There are few people with a more impressive CV than Ben Bailey-Smith. After finding fame originally as a rapper under the name Doc Brown, Smith made a name for himself as a comedian, actor, writer and radio presenter. Who else on Earth has performed with both Amy Winehouse and Ricky Gervais?
The most recent addition to Smith’s long list of talents is voiceover artistry; in the last few years, he’s been the reader of various audiobooks, including Ladybird Audio Adventures, Beatrix Potter: The Complete Tales, Terry Pratchett’s The Time-travelling Caveman, and Nick Hornby’s latest, Just Like You.
We reached out to the renaissance man to ask about his favourite films, music, and other culture; in response, Smith opened up about his love of documentaries, the infinite rewatchability of The Jerk, and the “hamstring-twinging magic” of yoga.
Film: The Jerk
The Jerk is from 1979. Not recent. Not cutting-edge. Not intellectual. Probably really un-PC and someone would “cancel” it now or some such nonsense. But maybe my favourite movie of all time. Definitely not a “cool” one for a cinephile to reference, but if I’m really honest with myself, I can’t think of another film that I have watched as many times that I will still sit and watch and enjoy just as much since I first saw it, which must have been around 1992.
Outside of The Empire Strikes Back, I don’t think there’s another film I’ve enjoyed regularly for over a quarter of a century. The maddest part is that it’s technically not even a very good film. And it’s basically a really, really stupid comedy. But Steve Martin’s performance is seminal, Bernadette Peters is at her most engaging and every cameo is pitch-perfect. And most of all – it STILL makes me laugh. How’s that possible?
For new movies, I’d throw in Rocks – a brilliant slice of life film based in London that feels so real it could be a documentary.
TV: O.J.: Made in America
I love documentaries more than any other type of television show, and this series was the best of the best for me. The way it interwove the O.J. story with the journey of Black history and culture in America was reminiscent of Ken Burns in its tireless attention to detail, yet it was also genuinely, thrillingly dramatic almost throughout. Gobsmacking in parts.
Music: Conspiracy by J-Hus
I liked half of his first album, but this second one is just ridiculously good throughout. It’s hard to explain if this sort of youthful Black street music isn’t your cup of tea, but imagine the melodic, irresistible 2003 50 Cent, mixed with pure 2020 London swagger and more than a slice of Gambian soul. It’s lyrical road rap mixed with afro beat at times, and feels like the most natural thing in the world. Kid’s a genius.
Podcast: My Mate Bought A Toaster
Tom Price’s My Mate Bought A Toaster is a great spin on Desert Island Discs. Price interviews artists having been granted access to their Amazon accounts, so the interviews can focus on varied stages of the interviewee’s life at very specific moments. It manages to unlock memories in the interviewees that provide very different responses to the usual stock celebrity answers. Like This is Your Life, but via all the crap you bought. Funny.
Lockdown hobby: Yoga with Adrienne
I do ‘Yoga with Adrienne’ on YouTube every single day, and it’s been a game-changer. I can’t exercise in parks or gyms or in front of people. In fact, I can’t exercise. I find it embarrassing and/or painful. But I find yoga really relaxing and have formed an intimate bond with this teacher from Texas who I only know via my television. But our moments in the comfort and privacy of my living room are pure sweaty, hamstring-twinging magic.