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'
Thursday 26 January 2006
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.
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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