Evan Davis: What I've Learned

The Newsnight presenter in his own words

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The criticism that hurts is the criticism you agree with.

Happiness is an Italian meal and a glass of wine with family and friends at a mid-range restaurant. I love adding chilli oil to spice it up. That’s why I go mid-range — posh places don’t do the chilli oil.

I was bad at ball games in school but in football I could run around the pitch and look like I was taking an interest, whereas secretly I was ensuring I was nowhere near the ball. If I got through an entire game kicking the ball once or twice, that would be quite a result.

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What makes me anxious is live television. If I’m standing up I think my legs are going to give way. I have to tell myself, “They’ve never given way yet, so you’re probably going to be OK.”

I don’t retain much knowledge. I’m hopeless at a pub quiz.

Which one of my piercings hurt the most? I never answer questions that confirm or deny anything about piercings or tattoos. I prefer to maintain a slight level of mystery over these things.

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I was very into politics, current affairs and economics as a teenager. I always told people I’d be Prime Minister. I took myself seriously.

I try not to drink three days a week and then don’t worry about the other four. I always thought of a martini as something you bought at an expensive bar. Now I’ve realised you can make them at home. You don’t need much vermouth in that cocktail, either.

I enjoy a cigarette but I only smoke about 10 a month.

If I put weight on it’s a very strange thing. You can look emaciated but your stomach gets fat, which is the worst physique to have.

I always used to think it was reckless to get a motorbike but then I realised there was something exciting and sexy about them. I asked myself, “Why don’t you just learn to ride one and it could be really fun? What’s been stopping you other than some self-imposed sense of what is right or wrong or sensible or adult?” That was about 1999. I’ve got a Honda CBR600 now.

Anchorman is hilarious. It’s a deeper critique of some of the habits of the media than people realise; it captures the excitement quite well. We had a big laugh about it because a year ago on the Today programme there was a pregnant panda at Edinburgh Zoo and I used a line from Anchorman. It was like, “Let’s go back to the panda watch.” I thought people might spot it but I don’t think anyone did.

When I get recognised, it’s not “You’re Evan Davis”, it’s “You’re off Dragons’ Den.” That’s the level of comprehension people have of me.

I was born with wonky eyes. Most people’s are looking in the same place and move together. Mine move together but are not looking in the same place, so I use one at a time. I tend to use my right eye for distance and my left for reading. For me, 3D films are an absolute waste of time. You can have it corrected but mine were too far gone.

Detail bores me. I don’t like the leaves. I just want to see the forest.

When you’re a teenager and not quite sure what your sexuality is, that’s a pretty turbulent time. I would love to make clear to my teenage self that you don’t have to worry. Most of the battle is the self-angst rather than the social acceptance. It feels lonely when you haven’t told anybody because you’re kind of on your own, but when you tell people you find a social set and it gives you the company and support so you don’t feel lonely anymore. I didn’t tell my parents until I was in my twenties. They were lovely about it.

Pursuing your dreams is a good thing. There’s a ghastly kind of riff when it comes to encouraging young entrepreneurs that says just persevere, you’re going to make it. Your dream has to be sensible, so don’t say, “I want to be a rock star” if you’re not musical. Pursuing your dreams is about using what you’ve got. You can’t just hope that what you would like to have will somehow drop out of a bag in the sky.

I begin to feel unkempt if I don’t get my hair cut every week. I prefer to have that clipped, neat look.

My most frustrating interviewee? I’d like to answer that with a category, which is “politicians who can’t rise above giving you a very predictable partisan line”. I don’t think it works for them and it doesn’t work for us. I can understand why they do it, but sometimes I exhibit my irritation and shouldn’t. That is a bit of a fault of mine. It is very conspicuous that the politicians who appear to break through have perfected the art of talking like a human being.

You have a circle of friends until you’re in your thirties and then there’s one person who becomes your partner. I’ve still got friends but now you say, “We must have dinner. Are you free in August?”

Why are we here? I think that is a misconceived question. There is no answer. We are here and we’ve evolved with certain instincts and tastes, drives and passions. You have a rational brain that might tell you it is all meaningless or there is no purpose in life. Do I feel that’s the case? No, not at all. I just go with the flow.

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