When your two biggest skills are singing and stand-up comedy, it was inevitable that Charlie Baker would eventually weld the two together into what has become his highly-acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe show Baker’s Dozen, which is now on tour and calls at Nottingham’s Glee Club on Wednesday, 27th November.
Baker’s face is becoming a familiar one on our TV screens, having appeared on two series of Never Mind the Buzzcocks along with regular appearances on Richard Bacon’s Beer and Pizza Club, Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff and being a team captain on Channel 4 series A Short History of Everything Else.
Brimming over with talent and a fully trained actor, graduating from LAMDA in 1997 and training with the National Youth Theatre, stand-up Charlie is also an accomplished, highly acclaimed jazz singer and musician.
With Baker’s Dozen the Devon-born gag-master has finally managed to create a platform for him to showcase that musical talent alongside his jokes as he sings us his own interpretations of the best-selling number ones from every year between 2000 and 2012 and adds gags in between them.
That means he gets to offer his own unique twist to such dubious classics as Bob The Builder: Can You Fix It?, Shaggy’s It Wasn’t Me and Peter Kay’s revival of Is This The Way To Amarillo?
Charlie smiled: “It’s an obvious idea isn’t it? No? I just wanted to find a way to mix my comedy and my singing properly, not just doing it in an ironic way. I can do both well and wanted to bring them together. I wanted to arrange the songs well and change their style.
“I thought there must be a reason why these songs go to number one - even Bob The Builder, which I realised that, when you have kids, it at least gives you two minutes quiet away from being asked silly stuff!”
Baker’s Dozen sold out its run at Edinburgh and is now drawing the crowds on a national tour.
“So far people are loving the show and having a party,” he said. “I did the first five previews without the songs so I could make sure I was getting the comedy part of it right and wasn’t leaning too much on the music. I didn’t want everyone coming out humming the tunes but not able to remember the jokes.
“Then we added the music and I previewed the show to about 12 people in Bristol.
“Since then I have never had a feeling like it about a show. People have said they didn’t know what to expect, but they didn’t expect ‘that’, and said they had ended up having one of the best nights of their life. That’s not just me blowing my own trumpet.
“I don’t know what it is in the show that does that. I said to my manager there is magic in this show. There’s isn’t actually – I don’t do any magic at all.
“This show just seems to tick boxes in people’s heads. It is a really good party night out. It seems to be a bulletproof format.”
On his last appearance at Nottingham Glee just before the turn of the year, Charlie single-handedly rescued the night after the comedian on just before him had been savaged by a baying crowd largely made up of office Christmas parties.
“It can be a weird time for gigs, and everyone has died at a Christmas show,” he said.
“It starts with someone in the office saying what shall we do for our Christmas party and mentioning they went to the comedy and it was a good night. Then all of a sudden you are sat there with your colleagues in an odd situation, feeling like you have to laugh, especially if you don’t agree with what the comedian is saying.
“Yes I did save the show and he did have a stinker. But it’s not a difficult thing to go on after a death. You can normally go on and do your own stuff and it goes down well simply because you are a different person to the one they’ve just watched.”
As someone who could have pursued their acting or singing careers all the way, why on earth did Charlie choose to head into the precarious and sometimes downright scary world of stand-up comedy?
“You can be so creative. It is the most pro-active of all the art forms,” he said. “You can make the phone ring as a comedian. You are writing your own stuff and you are in control – it’s the most in-control you can be as an artist.
“You can write all day and gig all night if you so wish. You can get into other areas, too, like writing sitcoms, doing YouTube videos, radio scripts, songs – it’s not straitjacketed.
“It was such a relief to get into it. If you are acting, you are waiting for a script, if you are in a band, you are waiting for three or four other people to turn up. It’s a great feeling. You feel very alive and in control.”
His musical career has seen him perform with the John Wilson Orchestra, the Syd Lawrence Orchestra and the Ted Heath Big Band, and his versatility was highlighted in Let’s Dance for Comic Relief, which he famously won with Emmerdale’s James Thornton with their tap routine.
He has acted on both stage and screen, with parts in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, The Long Firm on BBC1, The IT Crowd on Channel 4, and even a part in Doctor Who.
But Charlie remains full of enthusiasm and ideas and would love to develop a sitcom.
“I still have loads of ambitions,” he said. “I want to be as good a comedian as I can possibly be. And that can take a long time.
“You look at people like Jack Dee, Sean Locke and Micky Flanagan and they’ve been going 20 years or more. They know what makes them funny. It is an absolute skill that just takes time, though there are some people that are brilliant from the off.
“I want to be as big and as funny as I can and use that to get into other areas. That only comes from writing good shows and telling good jokes.”
Charlie continues to work on sitcom scripts with the hope that one may make it to our screens in the near future.
“I have written a couple of pilots,” he said. “One was The Home Office for BBC2, but when there was a change of controller at the BBC, it wasn’t his cup of tea which is understandable. Someone else had commissioned it. But he did give me good, honest feedback.
“I never went to university but I felt with that experience I had graduated with a degree in sitcom writing. I was one of the lucky ones as we filmed it with a proper cast and set.
“Writing a narrative and writing characters – I really enjoy it. It uses completely different skills to stand-up.”
Tickets for Baker’s Dozen at Nottingham Glee Club on Wednesday, 27th November (7pm), are priced £10 in advance and £7 for students and available from www.glee.co.uk.
The Chad, in conjunction with www.nottinghamgigguide.com and the Glee Club, have two pairs of tickets to give away for the show.
Simply tell us which county Charlie Baker was born in, and e-mail your answer and daytime phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Thursday, 21st November. First correct answers out of the hat win the tickets.