also began writing for television.
From 2002 to 2012 Baker presented the daily morning radio show on BBC London 94.9 and in 2007 also presented the channel's all-day podcast, the All Day Breakfast Show. Between 2012 and 2017 he published a three-volume autobiography, which was used as the basis for the 2015 BBC sitcom Cradle to Grave. In 2019 Baker was fired by the BBC after posting a Tweet that showed a caption about Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, the mixed-race baby of Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, with a picture of a chimpanzee.
Baker was born in Deptford in south east London to Fred "Spud" Baker, a dockworker, and Betty, a factory worker. He grew up in Bermondsey. He attended Rotherhithe Primary School and then instead of taking up a grammar school place he went to the nearby West Greenwich Secondary Boys School, Deptford. He left the school in April 1972 at the age of 14 and initially worked in One Stop Records, a small but fashionable record shop in South Molton Street in the West End of London. The youngest of three children, he has an older sister, Sharon, and had an older brother, Michael, who died aged 29 when Danny was 24.
In 1977, Baker started writing for the punk fanzine Sniffin' Glue which was founded by his old schoolfriend Mark Perry which in turn led to an offer from the New Musical Express, then edited by Nick Logan. Baker began working as the office receptionist, but was soon contributing regular articles and reviews before progressing to interviews. He often refers to these times during his radio shows, regularly citing examples of the ridiculous behaviour exhibited by his rock star interviewees.
Reporting for LWT (1980s)Edit
Baker started his TV career in 1980 at London Weekend Television (LWT), as the presenter of Twentieth Century Box – a series of regional documentaries on elements of youth culture in London, produced by Janet Street Porter. One edition in the first series documented the burgeoning new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) scene, including an early TV appearance of Iron Maiden performing at The Marquee Club and interviews with "air guitarists". Other editions also featured early appearances from the likes of Spandau Ballet and Depeche Mode.
Baker's first mainstream break was as roving reporter-presenter on the Michael Aspel LWT regional magazine The Six O'Clock Show alongside former Mastermind winner and former London black cab driver Fred Housego. Paul Ross (brother of Jonathan Ross whom Baker had as his best man) was his researcher. During his stint on The Six O'Clock Show, Baker was filmed having an altercation with a British Rail press officer. This clip is often resurrected for clip shows and can be seen on YouTube.
Writing and presenting (early–late 1990s)Edit
Baker appeared regularly on LWT's regional output during the 1980s and early 1990s - working on such programmes as Six O'Clock Live, Danny Baker's Londoners, and in 1991, The Game - a six-part series which featured coverage of teams involved in the fourth division of the East London Sunday Football League. The series was later released on DVD.
Baker began writing for television programmes in 1992 after being asked to prepare a piece for one of the first archive clip shows: TV Hell, which was a collection of the worst TV programmes ever. Since then he has presented television shows such as Win, Lose or Draw, Pets Win Prizes and TV Heroes, which was a series of 10-minute homages to some of Baker's entertainment idols including Fanny Cradock, Peter Glaze (from Crackerjack) and the Top of the Pops audience. In one episode of TV Heroes, a clip was shown of Baker leaping around to a performance of "Ooh What A Life" by the Gibson Brothers in 1979, which was captioned as "Danny Baker's first TV appearance". During an edition of his own later series "TV Heroes" featuring the audiences from Top Of The Pops, Baker described himself as "looking like he was trying to put out a small fire".
Baker also began a BBC Saturday night chat show, called Danny Baker After All which borrowed its style from Late Night with David Letterman, but his style and guests (Rick Wakeman of prog rock band Yes was a regular) did not attract the mainstream audience the slot demanded. Film critic Mark Kermode's band The Railtown Bottlers was the show's house band.
During this period, Baker began presenting on BBC Radio 5's 606 football-related phone-in programme as well as the job of presenting Match of the Eighties, a six-part BBC series of football during the 1980/81 and 1985/86 seasons.
Guest appearances (late 1990s–2000s)Edit
During the late 1990s he made guest appearances on comedy shows including Have I Got News for You, Shooting Stars and Room 101. During this period he appeared in the press as a result of nights out with friends Chris Evans and England footballer Paul Gascoigne. Gascoigne was under media scrutiny for drinking and socialising while preparing for tournaments. After Gascoigne was left out of the 1998 World Cup squad, Baker went on Have I Got News For You to defend his friend and criticise the omission.
He also appeared on The Terry and Gaby Show from 2003 to 2004 (where he burnt his hand trying to perform a trick with a microwave and a piece of soap) and has appeared on BBC Two quiz show QI, becoming the show's first ever winner. Baker worked again with Charles Shaar Murray on the Ramones documentary End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, providing an audio commentary.
More recent TV projects include The Sitcom Showdown which began on UKTV Gold in April 2006, a 2014 show featuring archived television footage for BBC4 named Brushing Up On... and a music discussion show for BBC4 named Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades. He also did Comic Relief Does The Apprentice in 2007 for Comic Relief. He also starred in The Rocky Horror Show, as the narrator, at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley and the New Wimbledon Theatre.
Baker was announced as part of BT Sport's football coverage in 2013, hosting a Friday evening show with Danny Kelly. In 2016, Chris Evans hired Baker to work as a writer on the 2016 series of Top Gear. In November 2016, he entered as a latecomer in reality television show, I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here, along with Martin Roberts. Baker was the first person to be voted off in the series.
BBC GLR/5 Live/Radio 1 (1989–1997)Edit
Baker began his radio career on BBC GLR in 1989, presenting Weekend Breakfast from 6 to 9 am on Saturdays and Sundays. The show was produced by Chris Evans, who became a good friend to Baker. With GLR eventually opting for a more orthodox breakfast show at weekends, Baker moved to the 10 am to 1 pm slot on Sundays.
In 1990, Baker joined the newly launched BBC Radio 5, presenting Sportscall, a phone-in sports quiz broadcast every Saturday lunchtime.
From October 1991 to October 1992 he presented 606 and, from February 1992 until October 1993, he presented Morning Edition from 6:30 to 9:30 am every weekday morning. The show blended Baker's love of unusual trivia with 'grown-up' music. This was where Baker first teamed up with Danny Kelly and Allis Moss. Mark Kermode added weekly film reviews, and would later appear with his band 'The Railtown Bottlers' every week on the first series of Baker's TV show.
Baker joined BBC Radio 1 in October 1993, taking over the weekend mid-morning show from 10 am to 1 pm from Dave Lee Travis who had resigned on air following the sackings instigated by Matthew Bannister and Trevor Dann during the early 1990s. However, due to poor ratings, from November 1994 he was heard on Saturdays only from 10 am to 12 noon. Simon Mayo took over Sunday mornings.
Baker's style led to a fall in listeners at Radio 1 but despite his tendering his resignation on at least two occasions, management added extensions to his contract. From October 1995, his Saturday show went out from 12:30 to 2:30 pm. He left the station in September 1996. His co-hosts during this period included BBC continuity announcer Allis Moss, Dr. H, Laurie Sore, Andy Darling and Danny Kelly.
On leaving BBC Radio 1, Baker returned to BBC GLR to present a three-hour Sunday show from 10 am to 1 pm. 'Baker and Kelly Upfront' also returned, now at Saturday lunchtime, while Baker also took on a new show, 'The Baker Line', a Wednesday evening version of the 606 phone-in show.
While 'Baker and Kelly Upfront' was light-hearted, 'The Baker Line' was darker and emotionally charged. Baker was at his most outspoken, and in early 1997, he was sacked from 5 Live when station bosses alleged that he had incited threatening behaviour during an angry outburst about a referee.
Talk Radio/Virgin Radio (1998–2000)Edit
Baker joined Talk Radio to present a similar football phone-in with Kelly each Saturday from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. A pre-match show was added from 11:30 am to 1 pm. After moving to the Saturday breakfast slot (8 am to 12 noon), he engineered his own dismissal after a matter of weeks by refusing to centre the show on football, preferring to intersperse chat with his own music selections.
Not long after, Baker was approached by the BBC and was asked whether he wanted to present a Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 2. Baker turned down the offer by saying "the time wasn't right", and the show was given to Ross. Baker also deputised on Virgin's Saturday lunchtime football show from 12 noon to 2 pm for a handful of shows, alongside Danny Kelly until he left the station in 2000.
BBC London 94.9 (2001–2002 and 2005–2012)Edit
In September 2001, Baker joined BBC London 94.9 presenting a Saturday morning show from 8 to 11 am. Just 6 months later, in March 2002, and with a new co-presenting team which included Amy Lamé, Mark O'Donnell and David Kuo, he took over the breakfast show from 6 to 9 am, with a new theme tune in the form of the Anthony Newley song The Candy Man.
Although not drawing a large listenership, Baker won "Sony Radio DJ of the year" for the show. However, the day after winning the award, he announced his intention to leave the show at the end of the month. The last show was on Friday 27 May 2005. On Monday 17 October 2005, after a sabbatical at home, Baker rejoined BBC London 94.9 where he took over the weekday 3 to 5 pm show from Jono Coleman, who had moved to co-present the breakfast show with former actress JoAnne Good.
His BBC London 94.9 shows tended to feature off-the-wall phone-ins and discussions with his on-air team, Amy and Baylen Leonard, often regarding music and entertainment nostalgia of the 1960s and 1970s. His interviews focused on off-beat trivia rather than the guests' latest or most famous work, and shows would be interspersed with relatively obscure rock tracks from bands such as Yes, Todd Rundgren, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.
The programme was axed in November 2012 as part of a programme of cuts at the station. Although due to continue its run until the end of the year, Baker announced on air on the day of the announcement that that day's show would be his last, branding his BBC London employers as "pinheaded weasels" for the way in which they cancelled the programme.
All Day Breakfast Show/podcasts (2007)Edit
On 15 March 2007 until September the same year, Baker hosted the All Day Breakfast Show, a podcast to reach listeners beyond BBC London's FM radio reach. Regulars Amy Lamé, Baylen Leonard and David Kuo all contributed and the first show featured an appearance by comedian and actor Peter Kay.
Return to 606, Radio 2 and Saturday show (2008–2019)Edit
Having announced on his BBC London radio show on 21 May 2008 that he would be returning to present BBC Radio 5 Live's 606 football phone-in for a limited period that summer, Baker hosted six shows during Euro 2008. He made a long-term return to 606 in September 2008, hosting a Tuesday night show for the duration of the 2008–09 football season. He also had a short stint with Zoë Ball on Radio 2 on Saturday mornings after Jonathan Ross had been suspended for three months by the BBC. At the end of the 2008–09 season, Baker's 606 Tuesday night show that he co-hosted with Issy Clarke shifted to an expanded Saturday morning slot, starting in September 2009 on BBC 5 Live. The show returned in September 2010 after the summer break with Lynsey Hipgrave replacing Clarke as co-host. The Saturday Morning show gained critical acclaim, winning the Gold Sony Radio Award in the Speech Radio Personality of the Year award for the 2011, 2012 and 2014, and the Gold Award for the Entertainment Show of the Year in 2013.
—Baker's response to the racism incident, 2019
Sacking by the BBC (2019)Edit
In May 2019, Baker posted a photograph on Twitter featuring a chimpanzee in a bowler hat, which he had captioned "Royal baby leaves hospital", referring to the recent birth of Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, son of Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. The tweet was decried as racist because the Duchess of Sussex is of African-American descent. Baker deleted the tweet and apologised, stating that on posting it he did not consider the image's racist connotations.
Baker has presented a number of popular football videos and DVDs including Own Goals and Gaffs (1992), Right Hammerings, Whose Season Was It Anyway? (both 1993), Own Goals and Gaffs 2, Best Short Corners (both 1994), Fabulous World Of Freak Football (1995) and The Glorious Return Of Own Goals And Gaffs (2009).
The Game (1990), a cult classic television show presented by Baker, following bottom-division East London Sunday League football teams, was released on DVD through Revelation Films on 24 May 2010.
In 2009, he released a book co-written with Danny Kelly entitled Classic Football Debates Settled Once and for All, Vol. 1. Despite the title, the book itself makes clear that a sequel is not planned, though some extra material was written for the paperback edition, released to coincide with the 2010 World Cup.
On 6 November 2012, Baker released an autobiography, Going to Sea in a Sieve. which was first published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. A second volume entitled Going Off Alarming was published on 25 September 2014. A third volume entitled "Going on the Turn" was published on 5 October 2017.
Street-Porter described Baker as "over-hasty, excitable, [and] a blabbermouth," whose "motor mouth was legendary, even back in the 1980's." She noted that his "pet obsessions" were "working class humour" and football. Baker is a lifelong supporter of his local football club, Millwall. Baker has been a lifelong Labour Party activist. In May 2017, Baker endorsed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the 2017 UK general election. Baker is an opponent of Brexit.
On 1 November 2010, Baker announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer and would start chemotherapy instantly and radiotherapy in January. On 14 June 2011 he announced that he had been given the all clear.
After they sacked Baker in 2019, the BBC issued a statement describing him as "a brilliant broadcaster". The Guardian noted that he was a "pioneer of the inclusive, personable, and at times eccentric, broadcasting style that has since become the norm," and that he "has the knack of effortlessly making both the phone-in caller and the listener feel as if they are in his studio." Street-Porter stated that Baker's pride in his working-class London identity proved popular among a "large section of the population who feel they don't get a voice on 'posh' channels". She added that he stood out while working for the BBC, a corporation where "the over-educated and middle class dominates" and where—despite attempts to increase ethnic minority and LGBT representation—"white working class people" remained "conspicuously absent".
- Free BMD Births September 1957 - BAKER, Danny, Mother's Maiden Name: Ward, District: Deptford, Vol 5c, Page 404.
- Baker, Danny (6 November 2012). Going to Sea in a Sieve: The Autobiography. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0297863403.
- "Podcast of Baker being interviewed for the BBC radio series Desert Island Discs". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
- "A few quiet words with Danny Baker boy". The Independent. 24 March 1997. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
- "Danny Baker's 'The Game': the best football programme you've never watched". Shortlist.com. 25 May 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
- Kermode, Mark (1 June 2008). "My 20-year love affair with the joy of skiffle". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
- "BT Sport to reunite Danny Baker and Danny Kelly for football show". The Guardian. 3 June 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
- "Chris Evans hires Top Gear comedy writer". The List. 28 May 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
- "Danny & Martin arrive in Camp". ITV.com. 17 November 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- Agius, Nicola (25 November 2016). "First I'm A Celebrity elimination results revealed". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
- "Arts: Danny Baker - 'There's this idea that I talk too much'". The Independent. London. 13 April 2002. Archived from the original on 23 January 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
- Plunkett, John (1 November 2012). "Danny Baker's afternoon show on BBC London to be axed in December". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Plunkett, John (1 November 2012). "Axed Danny Baker delivers on-air rant at his BBC London bosses". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Plunkett, John; Kiss, Jemima (17 December 2007). "Danny Baker puts podcast on ice". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
- Glendenning, Barry (21 May 2008). "Baker's return can only be good". The Guardian Blogs. London. Archived from the original on 2 June 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
- "Danny Baker returns to 606 on Radio 5 Live". BBC Press Office. 19 May 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
- Luft, Oliver (31 July 2008). "Danny Baker returns to Radio 5 Live weekly phone-in 606 - yet again". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 August 2008.
- "Baker and Ball to co-present on Radio 2". BBC Press Office. 13 November 2008. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
- "The Winners 2012: Speech Radio Personality of the Year". Sony Radio Academy. Archived from the original on 19 May 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- "2014 Radio Academy Awards: Full Winners". Radio Today.
- "Baker takes top gong at Sony Awards". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- "Danny Baker 'so, so sorry' for disastrous tweet". BBC News. 10 May 2019. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
- "Baker fired over 'stupid' royal baby tweet". BBC News. 9 May 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- "Baker on 'stupid and ridiculous' tweet on royal baby which saw him sacked by BBC". Sky News. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- Baker, Danny (25 September 2014). Going Off Alarming: The Autobiography: Vol 2. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0297870111.
- Baker, Danny (5 October 2017). Going on the Turn. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0297870135.
- "Danny Baker gets 8-part BBC comedy drama". British Comedy Guide. 2 July 2014.
- Street Porter, Janet (10 May 2019). "I've known Danny Baker for 40 years – he's not a racist, but he is now a victim of our hypersensitive age". The Independent. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
- "FA Cup Final on Match of the Day". BBC News. 14 April 2004. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
- Milne, Oliver (8 June 2017). "Who are celebrities voting for in 2017 General Election? The A-Z of famous names supporting Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems and Greens". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
- "'GROW UP!' Backlash at Remainers after disgusting attack on Michael Caine over Brexit". Daily Express. 19 October 2018.
- "BBC radio presenter Danny Baker diagnosed with cancer". BBC News. 1 November 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
- "Danny Baker: I've won my battle against cancer". Metro. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 15 June 2011.
- Busby, Mattha (9 May 2019). "Danny Baker: popular DJ never far from the spotlight - nor the door". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
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