Interview: Charlie Baker – 24 Hour Pasty Person

Charlie Baker is a multi-talented entertainer. He is an award-winning radio host, he has worked as an actor on television and appeared onstage in musicals. He won Let's Dance For Comic Relief in 2011. Baker is currently travelling around the UK with his latest stand-up show, 24 Hour Pasty People. He reveals more about the show, how he made the move from theatre to comedy and what it is like to play both Tony Blair and a singing lettuce below.

Charlie Baker plays the Comedy Store in London on December 6 as part of his tour. For full tour dates and tickets click here.


Tell me about your show, 24 Hour Pasty People.

It's a love letter to the West Country where I grew up. The first thing I've seen that I thought was actually representing my people was Bridget Christie's C4 series The Change. West Country people have a different way which you only really know if you if you've lived there. On TV shows or films they just sound like mad pirates.


The show is just an honest discussion about what it's like to grow up in Devon. It's had the best reaction I've ever had for a show. It's an hour of funny stuff. I've previously done other things in my shows. I sing, I dance, I play instruments, I act, I can do all these things. And I was always like, why can't I make this work over an hour? Comedian Justin Moorehouse said I was trying to do six shows in one and I needed to just write one show. So I did that and this is it. He was absolutely right. Though there is a little bit of singing in it.


Is it your most personal show?

There's not a lot in it about my family, but this is the most 'me' I've ever been onstage. By that I mean what I would be like on a night out with a few pints in the pub. It's just all jokes.


Do you call yourself a stand-up comedian or entertainer?

This show is absolutely a stand-up comedy show. My manager Flo said: 'I want you to walk to the mic, tell the jokes and walk off'. That really helped me focus. My wife usually knows when I'm writing a show because loads of props will suddenly arrive that I've bought from ebay. Anything to avoid actually having to write jokes. I think everything I do comes under the umbrella of comedy. If I had to do only one thing for the rest of my life I'd do stand up.


Has anything unusual happened on the tour so far?

Yes, and I recommend people coming do this. Fan have been bringing pasties and leaving them on the stage. Unfortunately I can't eat them because I'm gluten intolerant! But I give them away afterwards.


You keep very busy. You are also a radio presenter.

I do Talksport three days a week. It's not just sport, we have actors all sorts of guests on. I do Sundays with Max Rushden and I sit in on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Paul Hawksbee. Paul writes for Harry Hill and wrote for Frankie Howard so he's a sort of kindred spirit. To work with him it's just a lovely job.


Talking of Harry Hill, you played Tony Blair onstage in his TONY! (The Tony Blair Rock Opera). You don't look a lot like the ex-PM...

All the reviews tried to find different ways of saying my character was a fat Tony Blair. I love working with Harry. I played a hunchback in his I Can't Sing – The X Factor Musical and performed at the Palladium. I'll do anything he asks. I said 'of course I'll do it, but I look nothing like Tony Blair'. But that was part of its charm. It added another layer of humour. And because I wasn't trying to look like him that freed me up.


Did you meet co-producer Simon Cowell when you did the X Factor musical?

You'd be rehearsing and they'd go, 'Simon is coming in today'. And then some very young fashionable people would come and they'd be like, 'Simon will be here soon'. And then some slightly older, fashionable people would come in and go, 'just checking the place is OK for Simon...'. Eventually Simon would come in, it was almost like a sort of puff of smoke and Simon would appear and say 'Hi, everyone!'. It must be the same when royalty visits.


You've also played another PM-related role - a singing lettuce on the Last Leg on Channel 4.

The Last Leg tends to ring my agent and say 'is Charlie free on Friday to play a magic money tree or the man who invented the vaccine?' One week when Liz Truss was Prime Minister I played a singing lettuce. It's like doing an old school variety show where you turn up and do your bit with the hosts.


Are you from a showbusiness family?

No! My dad was a car dealer and mum was a teaching assistant. Though my wife Sam was in a comedy duo called Live Girls and now acts. But when I was growing up the only thing I knew about showbusiness was The Krankies when they came to the local theatre and panto.


You got the acting bug young.

I studied drama at Lamda in London but didn't like not being able to make my own work. I knew Matt Lucas from the National Youth Theatre and we had a common interest in comedy. I always enjoyed cabarets more than plays and had gone to the Comedy Store since I was 16, so when I was 26 I signed up for open spots in comedy clubs.


You've appeared in some big TV hits. Fans might have spotted you in EastEnders and Dr Who.

I had my head chopped off in Doctor Who. That was fun. And EastEnders was great. I did six episodes. It weird though. You're in the square and you know it so well. They go, 'I'll take you to Ian's cafe' and you know where it is. And in your head, you're like, 'this could be big. I might end up running the car lot', but at the same time going 'do I want that?'


Apart from your family and performing, the other love of your life is Torquay United.

I grew up four miles from their ground and I talk about them in the show. They are rubbish, but I absolutely love them. They sum up the West Country attitude, which is basically, I don't believe you. We won the National League South four or five years ago, the first thing they've won in 110 years, and when they were parading the trophy around the ground these old boys in the crowd were saying 'they're milking it.' West Country people don't like grand emotions.


At the end of the tour you are doing the Comedy Store in London where you used to go as a fan...

To have gone there as a kid and for that to be the reason you became a comic and then to play there is amazing. I'm also doing the Babbacombe Theatre in Torquay which we are filming. It's where Bruce Forsyth made his name in the 1950s. It's right on the clifftop so if the gig goes badly I can just jump off the edge!

Picture credit: Jiksaw




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