Michael Ball's Telly Feast

~ Jane Clinton for Sunday Express - 22/08/2010 ~

Remark from us: During the article a few concerts in Australia are suggested. We have now been told unfortunately this won't happen this year.

JANE Clinton talks to new chat show host Michael Ball about his amazing career from singer to broadcaster and how playing a fat, frumpy housewife has been the highlight.

HE has dominated the stage and can be heard on our airwaves so it was only a matter of time before Michael Ball would have his own television chat show.

The housewives' favourite is disarmingly chipper, although he is well aware the slot (every weekday at 3pm) is not the easiest to crack after David Dickinson's attempt failed after just one run.

“I was excited and a little bit frightened,” he says, now a week in to the summer run of the show. “I went into it with my eyes open but I have not done anything quite like this before so I just didn't know how I was going to get on and what the response would be. It could have been an absolute car crash.”

Michael refers to it as “the telly show” in that familiar, chatty way that has made him such a hit on the airwaves with the BBC Radio 2 show, Michael Ball's Sunday Brunch.

He hopes his show is a “treat” for the audience with a mix of celebrity guests (last week's included Katie Price and Les Dennis), cookery, and real-life stories as well as competitions and the odd song from the man himself. It is a suitably gentle vehicle for the likeable Ball.

“I hope to learn to cook on the show and then make lunch for those people who come on and share their stories,” he says, admitting that at present he is pretty hit and miss when it comes to the kitchen.

With a chuckle in his voice he sounds like an overexcited schoolboy. He has just finished a stint in the touring production of Hairspray in which he drags up as Edna Turnblad, the play's big woman with the big heart. The role, he says, has been a career highlight. As an associate producer on the touring show it also means Michael can dip in and out of performing and this has allowed him time for this foray on to the chat show sofa.

Playing Edna also meant he was encouraged to keep his weight up. On stage and in character is fine but television, Michael concedes, is particularly unforgiving when it comes to girth.

“I know I am going to look enormous on television,” he says. “I put on weight when I stopped smoking about three and a half years ago and it is harder to lose it when you are older and when you don't really have to, given the show that I was in. I have always battled with my weight. I am not thrilled about it and I am very self-conscious but this is how I am for the moment. Hopefully I will lose some of it.”

Watching him bound about the set it seems hard to believe that Ball, or Bally as he is known to his friends, is self-conscious about anything although he has admitted to panic attacks in the past.

“If people find it is not acceptable for me to appear how I am then I just won't appear,” he says. “I always say if something is making you unhappy then just stop doing it. It is my philosophy and it is a hard-earned one.

“In the past I spent so much time trying to make other people happy; now I try to make me happy and others happier.”

The 48-year-old Michael has a refreshingly unstarry approach to life. He lives quietly with his partner, the former Ready Steady Go! presenter Cathy McGowan. A house fire in 2001 from which he was saved by Cathy changed Michael's focus in life.

“I don't relive it and I am not terrified that the house will go up in flames,” he says. “It happened in my study so my gold discs, old pictures and programmes went up but we were absolutely fine. It did put things into perspective and made me realise that stuff wasn't important.”

After the summer run of Hairspray, Michael will record an album and do some tour dates in Australia. He will also produce the musical Love Story, based on the Erich Segal novel and film. In the meantime he hopes to channel some of his favourite interviewers' styles.

“I loved Jonathan Ross, Michael Parkinson and I think Kirsty Young is great,” he says, “and there was Mavis Nicholson in the Eighties. Whatever happened to her?” So who would be Michael's dream guest for the show?

“I know it may sound strange but it would have to be Camilla Parker Bowles. I have met her a couple of times and I really liked her. She has an incredible story and I think she would be good fun. Can you put in a word?”

Right, well it's over to you then Camilla...


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