Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 627

1 5 1 DECEMBER 2022 News&Views Football League TV show, when they were in the vanguard of 90s ‘new lad’ comedy. Some of that material would not see the light of day today – David admits he caused hurt and o ence with his impersonation of black NottinghamForest footballer Jason Lee. “I recentlymet Jason, and apologised in person,” he says. “Because I think what’s sometimes missing in these conversation is the humanity. For that there needs to be real human interaction.” But even back then, the hosts had as much of an appreciation for Baudelaire as Beckenbauer. David, who has a double first in English fromCambridge, had already started writing novels, and Frank was a former English lecturer who now presents a poetry podcast. It’s a split personality that has served David well during a career that’s wandered all over themap from stand-up – in the early 90s, when comedy was famously “the new rock and roll”, he and Rob Newman became the first comedians to playWembley Arena – to books, screenplays, documentaries, TV talent shows and a number one single. And that’s to say nothing of the huge success of Jews Don’t Count, his acclaimed 2021 book about anti-Semitism. “I think Jews Don’t Count has slightly shifted the dial on that conversation, which I wasn’t expecting at all,” says David, whose grandparents fled Nazi Germany in 1939 with his infant mother in their arms. “Not just because of my book, obviously, but I do seemore energy around the idea that Jews shouldn’t be left out of the conversation [about racism]. Though unfortunately, something else is also happening, which is that anti-Semitism is rising at the same time.” Last month, David presented a Channel 4 documentary on anti-Semitism, and he’s currently working on a follow-up to his 2021 BBC filmabout anger and social media, during which his daughter Dolly discussed how platforms such as Instagram fuelled her teenage struggle with anorexia. To that end, the concerns underlying Virtually Christmas are personal and heartfelt, but David has admitted he’s too addicted to kick the social media habit himself. “Actually, I think I’m slightlymore controlled with it than I was,” he says. “I don’t waste all my time engaging with trolls anymore.” So he won’t be spending Christmas Day glued to his phone? “Well there’s very bad reception in Cornwall. I do try not to be too disengaged from the present.” A theme that’s run through David’s stand-up comedy like a watermark over the years has been a kind of bracingly unfiltered honesty. His 2016 show My Family: Not the Sitcom, for example, probed his latemother’s infidelity and his ailing father’s dementia with gallows humour, including the story of how his childhood home in Dollis Hill, northwest London, gradually filled up with golf memorabilia, because his mum was having an a air with a golf memorabilia salesman. “I just don’t have an ability to really present a di erent version of myself,” he shrugs. “And that’s been a good and a bad thing.” In the past, he’s put this no-filter approach down, in part, to being “psychotically comfortable” in his own skin. And yet he’s also had years of psychotherapy. Is there a contradiction there? “No,” he insists. “When I say I’m comfortable inmy own skin, that suggests I’mfine. But there have beenmany times when I haven’t been fine – I’ve been depressed. But that wasn’t being unhappy with who I was – it was to do with things happening inmy life. Obviously you go into therapy a little bit to change how you think about your life, but I didn’t want to change who I was. I don’t think I can.” A self-styled Jewish atheist – he’s not religious, but will celebrate Hanukkah this month – David’s next career swerve is a book about faith (or lack of ) in which he will style himself as a cuddlier Richard Dawkins – his angle being that he’d love to believe in a God, but just can’t. “I don’t really ever set out to achieve anything,” he says of themany – largely accidental – strings he keeps adding to his bow. “I’d like Three Lions to be Christmas number one. But most of the time, I just say yes to anything I thinkmight be interesting, fun, or important.” There can’t bemany people, though, whosemost recent bestsellers are a children’s Christmas story and an impassioned polemic about the intersection of antiSemitismand identity politics? “There certainly aren’t very many people who will have written a polemic about antiSemitism, a Christmas book about Santa andmay also have a Christmas number one about theWorld Cup,” he concedes. And he takes some pride in that? “I do,” he says. “I mean, other people would say: ‘Just focus on something and stop trying to do everything.’ But I’ve reached a point inmy life where I don’t really care what other people think.” Virtually Christmas by David Baddiel (HarperCollins) is out now F O O D B I T E S You’ve said you aspire to be a vegan? I do, and I’m getting better. But I just like meat too much. I love sausages. Sausages? You’re married to Mummy Pig, David! I know. It is complicated for a Jewish bloke, living with Mummy Pig. Who is herself a vegetarian. Who’s cooking Christmas dinner? We normally have eight to 12 people round to the place we stay in Cornwall, and everyone brings food, so we all cook together. There’s an entrenched war about who’s better at roast potatoes. Favourite bit of the meal? A lot of the joy of Christmas dinner is to do with the trimmings. I’m also a big fan of Christmas pudding. I love how you can steam them for three hours, or stick them in the microwave for a minute and a half. Who on Earth is still steaming them? ‘I don’t really ever set out to achieve anything. Most of the time I just say yes to anything I thinkmight be interesting, or fun, or important’ TOP OF THE TREE David Baddiel and Frank Skinner in their 2022 Three Lions video (main); David with daughter Dolly and wife Morwenna Banks (below left); with Frank in 1994 (below) Photography: Joe Magowan, Dave Benett/Getty Images, Shutterstock