Baker And Kelly United (Talk Radio, 1997-1999)
Danny Baker is someone whose TV work I have followed over the years, ranging from adverts to game shows. Baker has also been working in radio since the late-80s, but I didn’t hear much of his early work, so I missed out on shows he did on various stations including BBC GLR, BBC Radio 1, and BBC Radio 5. He became known for taking calls on unusual subjects and playing a variety of songs.
Baker had also hosted a lot of radio shows about football (and was also a columnist in The Times), usually alongside Danny Kelly, who has been the editor of various magazines about music and sport. After this double-act were kicked off yet another station, they were hired by Talk Radio to host a show about football, which was increasing its coverage of sport at the time. I thought that it was about time I finally had a listen to them, and I definitely enjoyed it.
Now I remember that Baker once said that he only “went” once on the radio, that is he laughed so much he was unable to regain his composure. He said “Danny Kelly made me do it”, but he didn’t say what it was. I wonder if it was this moment that I wanted to tell the story of, as it is one of the funniest and most remarkable things that I have ever heard on the radio (I know some people consider their “wooden bowtie” incident to be their pinnacle, but I didn’t hear that live). The memory is a little hazy, but it went something like this.
Baker and Kelly were hired to do a phone-in on Saturday evenings, and this became popular enough for them to have an extra slot in the afternoon, so they would be on for about two hours before and after the 3pm matches. During their break, did they stay in the studio, listen to the live coverage and make some notes of the results, or did they even go to watch their teams (Baker being a Lions fan, and Kelly a Spurs fan)? Well no, it seems they spent that time in the pub enjoying a cocktail or two, which might go some way to explaining what happened here.
For a while at the end of the evening show, Kelly used to read an email from Trevor, who wrote terrible jokes. This was accompanied by graveyard-style sound effects like heavy rain and tolling bells, and Baker would deliberately not laugh, and then pause and say goodbye. One week, they received a call from someone which turned out to be one of the all-time classics.
They had attended an event, and among the guests was Jeff Astle, who was a famous footballer in the late-60s/early-70s for West Bromwich Albion, and he was having a second wave of fame following his appearances on Fantasy Football League (as co-host Frank Skinner is a big WBA fan). Presumably he was there to give an award or do some after-dinner speaking, but afterwards, the caller noticed he stretched out his empty plate to a passing waiter and asked “any more pie?”. Well that was fine and amusing, but it was what happened next that was really great.
About a week later Trevor emailed again and Kelly began with something like “Hello. I enjoyed your story about Jeff Astle last week. Here’s what I think other famous and historical figures would’ve said in that situation”. And these were just the most awful and ridiculous puns, and rather than not laughing, Baker couldn’t stop, and he made some rather remarkable noises, to the point he was so overcome he couldn’t finish the show, and as he was still laughing they just ran out of time and tumbled off the air.
For many weeks after, loads more of these puns were read out by Kelly that were sent in by various people, such as “Babe the talking pig – any more sty?” and Sir David Lean the film director – any more Kwai?”. It caused a sensation. Then they were dropped about halfway through the season because supposedly they weren’t talking about football enough. When they were delivering solid radio gold like this!
There was more though, as Baker and Kelly went around a few more radio stations, and Baker hosted the compilation Own Goals And Gaffs that was released on DVD. They also did a book together that was very entertaining, and they even briefly appeared on TV on BT Sport at about 2am. Baker has written a lot of great and witty things about football, in much contrast to his rather grumpy and irritating views on the modern game online. He has promised that he will reunite with Kelly once again one day soon though.