Interview: David Baddiel

The comedian and writer is backing mental health charity the Campaign Against Living Miserably. But his support is no empty gesture, he tells Kaye Wiggins

David Baddiel
David Baddiel

Celebrities have a tough time when it comes to talking about charities, says comedian and writer David Baddiel.

He announced last week that the profits from the premiere of his new film, The Infidel, which he wrote, would be donated to Campaign Against Living Miserably, a mental health and suicide prevention charity that offers advice and a telephone helpline for men.

"It can be a bit naff and tiresome for the public when celebrities are always banging on about charities and asking them to give money," says Baddiel.

"They don't want to boast about giving to charity, but equally it's not something people in the public eye should feel ashamed of."

Baddiel says he is often asked to endorse charities. "To be honest, I don't think there's much point in just putting my name to stuff," he says.

"I don't have time to give proper support to all of the charities that approach me, so it would be an empty gesture just to say I supported them all."

Instead, Baddiel has set up his own charitable foundation, which funds about 10 charities a month, and restricts his publicity work to a small number of charities he is close to.

He tries to fund small, local charities and receives about 12 letters at his home address each week from charities asking for donations. "I've made a couple of big awards, and word gets around," he said.

So how does he decide which to work more closely with? "It's normally because I have friends involved with a charity," he says. "I think that's a fair enough way of doing it; otherwise I'd have to do everything, and I don't have time."

His support for Calm began with an encounter in the playground at his daughter's school. Baddiel says: "Jane Powell, the chief executive of Calm, had a daughter in the same class at school as mine. Jane came up to me in the playground and asked whether I'd be a patron of her charity - I didn't want to say no to her.

"I also thought I could make a useful contribution. I've had depression and I'm unembarrassed about it, but I know that's not the case for a lot of men. Jane shocked me with the statistics: suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35 in the UK."

Baddiel says the nature of Calm's needs also convinced him to get involved. "We have to let people know there's a helpline they can use," he says. "That's not something I could do with money."

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