Danny Baker: Good Time Charlie’s Back – Review – York Grand Opera House
By @Roger Crow, April 2019
The eponymous broadcaster’s life story is so epic, so extraordinary that there’s little wonder his one-man show goes on a bit. When a friend and I enter York’s Grand Opera House and hear that the show will be in the four-hour mark, I wonder whether I want to commit to the whole thing. But then I remember Ken Dodd gracing the same stage in 2004, and his extravaganza ran for five hours, so I reckon I can cope with Danny Baker and his anecdotes for most of the evening.
I’ve no idea where the man gets his energy, but am amazed there’s no bottle of water on stage. Just him, a backdrop and a slideshow of favourite photos. Many of us may be first-time viewers, but he treats us like returning friends as he unveils the latest chapter of his blessed life, from memories of his family in the 1970s to life in 1988. Yes, he speaks for more than three hours and we’re still 31 years away from being up to date.
What fills the gap between those early days, faking food poisoning at school and working at a record shop in London is a wealth of incredible tales involving good luck, handy connections, namedrops, and that eternal optimism which has steered his course from the glory days of NME journalist and reporter/presenter on TV to his years as a DJ, and relationship with Wendy, his wife of many years. Everyone loves a bit of romance, and the tale of how he eventually won her over is one of the highlights of a packed evening.
A vision in an orange shirt and what has become his trademark fez, Baker is like an overexcited holiday maker who’s desperate to show you those snaps from his travels. As well he might be. They are astounding travels.
He discusses an old mate who decides to start amateur magazine Sniffin’ Glue, which goes from being a knocked-up fanzine to becoming THE booklet about punk. And as he can talk for England, Baker became a mouthpiece for that 1970s explosion of energy. There are stories about John Lennon, Paul Weller and, naturally, his family, many of which are laugh-out-loud funny.
Danny is on stage for so long, it feels like he morphs into his dad, with stories that were adapted for BBC series Cradle to Grave. Like a benign form of Stockholm syndrome, we, the delighted audience are happy to go along for the ride, from his days as an audience member on Top of the Pops, to the extraordinary letters from his bank manager. Yes, even that turns into comedy gold.
He’s now 62 but you wouldn’t think it. The TV and radio veteran paces the stage like a man half his age, dishing out trivia here, comedy gold there like a black market trader keeping one eye open for the police in case he’s moved on.
I’ve seen a lot of comedians over the years who have done the bare minimum to fulfil their contract of entertaining the audience. Danny Baker may not be a traditional stand-up comic, but he is like a man who is giving the performance of his life, and given half a chance I imagine would love to smash Doddy’s endurance record from all those years ago. But eventually the show does end, and there’s little wonder he gets a thunderous round of applause.
“Wave of goodwill”
There’s still so much more to tell, I’m guessing it could take two or three more mammoth gigs to get up to date. But I’m glad I witnessed one of the most interesting chapters of his life delivered live.
It’s an inspiration for anyone who loves writing, showbusiness and the art of turning a little into a lot, whether it’s spinning tall stories for TV or for in his case for work colleagues so he can stay on tour with Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
There’s obviously been some dark times over the years, but he skates over them with the skill of Christopher Dean. Danny’s keen to just give us the shining pearls, and given the wave of goodwill he generates, safe to say nobody feels short-changed by the interval let alone by the time we leave the theatre.
Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for the next collection of extraordinary stories.