Top Gear is one of the most popular and beloved TV shows of all time. The show has it all. Incredible cars, spectacular cinematography, and the hilarious over the top hosts. While all the hosts are great, there is one host who stands above the rest (literally and figuratively). More boisterous and over the top than everyone else. That host of course, is Jeremy Clarkson.
Most if not all fans most likely remember seeing Clarkson for the first time on Top Gear, but Jeremy has had a long and storied career outside of Top Gear as well. From reviewing cars before the industry really even existed for local newspapers, to the very first iteration of Top Gear, as well as a host of other television and print positions, Jeremy Clarkson has done the all. All of that is a big reason why Jeremy Clarkson is so great at his job today.
Clarkson’s career has also had his share of questionable, or even downright bad days. Just like anyone else in the world Clarkson has had his fair share of them.
In celebration of the upcoming premier of the new ‘specials only’ version of The Grand Tour, let’s take a look at the best and worst moments of the man, the myth and the legend that is Jezza. Here are the most iconic, controversial and defining moments of Jeremy Clarkson’s career:
1. The Return (and Rebirth) of Top Gear
It’s safe to say that we wouldn’t be so familiar with the name Jeremy Clarkson, if he didn’t have his incredibly long stint on Top Gear. The original Top Gear was a traditional motoring show which premiered on British Television in the year 1977. Jeremy Clarkson joined the show in 1988. While his unique and formidable on screen presence because of his 6’5″ frame and curly hair coupled with a great brand of humour did elevate the original Top Gear to a higher level than before, it was nothing compared to the phenomenon that the re-released version of Top Gear would become. It began in 2002 with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and Jason Dawe as the hosts. Dawe was replaced with James May in the next season and the three went on to become the most popular figures in the world of motoring journalism. A humble car show soon went on to win Emmy awards and became the most downloaded tv show in the world soon. Going back and watching the first episode is a must do for true fans of the show and Clarkson. You can see Clarkson’s blossoming media personality, his unique style, and the seeds of the international superstar he would become being planted, ever so well.
2. Jeremy Clarkson’s First Ever Writing Job
Jeremy’s first writing job, where he would begin to fine tune his automotive critic skills, came from his being hired at the Rotherham Advertiser, a paper in the United Kingdom. Interestingly enough, Clarkson may not have gotten the job completely on his writing merit. Clarkson himself said that apparently his grandfather had delivered the then editor’s first child during a World War Two air raid, and the man was so grateful still, that he offered Clarkson the job. Amazing to think that it may be Jeremy’s grandfather we all have to thank for his position in the world now as an automotive legend.
3 The World According to Clarkson
His first book was a really huge deal. A huge milestone in most anyone’s career, the book came out in 2005 and featured Clarkson giving his thoughts, jokes, insights, and opinions on just about everything. The book was extremely well received, and led to Jeremy writing a host of other books. For those who enjoy Clarkson’s special kind of humour, The World According to Clarkson series of books are a must read.
4. Jeremy Clarkson’s Very Own TV Show
Most fans may not know about this one, but in the year 1998, Clarkson received his own talk show on BBC Two. The show, similar to American late night comedy shows, featured guests, musicians, and celebrities. While the show did not do well, it served as a bridge for Clarkson to make his way to the modern version of Top Gear and no doubt gave him a bolster to his television skills, developing him into the personality he is today.
5. Jeremy Clarkson Uses the “N-Word” on TV
In an outtake from an episode of Top Gear, Clarkson while singing part of a children’s nursery rhyme, reportedly mumbled the “n-word”. While it is debatable whether or not he said it, or if he did, that he mumbled it intentionally in order to not actually say it, the clip caused quite a stir or negative reactions. Clarkson later apologized for the incident.
6. Jeremy Clarkson’s Mexico Insults
While stereotyping things and throwing mean insults is nothing new for Top Gear, Clarkson, Hammond and May took it to another level during a section of ‘The News’ segment. While talking about the Mastretta MXT, the trio all spouted insults at various aspects of Mexican culture and Mexican people. Hammond started off by calling the car the ‘Tortilla’. Hammond said that the Mexico built cars would be reflections of the Mexican people. According to Hammond, the car was going to be just like the Mexicans who were “just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, learning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle as a coat” while May said Mexican cuisine was “like sick with cheese on it”, and Clarkson rounding out the offenses by saying that they would not get any complaints from Mexico because “at the Mexican embassy, the ambassador is going to be sitting there with a remote control like (makes a snoring sound). They won’t complain, it’s fine.” Even in jest, it was definitely not Clarkson’s or the others’ finest on screen moment. Top Gear promptly milked the controversy with a race near the Mexican border where the last person to reach the border would be forced to cross into Mexico from the USA to review the Mastretta MXT. Hammond lost the race and drove the Mastretta in Mexico.
7. Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘Slope’ comment in Myanmar
While filming in Burma, and watching a local man walk towards them, Clarkson said to Hammond, “That is a proud moment- but there’s a slope on it” to which Hammond replied “You’re right, it’s definitely higher on that side.” While Clarkson maintained his innocence, media regulators found that it was intentional and offensive towards Asian viewers. While not his worst moment, it was an incident which surely was more pain than it was worth.
8. Jeremy Clarkson’s Falklands Controversy in Argentina
While later proved to be completely coincidental, despite what the country of Argentina may think, the controversy turned out to be one Clarkson’s most dangerous. It all stemmed from a Porsche 928 that Jeremy Clarkson was driving through an area of Argentina in which many of that countries veterans, who were in the Falklands War, a land war between the country and the United Kingdom, lived. Someone believed the license plate (FKL 982) on the Porsche was a direct slight towards the veterans and referenced the war, instigating what turned out to be a potentially deadly situation that resulted in a last ditch effort to flee the country while being assaulted with stones and other projectiles in the middle of the night. A terrifying, and memorable moment in Jeremy Clarkson’s career, without a doubt.
9. Jeremy Clarkson Punching His Producer
The most infamous of any recent controversy surrounding Clarkson, and more than likely the one most of you are familiar with. This even led to the demise of Top Gear as we knew and loved it. For those of you unfamiliar with the incident, after a long day of filming, an apparently very grumpy Clarkson found upon his arrival at their hotel that the producer had not secured any hot food for the stars. In retaliation, Clarkson hurled insults, and punched the producer in the mouth. Talk about hunger pains.
10. Jeremy Clarkson’s Mega Deal with Amazon for The Grand Tour
It would be impossible to say that after the incident with the BBC and being fired from Top Gear, that securing a major deal, worth a reported 12 million dollars a year, and costing nearly 6 million dollars to film per episode, isn’t one of Clarkson’s greatest accomplishments. In fact the deal secured his position as Britain’s highest paid T.V. star. Money aside, the amazing chance to produce a show like The Grand Tour, with almost complete freedom, no longer restricted by strict BBC standards and practices, must seem like a dream come true to Clarkson.
Now that we have covered the ten most iconic, controversial and career defining moments of Jeremy Clarkson, let’s take a look at ten surprising pieces of trivia about the Top Gear Orangutan:
- Jeremy Clarkson owes his life and career to Paddington Bear
His parents put him down for private schools despite not having the financial capabilities for it – until they made two legendary Paddington Bear stuffed toys that proved extremely popular all across Britain. With the massive income coming from Paddington’s sales, Clarkson’s parents made enough to give little Jeremy a posh education. However, he was eventually expelled from the Repton School for “drinking, smoking and generally making a nuisance of himself.”
- Levi’s jeans blamed Jeremy Clarkson for their sale slump
Anyone who has followed Jeremy Clarkson for some time, knows that he loves wearing Jeans. However, that has been a bane for for jeans manufacturers. The association of jeans with middle-aged men sporting a bear gut, has been dubbed the ‘Jeremy Clarkson effect’, and was been blamed for a decline in sales over 20 years ago. However, the world’s over it now.
- Jeremy Clarkson was a child actor
While he is mainly known for his work as a motoring show host, Jeremy Clarkson’s very first job at the BBC was actually playing a public schoolboy called Atkinson in the Children’s Hour serial adaptation of Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings novels. However, he has to leave the series when his voice broke as a result of puberty.
- Jeremy Clarkson punched Piers Morgan
Even if you already knew this, it’s always worth revisiting. At the British Press Awards in 2004, he apparently swore at Morgan (in his final days as Mirror editor), and punched him before being restrained by security. After the incident, Piers Morgan said that he had a scar above his left eyebrow.
Ever since then, Morgan and Clarkson haven’t really made up. They have had a few tiffs over the years since then. When Morgan was sacked from his CNN show – Clarkson pointed out that he had “less viewers than Cash in the Attic.
- Jeremy Clarkson might’ve caused the closure of Rover
Jeremy Clarkson has always openly expressed his dislike towards the Rover brand, and some critics have deemed his views influential enough to bring forth the closure of the beleaguered car company. While expressing his disdain towards Rover, Jeremy Clarkson referenced a Winston Churchill’s famous speech, he once said: “Never in the field of human endeavour has so much been done, so badly, by so many”.
Clarkson’s comments against Rover through the years saw Rover’s workers hang an ‘Anti-Clarkson Campaign’ banner outside the Longbridge plant during its final days.
- Jeremy Clarkson cleared his driving test in a Bentley
Jeremy Clarkson has claimed to have cleared his driving test in style back in 1977. He gave his test behind the wheel of his grandfather’s Bentley R Type. He was so confident that he’d pass first time, he even brought along scissors to remove the L-plates afterwards.
- Jeremy Clarkson left Robot Wars because he was too busy
You may have even forgotten that Jeremy hosted the first series of Robot Wars before Craig Charles made the show his own. However, Clarkson reportedly didn’t leave the show on bad-terms. Show producer Tom Gutteridge said that Clarkson didn’t appear on the show because he was simply too busy, not because he disliked the show in any way. However, he was never talked about or mentioned on the show again. Show footage featuring him was edited out of VHS releases.
- A lot of Britons want Jeremy Clarkson as their Prime Minister
Over the years, Jeremy Clarkson has built a huge fan base. Some members of that fan base, also want Jeremy Clarkson as their Prime Minister. In the year 2008, an online petition was launched on Number 10’s website to ‘Make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister’. The petition garnered nearly 50,000 signatures very quickly. The opposing petition which was called ‘Never, Ever Make Jeremy Clarkson Prime Minister’ got just 87 signatures.
Clarkson himself has said that he would be a “rubbish” PM as he often contradicts himself in his newspaper columns. In an official response, Number 10 agreed:
- Jeremy Clarkson can play the drums, somewhat
During a Red Nose Day special called Top Gear of the Pops (named after the famous British music show Top of the Pops), Jeremy Clarkson brought the Top Gear band together with himself on drums, Richard Hammond on Bass, James May on keyboards and The Darkness’ Justin Hawkins on vocals. The band covered Billy Ocean’s Red Light Spells Danger.
When asked about his drum skills, Clarkson said: “I practise infrequently and have become to the world of sticksmanship what Germany is to the world of cricket.”
- Jeremy Clarkson is a big fan of UK progressive rock band, Genesis
Richard Hammond has often mocked Jeremy Clarkson’s fanaticism towards 1970s progressive rock music, especially the Peter Gabriel fronted era of Genesis. The band expressed their latitude by letting him write sleeve notes for the reissue of their album Selling England by the Pound.
Clarkson wrote: “Whenever I buy a new car, this is always the album I put into the CD changer and play first. On a recent Top Gear trip to the North Pole, James May and I listened to Genesis every time the cameras were off. And it was like being back at school. As the miles of absolute nothingness crunched by, we’d fill the time by seeing who knew the most lyrics off by heart (me) and what they might have meant (him).”
This post alone can’t actually cover everything in Jeremy Clarkson’s career. It would take a far longer amount of time and words to do that for a career so long, successful, and storied. The Top Gear Orangutan is one of the funniest and most iconic figureheads in the world of motoring journalism. He has turned the humble and somewhat nerdy world of motoring journalism into a smorgasbord of excitement, thrills, and uncensored, unbridled humour. And on that bombshell, it’s time to end this post.