Richard Madeley: My Life in Media

'I'm proudest of the fact that I have allowed myself to be myself. I have not been bullied or pressured to adapt what I do or mask my personality'
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The Independent Online

Richard Madeley, 50, is better known as one half of the husband and wife daytime television team Richard and Judy. He met Judy Finnegan when they were both reporters at Manchester's Granada Television in the 1980s. They married in 1986 and went on to develop their own brand of lifestyle television with This Morning and current Channel 4 show Richard & Judy. Madeley's frequent interviewing gaffes, poker-faced honesty about his and Judy's private life, and shameful stunts, such as dressing up as Ali G, have made him both a figure of fun and cult hero in equal measure. The couple have four children.

What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

My father was a journalist and a very good storyteller. He told me loads of great stories from when he was working on newspapers in England and Canada, and it sounded like the best fun ever and not like work at all.

When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

We got the Mail, the Express and the Telegraph. I loved reading them and I started a newspaper at my school. I had a green eyeshade I used to wear, like a sort of 1930s actor, as I sat there pompously writing copy and subbing my classmates' copy. We also got the Romford Recorder and then the Brentwood Argus in Brentwood, an early tabloid paper which I joined in 1972.

What were your favourite television and radio programmes?

Alias Smith and Jones with Pete Duel and Ben Murphy; it was a TV spin-off from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It ran for two series before Duel shot himself. My father always had the Today show on in the mornings. Jack De Manio was presenting and then Brian Redhead and Co. Once awake, I'd put on Noel Edmonds on Radio 1.

Describe your job.

I see myself as a broad-ranging broadcaster, with a seat in features, current affairs and celebrity, but obviously not news anymore. I still use all the skills I picked up on newspapers and in newsrooms, but we're also entertainers - we had to persuade a very reluctant taxman of this in a court case recently.

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

I usually put Sky News on in the kitchen. Then it's the newspapers and I usually read the Express or the Mail first. I listen to the radio on the drive into work, Radio 4, Radio 2 or LBC.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I try to catch the lunchtime news on BBC or ITV

What is the best thing about your job?

Meeting people. That's why I got into newspaper journalism in the first place. Celebrities rarely fit their public persona - they're usually a lot nicer than they're made out to be.

And the worst?

There isn't that much of a downside. Lots of people say being lampooned and criticised in the press, but I'm not bothered about that. You don't get a phone call from your boss saying they're going to terminate your contract because the Daily Mail hates you. Judy is more sensitive than I am but she's got a lot tougher.

How do you feel you influence the media?

I certainly don't try to and nor does Judy. Looking back, This Morning clearly influenced national television, as a lot of things took on a life of their own. Trinny and Susannah's first TV was on our show, as was the chef Brian Turner's and the gardener Monty Don's. The new show has redefined what they call "shoulder peak television": the five o' clock slot. There was a rocky take-off but now it's a hugely contested slot.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

I'm proudest of the fact that I have allowed myself to be myself. I have not been bullied or pressured to adapt what I do or mask my personality. I think it was like that from the launch of This Morning because Granada knew the show would either succeed or fail based on our relationship.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

How long have you got? A long time ago I had a bust-up with Shakin' Stevens during a cringeworthy pop programme I did at Yorkshire Television when I was only 23 or 24. I was a complete fish out of water as the host and Shakin' Stevens came on. Status Quo were taking the piss out of him behind my back and I think he just lost it and threw himself at me. It was just so undignified. Finally I sat up and was totally thrown and said something really awful about my hair being ruined. It was the worst adlib and it made me look like a complete pillock. I cringe every time it is shown.

At home, what do you tune in to?

If we get home in time, half an hour of The Simpsons is a fabulous way to unwind. We might then turn over to Frazier and then watch both ten o' clock news shows.

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

We get them all and I really like The Sunday Telegraph, although I don't think the re-launch last year worked very well. I usually save it until last to read in bed on Sunday night. The Sunday Times and The Observer are obligatory; I love the News of the World and the Mail on Sunday is good, although it's gone a bit soft.

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

We'd really like to interview the Clintons together, particularly if Hillary runs.

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

I always wanted to be a fighter pilot but my eyesight went slightly when I was 12.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Alan Whicker. I think he's extraordinarily gifted; his ability to tell a story is just incredible.

Richard and Judy's interactive DVD game 'You Say We Pay' is out now

The cv

1972: Joins the Brentwood Argus aged 16 as a cub reporter

1974: Moves to East London Advertiser as assistant and then deputy editor

1976: Hired by BBC Radio Carlisle as a reporter and news producer

1978: Moves to Border Television, then Yorkshire Television in 1980

1982: Joins Granada Television and meets Judy, who introduces herself saying: "I'm your mummy"

1998: After a three-month trial at Granada This Morning launches to a national audience

2001: The first Richard & Judy airs on Channel 4. The show's book club is now a major force in the publishing world and has the power to make bestsellers out of unknowns