The Real World: David Baddiel, comedian and novelist

'I think it's a good thing not to know what you want to do at 18'

David Baddiel went to King's College, Cambridge, where he got a double-first in English Literature. He graduated in 1986.

Why did you decide to study English literature?

I was going to study science because my dad was a scientist, but then I realised I wasn't very good at it. I did English Literature because I liked reading books and writing about them and talking about them, and I got the impression it would be the least hard work. It wasn't really done with a career in mind.

With the exception of those who are going to be the likes of doctors or scientists, I think it's quite a good thing not to know what you want to do as a career when you go to university. None of us at 18 have any idea what we're best at.

Why Cambridge?

My main reason was the Footlights. From about the age of 18, I wanted to be a comedian and I knew that the likes of Monty Python had been in the Footlights.

What did you do next?

I did a PhD in English at University College, London, though that was really just so I could get the £3,000-a-term grant to cover my expenses while I did comedy. Perhaps I shouldn't mention that... they might take it away. I did work hard on it, I just didn't get to finish it.

Did your education help you to get a job?

Alternative comedy was at its height when I came out of university, and so Footlights had actually become a pariah of a place to come out of. When I first started to phone places like the Comedy Store and ask if I could do gigs, I'd tell them that I'd been vice-president of the Cambridge Footlights and they'd put the phone down.

Was the knowledge you gained from your degree of any use when it came to writing novels?

I don't know if doing English Literature helps you write a novel but reading a lot of books certainly does, and other than university I don't know where I'd have read as many books.

Do you want your children to go to university?

My dad is a second generation immigrant and from a very poor background in Swansea, and when he went to university it was a statement of him moving from a very poor background and moving on in life. He then passed that on to me - there was no question that I wouldn't go to university. Because my kids haven't come from a poor background it doesn't have the same social implications, but still I'd rather they did go to university because I think they would enjoy it.

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