From a career as a local journalist in the north of England, he rose to public prominence as a presenter of Top Gear in 1988. Since the mid-1990s Clarkson has become a recognised public personality, regularly appearing on British television presenting his own shows and appearing as a guest on other shows. As well as motoring, Clarkson has produced programmes and books on subjects such as history and engineering. From 1998 to 2000 he also hosted his own chat show, Clarkson.
His opinionated but humorous tongue in cheek writing and presenting style has often generated much public reaction towards his viewpoints. His actions both privately and as a Top Gear presenter have also sometimes been controversial, resulting in criticism from the media, politicians, pressure groups and the public.
As well as the criticism levelled against him, Clarkson also generated a significant following in the public at large, being credited as a factor in the resurgence of Top Gear to the most popular show on BBC Two, and calls for him to be made Prime Minister. Clarkson himself was keen to downplay his perceived influence on the British public, stating he regularly contradicts himself, and would make a "rubbish" Prime Minister.
Born in Doncaster to teacher Shirley Gabrielle Ward and travelling salesman Edward Grenville "Eddie" Clarkson, his parents ran a business selling tea cosies. They put the young Jeremy's name down in advance for a number of public schools with no idea how they were going to pay the fees, until at the last moment, when he was 13, they made two Paddington Bear stuffed toys for each of their children. These proved so popular that they started selling them through the business with sufficient success to be able to pay the fees for Clarkson to attend Repton School.
He was later expelled for "drinking, smoking and generally making a nuisance of himself.
For an episode of the first series of the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? broadcast in November 2004, Clarkson was invited to investigate his family history. It included the story of his great-great-great grandfather John Kilner (1792–1857), who invented the Kilner jar: a receptacle for preserved fruit.
Clarkson married his agent/manager, Frances Cain, in May 1993 in Fulham. The couple currently live in the town of Chipping Norton, situated in the Cotswolds, with their three children (born August 1994, March 1996, and November 1998). Clarkson also has a flat in Bayswater as a base in London for working, but after selling this the couple bought a lighthouse as a second home on Frances' family home of the Isle of Man. Known for buying him car-related gifts, for Christmas 2007 Clarkson's wife bought him a Mercedes-Benz 600.
Clarkson often compares his personality to that of a six-year old boy, which is the over-riding influence when it comes to reviewing cars or feats of engineering. Clarkson is 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m), a fact that is often referred to in his car reviews. Clarkson keeps chickens and his three donkeys at his home in the Cotswolds.
Clarkson's fondness for wearing jeans has been attributed by some to the decline in sales of denim in the mid 1990s, particularly Levi's, due to being associated with middle aged men, the so-called 'Jeremy Clarkson effect'. After fashion gurus Trinny and Susannah labeled Clarkson's dress sense as that of a market trader, he was persuaded to appear on their fashion makeover show What Not to Wear in order to avoid being considered for their all time worst dressed winner award. Their attempts at restyling Clarkson were however all rebutted, and Clarkson stated he would rather eat his own hair than appear on the show again.
As a self confessed admirer of actress Kristin Scott Thomas Clarkson previously frequently mentioned her on Top Gear, with cars on the 'Cool Wall' being measured by whether they would impress Kristin if you arrived to pick her up in one. After a mock fall out on the show in 2007, Clarkson appointed Fiona Bruce as the 'new' muse of the Cool Wall.
Clarkson is in favour of personal freedom and very much against governmental over-regulation, stating that Government should "build park benches and that is it. They should leave us alone" He has a particular contempt for the Health and Safety Executive. He has often criticised the Labour Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, especially the 'ban' culture, frequently fixating on the bans on smoking and 2004 ban on fox hunting. Clarkson is opposed to the opening up of the countryside to ramblers, under the right to roam, and became involved in a protracted legal dispute about access to a "permissive path" across the grounds of his second home on the Isle of Man since 2005.
Clarkson was often critical of political correctness. He often comments on the media perceived social issues of the day such as the fear of challenging adolescent youths, known as 'hoodies'. In 2007 Clarkson was cleared of allegations of assaulting a hoodie near his home, after the police said that if anything, he had been the victim. Clarkson is a prominent eurosceptic. In the six-part series Jeremy Clarkson Meets The Neighbours he travelled around Europe in a Jaguar E-type, examining (and in some cases reinforcing) his stereotypes of other countries.
As a motoring journalist, he is unsurprisingly frequently critical of government initiatives such as the London congestion charge or proposals on road charging. He is also frequently scornful of caravaners and cyclists. He has often singled out John Prescott the former Transport Minister, and Stephen Joseph the head of the public transport pressure group Transport 2000.
Clarkson had long been noted for his pro-smoking viewpoint, with him even publicly smoking as much as possible on National No Smoking Day. However, he announced on 14 April 2006 that he had given up smoking. He cited that he had found a cure for the urge — the Koenigsegg CCX. He also said: "(the cure) is called smoking", in reference to "smoking the tyres". However he later revealed that he had started smoking again.
On the environment, Clarkson is not sympathetic to the green agenda. He once said: "I do have a disregard for the environment. I think the world can look after itself and we should enjoy it as best as we can". He has little respect for groups such as Greenpeace, and believes that the "eco-mentalists" are a by-product of the "old trade unionists and CND lesbians" that hadn't gone away but merely found a new cause. Clarkson is not however a climate change denier, commenting on the effects of global warming - "let's just stop and think for a moment what the consequences might be. Switzerland loses its skiing resorts? The beach in Miami is washed away? North Carolina gets knocked over by a hurricane? Anything bothering you yet?"
Clarkson is not always one to join the current event cause celebre of public opinion of the day. In a miscalculated attempt to prove the press and public furore over the 2007 UK child benefit data scandal was a fuss about nothing, he published his own bank account number and sort code, together with instructions on how to find out his address, in The Sun newspaper, expecting nobody to be able to remove money from his account. He later discovered that someone had been able to set up a monthly direct debit for £500 to a diabetes charity, and this person's identity was ironically protected from the bank under the Data Protection Act.
Clarkson has been described as a "skilful propagandist for the motoring lobby" by The Economist and a "dazzling hero of political incorrectness" by Daily Mirror With a forthright and sometimes deadpan delivery, Clarkson is said by some to thrive on the notoriety his public comments bring, and has risen to the level of the bête noire of the various groups who disagree with his views. On the Channel 4 organised viewer poll, for the 100 Worst Britons We Love to Hate programme, Clarkson polled in 66th place just behind the left wing comic Ben Elton. By 2005, Clarkson was perceived by the press to have upset so many people and groups, The Independent put him on trial for various 'crimes', declaring him guilty on most counts. Criticism is often directed personally, with derogatory comments about residents of Norfolk leading to some residents organising a "We hate Jeremy Clarkson" club. In The Guardian's 2007 'Media 100' list, which lists the top 100 most "powerful people in the [media] industry", based on cultural, economic and political influence in the UK, Clarkson was listed as a new entrant at 74th. Some critics even attribute Clarkson's actions and views as being influential enough to be responsible for the closure of Rover and the Luton manufacturing plant of Vauxhall. Clarkson's comments about Rover prompted workers to hang an "Anti-Clarkson Campaign" banner outside the defunct Longbridge plant in its last days.
However, the BBC often plays down his comments as ultimately not having the weight they are ascribed. In 2007 they described Clarkson as "Not a man given to considered opinion"., and in response to an official complaint another BBC spokeswoman once said: "Jeremy's colourful comments are always entertaining, but they are his own comments and not those of the BBC. More often than not they are said with a twinkle in his eye." Even some of his opponents tend to take the view he is a man that should be ignored. Kevin Clinton, head of Road Safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has stated "We don't take what he says too seriously and hopefully other people don't either.
His most memorable act on his chat show, Clarkson, was attracting media comment for causing upset to the Welsh by placing a 3D plastic map of Wales into a microwave oven and switching it on. He later defended this by saying, "I put Wales in there because Scotland wouldn't fit.
His views on the environment once precipitated a small demonstration at the 2005 award ceremony for his honorary degree, and Clarkson was pied by road protestor Rebecca Lush. Clarkson took this incident in good humour, while Rebecca became known as "Banana girl" from the stunt. Clarkson has spoken in support of hydrogen cars as a solution.
In 2008 an internet petition was posted on the Prime Minister's Number 10 website to "Make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister". By the time it closed, it had attracted 49,446 signatures. An opposing petition posted on the same site set to "Never, Ever Make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister" attracted 87 signatures.. Clarkson later commented he would be a rubbish Prime Minister as he is always contradicting himself in his columns. In their official response to the petition, it appears Number 10 agrees.
While his fashion sense and chauvinistic comments are often cited as making him unpopular with women, in a 2008 poll of 5,000 female members of an online dating website, Clarkson came third in a poll of MISAs – Men I Secretly Adore, behind Jonathan Ross and Phillip Schofield. Characteristically, Clarkson was upset not to have come top. Clarkson has often recognised and celebrated the fact that car fanatics can be found in both sexes.
In response to the reactions he gets, Clarkson has generally and consistently dismissed his importance, stating "I enjoy this back and forth, it makes the world go round but it is just opinion." and "I don't have any influence over what people do, I really don't. It makes no difference what I say. Top Gear is just fluff. It's just entertainment - people don't listen to me. On the opinion that his views are influential enough to topple car companies, he has argued that he has proof that he has had no influence. "When I said that the Ford Orion was the worst car ever it went on to become a best-selling car,". His concerted attacks have similarly done no harm to the likes of the Toyota Corolla.
Clarkson's first job was as a travelling salesman for his parents' business selling Paddington Bear toys.
Clarkson trained as a journalist with the Rotherham Advertiser, before also writing for the Rochdale Observer, Wolverhampton Express and Star, Lincolnshire Life and the Associated Kent Newspapers.
In 1984 Clarkson formed the Motoring Press Agency (MPA), which, with a partner, he would conduct road tests for local newspapers and automotive magazines. This developed into pieces for publications such as Performance Car. He has regularly written for Top Gear Magazine since its launch in 1994.
Clarkson went on to writing articles for a diverse spectrum of readers through regular columns in both the mass-market tabloid newspaper The Sun, and for the more 'up market' broadsheet newspaper The Times (now technically a tabloid sized broadsheet). Both are owned by News International.
In addition to newsprint, Clarkson has written books about cars and several other humorous titles. Many of his books are aggregated collections of articles that he has written for the The Sunday Times.
While closely associated with presenting motoring shows through the original Top Gear and Motorworld, by the late 1990s Clarkson had diversified into presenting programs on other topics, beginning as presenter of the UK version of Robot Wars. At the same time his television presence also branched out into appearances on a number of other shows, both as guest and guest host. From 1998 for three years he had his own chat show, Clarkson, hosting 27 half-hour episodes aired in the United Kingdom between November 1998 and December 2000, and featured guest interviews with musicians, politicians and television personalities. In his television career, Clarkson went on to present a number of documentaries focused on non-motoring themes such as history and engineering, although the motoring shows and videos continued. Alongside his stand-alone shows, many often mirror the format of his newspaper columns and books, combining his love of driving and motoring journalism, with the examination and expression of his other views on the world, such as in Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld, Jeremy Clarkson's Car Years and Jeremy Clarkson Meets the Neighbours.
Clarkson's views are often showcased on television shows. In 1995 Clarkson appeared on the light hearted comedy show Room 101, in which a guest nominates things they hate in life to be consigned to nothingness. Clarkson despatched caravans; flies; Last Of The Summer Wine; the mentality within golf clubs; and vegetarians. His public persona has seen him make several appearances on the prime time talk shows Parkinson and Friday Night with Jonathan Ross since 2002. By 2003 his persona was deemed to fit the mould for the series Grumpy Old Men, in which middle-aged men talk about any issues of modern life which irritate them. Since the topical news panel show Have I Got News for You dismissed regular host Angus Deayton in October 2002, Clarkson has become one of the most regularly used guest hosts on the show in a role which attracts a sideways look at current affairs. On a more serious platform, Clarkson has appeared as a panellist on the political current affairs television show Question Time twice since 2003.
In 2007 Clarkson won the National Television Awards' Special Recognition Award. Also in 2007, it was reported that Clarkson reportedly earned £1m a year for his role as a Top Gear presenter, and a further £1.7m from books, DVDs and newspaper columns.
Clarkson has a keen interest in the British Armed Forces, with several Clarkson focused Top Gear spots having a military theme, be it Clarkson escaping a tank in a off road vehicle, a helicopter in a sports car, or a platoon of Irish Guardsman in a Porsche and Mercedes. Several of his DVDs and television shows have featured military hardware, and he has flown in military jets previously.
Clarkson presented a programme looking at recipients of the Victoria Cross, in particular focusing on his father-in-law, Robert Henry Cain, who received a VC for actions during Operation Market Garden at Arnhem in World War II.
In 2007 Clarkson wrote and presented Jeremy Clarkson: Greatest Raid of All Time, a documentary about the World War II Operation Chariot, a 1942 Commando raid on the docks of Saint-Nazaire in occupied France.
At the end of 2007 Clarkson became a patron of Help for Heroes, a charity aiming to raise money to provide better facilities to wounded British servicemen. His effort led to the 2007 Christmas appeal in The Sunday Times supporting Help for Heroes.
In his book, I Know You Got Soul he describes many machines that he believes possess a soul. He cited the Concorde crash as his inspiration, feeling a sadness for the demise of the machine as well as the passengers. Clarkson was a passenger on the last BA Concorde flight on 24 October 2003. Paraphrasing Neil Armstrong he described the retirement of the fleet as "This is one small step for a man, but one huge leap backwards for mankind", and that the challenge of building Concorde had been a greater human feat than landing a man on the Moon.
His known passion for single- or two-passenger high-velocity transport led to his brief acquisition of an English Electric Lightning F1A jet fighter XM172, which was installed in the front garden of his country home. The Lightning was subsequently removed on the orders of the local council, which "wouldn't believe my claim that it was a leaf blower", according to Clarkson on a Tiscali Motoring webchat. In fact, the whole affair was set up for his programme Speed, and the Lightning is now back serving as gate guardian at Wycombe Air Park (formerly RAF Booker).
In a Top Gear episode, Clarkson drove the Bugatti Veyron in a race across Europe against a Cessna private aeroplane. The Veyron was an £810,000 technology demonstrator project built by Volkswagen to become the fastest production car, but a practical road car at the same time. In building such a preposterously ambitious machine, Clarkson described the project as "a triumph for lunacy over common sense, a triumph for man over nature and a triumph for Volkswagen over absolutely every other car maker in the world. After winning the race, Clarkson announced that "It's quite a hollow victory really, because I've got to go for the rest of my life knowing that I'll never own that car. I'll never experience that power again.
|He has previously purchased:||Clarkson and his family currently own:|
|Ford Escort RS Cosworth||Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG|
|Ford GT||Volvo XC90|
|1980s Alfa Romeo GTV6|
|Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder|
|Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG||Ford Focus|
|Ferrari F355||Mercedes-Benz 600 Grosser|
|two VW Sciroccos||an ex-military Land Rover Defender|
|Jaguar XJR||Aston Martin V8 Vantage (for his wife)|
|BMW 3.0 CSL||Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X|
|BMW Z1 (for his wife)|
In addition to the many cars he has owned, as a motoring journalist, Clarkson regularly has a choice of cars delivered to his driveway by car companies, in order that he can test them.
Clarkson wanted to purchase the exclusive sports car the Ford GT after admiring its inspiration, the Ford GT40 race cars of the 1960s. Clarkson was only able to secure a place on the shortlist for the few cars that would be imported to Britain to official customers, through knowing Ford's head of PR through a previous job. His subsequent experience with his Ford GT have been well documented by him. After a long wait and an increased expected price, the car had many technical problems. After "the most miserable month's motoring possible", he returned it to Ford for a full refund. After a short period, including asking Top Gear fans for advice over the Internet, he bought back his GT. He has called it "the most unreliable car ever made", due to his never being able to complete a return journey using it. In 2006 Clarkson ordered a Gallardo Spyder and sold the Ford GT to make way for it. In August 2008 it was reported that he had sold the Gallardo.
Despite not liking Rover or Vauxhall, Clarkson does have an affection for the 'British' marques of Jaguar and Aston Martin, but has previously described this success as being down to the combination of British ingenuity with foreign funding, management and marketing. Clarkson often applies national stereotypes to cars, i.e. German cars are well built, Italian cars are stylish but temperamental, Japanese cars are hi-tech but soulless, and the present intermixing of nationalities in the global car industry becomes a source of comment.
Clarkson has a particular fondness for Alfa Romeos despite their numerous flaws, and has owned several. He contends that "you cannot be a true petrolhead until you've owned one... it's like having really great sex that leaves you with an embarrassing itch." In his book I Know You Got Soul the Alfa 166 was one of only three cars classified as having that "special something". Clarkson quotably called the Brera, Alfa's latest sports car, "Cameron Diaz on wheels".
Clarkson has had mixed views on the Porsche 911 supercars, feeling them to have uninspiring styling. He is also not a fan of the rear-engined flat six layout, feeling it a fundamentally flawed design. He has however often complimented the technical aspects and practicalities of many Porsches, over say the equivalent Ferrari of the time. In reviewing a 2003 Porsche 911 GT3 though, Clarkson conceded that Porsche had finally overcome the natural tendency of a Porsche mechanical layout to lose the grip in the rear tyres in a bend, and stated it was the first Porsche he had ever seriously considered buying.
Clarkson also enjoys late-model V8 Holdens, available in the UK rebadged as Vauxhalls, which does cause some problems given his views of other Opel/Vauxhall cars (see below). Of the Monaro VXR he said, "It's like they had a picture of me on their desk and said [Australian accent] 'I'm gonna make that bloke a car'" and "I can't believe it... I've fallen in love... with a Vauxhall!" Clarkson suffered two slipped discs that he attributed to driving this car he described as being "back-breakingly marvellous".
One of Clarkson's most infamous dislikes was of the British car brand Rover, the last major British owned and built car manufacturer. This view stretched back to the company's origins in British Leyland. Describing the history of the company up to its last flagship model, the Rover 75, he stated "Never in the field of human endeavour has so much been done, so badly, by so many.". In the latter years of the company Clarkson blamed the "uncool" brand image as being more of a hindrance to sales than any faults with the cars. On its demise, Clarkson stated "I cannot even get teary and emotional about the demise of the company itself — though I do feel sorry for the workforce."
Clarkson is also well known for his criticism of Vauxhalls and has described Vauxhall's parent company, General Motors, as a "pensions and healthcare" company which sees the "car making side of the business as an expensive loss-making nuisance". In spite of this, he has expressed approval of several recent Vauxhall models including the VXR models and the Zafira people carrier. Clarkson has expressed particular disdain of the Vauxhall Vectra, describing it as "One of my least favourite cars in the world. I've always hated it because I've always felt it was designed in a coffee break by people who couldn't care less about cars" and "one of the worst chassis I've ever come across".. After a Top Gear piece by Clarkson for its launch, described by The Independent as "not doing [GM] any favours , Vauxhall complained to the BBC and announced, "We can take criticism but this piece was totally unbalanced.
Clarkson is known for destroying his most hated cars in various ways, including catapulting a Nissan Sunny using a trebuchet, and dropping a Porsche 911 onto a caravan (after plunging a piano onto the bonnet and dousing it in hydrochloric acid, amongst other things), shooting a Chevrolet Corvette with a helicopter gunship, or dismantling a Buick Park Avenue with a bulldozer. In Jeremy Clarkson: Heaven and Hell (2005), he purchases a brand new Kelisa, proceeds to attack it with a sledgehammer as soon as he purchases it from a local dealership, tears it apart with a heavy weight while it is hanged and finally blows it up. He described the Kelisa as "Built with no soul, no flair and no passion; like a washing machine or fridge" and "A piece of un-imaginative junk"
In April 2007 he was criticized in the Malaysian parliament for having described one of their cars, the Perodua Kelisa, as the worst in the world, built in jungles by people who wear leaves for shoes. A Malaysian government minister refuted the claim, pointing out that no complaints had been received from UK customers who had bought the car.
From 2000 to 2006 Clarkson had a public feud with Piers Morgan, which began when Morgan published pictures of Clarkson kissing his BBC producer, Elaine Bedel. On the final Concorde flight Clarkson threw a glass of water over Morgan during an argument. In March 2004 at the British Press Awards, he swore at Morgan and punched him. Morgan says it has left him with a scar above his left eyebrow. Clarkson has spoken about this in a television interview. In 2006 Morgan revealed that the feud was over, saying "There should always be a moment when you finally down cudgels, kiss and make up."
|1988 - 2000||Top Gear (original format)||presenter|
|1993||Mr Blobby's Christmas number 1 music video||car driver|
|1995 - 1996||Jeremy Clarkson's Motorworld|
|1997||Robot Wars||presenter||first UK series|
|1997||The Mrs. Merton Show||guest|
|1998||Jeremy Clarkson's Extreme Machines||presenter|
|2000||Clarkson's Car Years||presenter|
|1998 - 2000||Clarkson||chat show host|
|2002 -||Top Gear (current format)||presenter|
|2002||Jeremy Clarkson Meets The Neighbours||presenter|
|2002||100 Greatest Britons||advocate of Brunel|
|2002 -||Have I Got News For You,||guest once, guest host six times|
|2002 -||Friday Night with Jonathan Ross||guest 4 times|
|2003||Patrick Kielty Almost Live||chat show guest, once|
|2003 -||Parkinson||chat show guest, three times|
|2003 -||Question Time||panellist twice|
|2003||The Victoria Cross: For Valour||presenter|
|2003 - 2004||Grumpy Old Men||participant||Christmas special and full second season|
|2004||Call My Bluff||contestant|
|2004 -||QI,||contestant, six times|
|2004||Inventions That Changed The World||presenter|
|2004||Jeremy Clarkson: Who Do You Think You Are?||subject|
|2005||Top of the Pops||Presenter||co-host with Fearne Cotton, 24 July 2005|
|2006||Cars||the voice of Harv (UK release only)||2006 Disney film|
|2006||Never Mind the Buzzcocks||guest host once|
|2006||The F-Word||contestant||recipe challenge|
|2007||Jeremy Clarkson: The Greatest Raid of All Time||presenter|
|1995||Jeremy Clarkson's Motorsport Mayhem|
|1996||Jeremy Clarkson: Unleashed On Cars|
|1998||The Most Outrageous Jeremy Clarkson Video In The World...Ever!|
|1999||Jeremy Clarkson: Head To Head|
|2000||Jeremy Clarkson At Full Throttle|
|2001||Clarkson's Top 100 Cars|
|2002||Clarkson: No Limits|
|2004||Clarkson: Hot Metal|
|2005||Clarkson: Heaven and Hell|
|2006||Clarkson: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly|
|2007||Clarkson: Supercar Showdown|
The People vs Jeremy Clarkson: IRRITANT ON TRIAL: OUT OF THE 4X4 AND INTO THE DOCK ; Is It Just Sandal-Wearing, Tree-Hugging Lefties Who Have Had Enough of Engine-Revving, Insult-Throwing Libertarian Jeremy Clarkson? No, Says Oliver Bennett. Denouncements Are Coming from All Directions
Nov 13, 2005; Jeremy Clarkson thrives on notoriety, but even he must be wondering at the rate at which he is acquiring enemies. Not a week goes...