My Life In Media: Chris Tarrant

'I quickly realised I was unlikely to become the next David Lean or Martin Scorsese'


Chris Tarrant, 58, presents Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Tarrant on TV. He graduated from Birmingham University in English. He has three daughters and one son, and counts fishing and cricket among his recreations.

Chris Tarrant, 58, presents Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Tarrant on TV. He graduated from Birmingham University in English. He has three daughters and one son, and counts fishing and cricket among his recreations.

So what inspired you to start a career in the media?

I drifted into it assuming I'd do it for a year or two. I became a director at the government's Central Office of Information, but quickly realised I was unlikely to become the next David Lean or Martin Scorsese. Having seen a few people appearing in front of camera, it really didn't look particularly tricky, so I wrote off to every TV company in Britain; I got a job reading the news at ATV Birmingham. Two years later, they came up with a little Saturday morning show called Tiswas and my life was changed beyond repair.

When you were 15 years old, what was the family newspaper and did you read it?

My dad was a very keen reader of the Daily Express, although he has refused to read it since Richard Desmond took over. I used to go straight to the football pages at the back.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

I seem to remember listening to the radio a lot. In those days, there were great programmes like Hancock's Half Hour and Round the Horne, which was an absolute Sunday must. TV-wise, I never missed a single episode of Morecambe and Wise and I grew up in the days of the truly great BBC sitcoms like Hancock's Half Hour [TV version], Steptoe and Son and Dad's Army. I was also an obsessive Monty Python fan.

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

Sky News - their coverage is superb. I then flick around radio stations. The kids listen to Kiss on the school run; I go between Wogan, TalkSport and Virgin.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I read every national every day.

What's the best thing about your job?

I've interviewed all of my heroes and travelled to every corner of the world and been paid for it.

And the worst?

For 17 years, it was getting out of bed at 5am, but since April I've stopped doing even that, so I honestly don't think there are any bad bits.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Winning the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Television Awards in 2000, with my dad coming on dressed up as the Phantom Flan Flinger, to hand me my award.

And the most embarrassing moment?

There have been so many, most of which have been played to hoots of derision by Denis Norden. I once called Capital Crapital FM.

At home, what do you tune in to?

If it's early evening, I'll go to Sky News. If it's later, I watch a top football match, then a movie to get me to sleep. If there's any boxing live from America in the small hours, I'll stay up to watch it. I'm bored stiff with reality shows.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

I plough through the Sunday Times, supplements and all, but we get the lot. Quite often they're not opened but in the winter they do start a nice fire.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

I've just been to the North Pole filming the people and polar bears. I'd like to do more of that kind of work. We're talking about filming the gorillas in Rwanda.

If you didn't work in the media, what would you do?

Having done it for so long, I am probably completely incapable of doing anything else. But I probably would have ended up writing for a living.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Terry Wogan - because he's still the best and probably the nicest.

CV: THE QUIZMASTER

1972: His first job is news reading at ATV Today in Birmingham.

1974: Breaks into national prominence with cult Saturday morning TV show Tiswas, which he writes, produces and presents.

1981: Tarrant is joined by Lenny Henry, Bob Carolgees and newcomer Alexei Sayle in the more adult - and less successful - OTT.

1987: Joins Capital Radio as Breakfast Show presenter. Wins Sony Radio Awards in 1990 for Radio Personality of the Year and Best Comedy; silver medal in 1992 and 1993; Best Breakfast Show again in 1995 and a Gold Award in 2001. Retires from the early morning airwaves in April 2004.

1989: Tarrant on TV begins. Hosts various quiz shows in 1990s.

1998: Who Wants to be a Millionaire starts with Tarrant in the presenter's seat. Is the most popular quiz show on UK television.

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