Nick Ferrari: A very big man with a whole lot of bunny rabbit

Nick Ferrari thinks talk radio is easier if you're right-wing – you can say it like it is. He does. And so do listeners. By Ian Burrell

He's done a lot has Nick Ferrari. He started in journalism as a boy, answering the phone at his dad's famous press agency. He went on to edit The Sun's "Bizarre" column and the News of the World's "Sunday" magazine, he was the launch editor of Sky News way back in 1989, he worked for Fox in New York and was more recently chosen by Richard Desmond to edit a new London free newspaper (though that never materialised).

Ferrari was also the director of programmes at the infamous Live TV, where he was dispatched by Kelvin MacKenzie to purchase a "News Bunny" outfit to front up the network's current affairs output. And right now he commands considerable influence as the breakfast show host on London talk station LBC, to the degree that he announced he'd stand against Ken and Boris for Mayor of London (that never materialised either, due to his divorce). He also has a book out, and presents his own theatre-based show.

So much stuff. You're almost tempted to take a look at his Wikipedia entry to find out just what else Mr Ferrari is up to. But maybe that's not such a good idea, given that it is heaving with personal detail of the "too much information" variety, with references to the sexual organs of both the presenter and his dog. It also relates a troubling story on the subject of Ferrari's bowel movements. "No, I don't have a colostomy bag," he says, putting the record straight at LBC's west London base.

Even more alarmingly, an unhelpful Wikipedia editor has entered the claim that a doctor told Ferrari "he was morbidly obese and would probably be dead within a year if nothing was done". Colleagues took it at face value. "A presenter here, Bill Buckley, sent me the most moving email: 'I'm desperately sorry, if there's anything I can do to help'," recalls Ferrari. "I'm fat for Christ's sake but I don't think I'm morbidly so, I don't think I'm dying, anymore than anybody else."

He's an industry heavyweight nonetheless, and with the mayoral election only two weeks away he's frustrated by industry rules that prevent him from influencing its outcome. "I can't be partisan at all, it's absolutely illegal," he says. "Yes, it does frustrate me, but it's the law. It would not be so in Australia and America."

He found a way round this on Thursday by hosting a debate in which Ken, Boris and the LibDem candidate Brian Paddick were quizzed by listeners and their answers analysed by a panel that included the London Evening Standard's Anne McElvoy and the former editor of the Daily Mirror, David Banks.

Ferrari is an influential figure in the capital, and he notes that at one point early in the mayoral race, one bookmaker named him favourite to oust Livingstone. Sadly, the early momentum of his campaign was disrupted by the collapse of his marriage and he was advised not to give up his day job. "My accountant told me 'If you go off and become the mayor of London you might as well sell the Big Issue at Waterloo'."

From a distance he has admired the Evening Standard's probing of Livingstone, who tried to get Ferrari the sack after he failed to cut off a caller's xenophobic rant about asylum-seekers ("He went out of his way to try to get me fired, he wrote to the previous management here, various radio authorities and God knows who else".) That lapse, in 2003, led to the Broadcasting Standards Committee, upholding a complaint that the presenter was culpable of "active reinforcement of prejudiced views about asylum-seekers".

Asked about that episode Ferrari says: "What I said that day was 'Let's try and clear up the truth and the fiction about asylum-seekers, ring up and tell me what you've heard', which with hindsight was provocative. I think somebody was telling me a story and I didn't listen fully because someone was giving me an instruction. My fault – I'm not pretending otherwise. But I would point to the fact that I do three hours a day, 46 weeks a year, utterly unscripted and that's the only mistake I've made."

Not that he's a shock-jock. "No-oooh. There's absolutely no shock-jockery in what I do. I'm somebody who tries to be entertaining in an informative way and informative in an entertaining way."

Ferrari is the son of Lino "Dan" Ferrari, founder of the Ferrari of Dartford news agency, and as a boy he answered the phone for the agency's young reporters, Richard Stott (later editor of the Daily Mirror) and MacKenzie (later editor of The Sun). He has newspapers in his blood and the format of his show reflects that.

"It's like a rambling early-morning newspaper conference," he says. "I've sat through conferences at the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror, the News of the World and The Sun. You get cynical, hardened journalists discussing the stories of the day and because they are all desperate to be top dog they all throw in witty one-liners to get the editor's attention. My show is a rambling tabloid news conference. All human tragedy is there but when you can you put a bit of light in the shade."

Though the Wikipedia entry suggests that Nick Ferrari, outspoken as he is, may have picked up one or two enemies along his career path, he is not easily embarrassed and a feature of his broadcasting is its frankness. "I can't expect the listeners to tell me sometimes the most harrowing, moving, upsetting or humorous stories about their lives if I never tell them anything about mine, it has to be a two -way street."

He then recounts the tale of one of his callers, "Claire from Temple Fortune". "She told me what it was like to be a teenage girl in Auschwitz. She goes through it and both of us were gulping and it was all very tough. She said I've told you things I've never even told my grandchildren, I said why are you telling me? She said "Because I know I can trust you". For my listeners that makes Auschwitz absolutely relevant, far more than any politician, any lecture, any rabbi, or church leader. It brings it all out in full, hideous colour. You don't get that from people unless you share a bit about yourself."

Ferrari suggests that talk radio comes easier to those who, like him, are to the right of centre politically. If you are more on the right wing of politics you are able to say right, prison works, we need to pay nurses more and what the hell is going on with MPs expenses. "If you're on the left you say prison does work in some cases but in other cases it doesn't. It's much more difficult to make it exciting and punchy. It's more succinct to be to the right. But humour has to underscore everything. It doesn't matter if it's The Sun, the Telegraph or The Independent, there has to be some humour. You read (Richard) Littlejohn he makes you laugh as well as scream."

Last Friday, Ferrari performed a version of his show for a packed audience at Croydon's Fairfield Hall. The performance he's most proud of, though, is his part as a talk show host in Ricky Gervais's Extras. His script, signed by Gervais, hangs in his toilet.

He talks reverentially about all of his famous ex-colleagues. Rupert, or "Mr Murdoch" as Ferrari refers to him was "Superb! Oh!-Fantastic!" He praises MacKenzie too, even though he was fired by him.

"Yes, of course he got rid of me from the old Talk Radio. He replaced me with Alan Brazil. What's the point in having breakfast on a sports station presented by a bloke who clearly couldn't shift his arse up to the halfway line?" he says, pragmatically.

When MacKenzie was his boss at Live TV, he was sent out to buy a 6ft bunny costume with "bloody great ears" for the station's "newscaster". "To which I replied 'What colour do you want the rabbit?' I didn't want to get it wrong – if I'd produced a white rabbit and he wanted grey I'd have got another kicking."

On his own initiative, Ferrari came up with Live's Topless Darts show and the notion of a weather report from a dwarf who couldn't reach Scotland on the map.

Ferrari is a natural-born raconteur and he could keep the media anecdotes coming all day long. "I was part of Bingo Wars, when (Robert) Maxwell decided the Mirror would pay out the first million pound bingo win and Mr Murdoch decided The Sun would beat him to it," he says, launching into a story that ends with eight Sun journalists guarding a bingo millionaire in a luxury hotel.

"So he's won a million pounds and the first thing he wants ...when he gets to this luxurious hotel ...is ...a plate of baked beans. The deputy night news editor had to go and find a plate of baked beans."

The World and London According to Nick Ferrari, published by John Blake Publishing, is out now

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

BI Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency in Central Lo...

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears