Big Interviews

Big Interview | David Baddiel

Published: 18th November 2021

THIS week, the Press Club from Ashcott Primary School in Somerset joined First News for a special Zoom interview with author David Baddiel to talk about his new book (The Boy Who Got) Accidentally Famous. David read an extract from the new book before being quizzed by the students about the book, his favourite biscuits and THAT football song…

Charlie: What was it like for you to become famous? Billy in your new book becomes accidentally famous. Do you think you became accidentally famous?

No, I don’t think I did. I was a comedian in London comedy clubs for about six years before I started to work on TV, so it can’t be classed as an accident. But also the book is partly based on the internet and the internet has done a thing that didn’t exist when I was young. Someone can do a thing on the internet and it can suddenly go viral and suddenly everyone knows about them and that can be quite frightening and quite exciting. That didn’t exist when I was younger, so I don’t think I had the ability to become accidentally famous like people do now.

Olivia: Who did you look up to when you were a schoolboy, like Billy in the book looks up to Sunshine?

That’s a really good question. When I was young, we didn’t have the internet and on telly there were only three channels, so there was basically your mum and dad to look up to. When I was a bit older, probably around 13, I used to like footballers and some pop stars. There was a pop star called David Bowie, who I was a massive, massive fan of. I think when I was 11 I just looked up to my mum and dad and some cartoons!

Juliette: If you could go back and talk to your 11-year-old self, what would you tell them?

I was a bit like Billy, a bit. I wasn’t that confident, I was quite a shy kid. I grew much more confident in my teenage years. I was a very shy kid and I lived in a boring place and had a very boring life where nothing was very exciting. I think I would go back and say: “Don’t worry, it seems a bit boring now and you might be a bit shy and you might not think you’re all that, but it’s going to be okay. If you just carry on trying to do the things you like to do,” which was writing stories.

Isabel: How do you come up with the names of the characters and places in your book?

Most of the time it is related to who they are. So with Billy Smith, I wanted him to think of himself as very, very ordinary and not think of himself as very special or different, so I gave him a very ordinary name. That’s how I tend to think about names in general. A couple of times I have auctioned names for a charity. I have just done it for my next book, even though I don’t know what my next book is. For charity, I say to parents that if they donate some money to charity, I will name some children in my new book after their children. I did that in The Person Controller, so I do that sometimes. With some of the characters, I just like to think of a silly name.

Sam: Are your characters real, or do they live in your head?

Most of the characters are not based on real people. Occasionally they are. In this book, there is a producer character who wears very tight jeans and has a very big, black, brick hairdo, and he might be based on someone you may have seen on television! Yes, he is based on Simon Cowell, although don’t tell Simon Cowell if you see him because mine is not a very nice character! Most of the time they just do come out of my head and the story is what counts. If I think of a story like this one, where I want the boy to be shy and nervous and then gradually come out of himself because he becomes famous, I just imagine what that might be like. I don’t really base that on anyone, I just imagine what it must be like for that person.

Max: There’s a made-up Pixar movie called Socks in the book; are you a fan of Pixar?

I really like Pixar movies, I think they are certainly some of the best movies ever made. I think Ratatouille is one of the best films ever made, I think the first hour of Wall-E is like a masterpiece. Toy Story 3 is brilliant and I think adults who don’t realise how great these films are, which is quite a lot of adults, are wrong. I love Pixar films and Socks is just my attempt to make up a Pixar film. It sort of makes fun of them but loves them at the same time, which is something that I do quite a lot as a comedian.

Juliette: What is your favourite memory of your time at primary school?

Oh gosh! We used to play a very odd version of a game of marbles, but I used to quite like it. We had quite a long, narrow playground and you had a little marble and you could win a big marble if you threw the little marble all the way down this long, narrow playground and hit the big marble. I did that once and won someone else’s big marble and that was my favourite thing that ever happened at primary school.

Freddie: If you could be a character from any of your books for a day, who would you be and why?

I wrote a book called AniMalcolm, which is about a boy who doesn’t like animals. His family really like animals and they have lots of pets and they send him on a trip to a farm. While he is there, a goat puts him under a magic spell whereby he falls asleep and every time he wakes up he is a different animal. He wakes up as a pig and he meets a pig called Ludwig, who is the wisest pig in the world, and I would like to be that character. I would like to be Ludwig the wisest pig in the world. If you get a chance to read AniMalcolm you’ll see what I mean. He is a really, really clever pig – he’s much cleverer than me.

Fenn: We were going to ask you if it’s coming home but you probably get asked that quite a lot. How does it make you feel and is it boring that people still ask you about Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)?

No, it’s not boring at all, it’s nice. It’s nice that something I wrote with Frank Skinner and Ian Broudie and The Lightning Seeds in 1996, before any of you were born, is still being sung at football grounds and is still thought of as the big England football song. I was just there during the tournament and I was there at Wembley, listening along to people singing it and singing along to it with my son, who wasn’t born when it was written, so that is amazing. I’m very proud of Three Lions, I think it is a good song and I think it speaks very deeply to football fans, and so I’m glad that it is still going.

Olivia: You performed at Glastonbury, which is just up the road from our school. What was that like?

It was great! I did comedy at Glastonbury, I’ve never performed Three Lions there. It was nice but it was very, very muddy. I was so covered in mud and we drove to Bath afterwards trying to find water to wash ourselves off. I remember driving onto the site and I had a little car, like a Mini or something, and it was just sinking in the mud. It was very muddy but it was a lot of fun!

Flo: In press club, we love custard creams. What’s your favourite biscuit and do you drink tea or coffee?

That’s a really good question. My favourite biscuit, and there’s some controversy about this, is the Jaffa Cake. Now the controversy is that some people think that it’s a cake. Is a Jaffa Cake a biscuit or a cake? After all, it has cake in its name. I go with the idea that it is a biscuit because it has chocolate on it, it’s the same size as a biscuit and it’s got an orangey thing in the middle which is not really cakey. You couldn’t put candles on it and have it for your birthday, so I would say it is definitely a biscuit. I would have it mainly with coffee but I’m quite a traditionalist with tea and I do tend to have a cup of tea at tea time, which is about five o’clock, so I might have one then!

(The Boy Who Got) Accidentally Famous is out now! Watch some clips of David at


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