After battling a life-threatening case of double pneumonia, the Grand Tour presenter says he’s changed his ways after giving up the fags – and reveals how he got to grips with feminism
LYING in a Spanish hospital bed, Jeremy Clarkson faced a stark warning from doctors — he could die if he ignored their advice.
But four months later the irrepressible Grand Tour host is back living life in the fast lane.
Despite a serious bout of double pneumonia which saw him told to curb his boozing and smoking, the star now shrugs off the incident as “wildly exaggerated”.
But the petrolhead insists he has no plans to go on forever.
Jeremy says: “There’s no such thing as a funny old person. John Cleese is the classic case.
“You can’t get a funnier man than that. Now not funny at all.
“You lose the ability to be funny when you get old. He’s angry. He was very, very funny. One day you’ll lose the will to be funny or the ability to be funny or to be interesting or to be interested.
“You have to have the good sense to say ‘Oh God I can’t be bothered to be interesting any more’ then you have to go and sit on the porch and drink whisky.
“Very soon I’m going to be that older person. For Christ’s sake I’m going to be in an old people’s home soon and I’m going to be listening to the Ramones.
“Pneumonia is nothing. I was flinging a car into the corner the other day and I thought ‘Oh God can I really be bothered to give it all I can?’ Then I just thought, ‘Yeah of course I can’.
“If the day ever came where I think it’s not fun to slide a £400,000 car round a corner then that probably is the time to jack it in — cars at least, maybe make a programme on something else. Knitting.”
The Sun columnist was struck down with double pneumonia on holiday in Mallorca.
It was the first time, he claims, he was ill — and led to blood poisoning which even saw him turn purple.
It was the latest in a series of setbacks to affect their filming schedules, with the team currently in a race against time to complete the series, with the planned Christmas special now likely to be screened next June.
In June this year, co-star Richard Hammond had been hospitalised following a terrifying crash racing the Rimac Concept One supercar in Switzerland.
He broke his leg and now has ten pins and a metal plate holding his leg together.
While James May was struck down with a mystery illness which “turned out to be severe food poisoning”.
But such was the severity of Jeremy’s illness, he has had to give up his cherished cigarettes. He hasn’t touched one since.
Tapping a packet of nicotine gum, he adds: “I remember putting my last cigarette out. I couldn’t smoke it.
“That’s how I knew I was ill. I threw it out and put it out in an ashtray carefully like a responsible man. And then I was in hospital and I haven’t smoked since.
“I was very ill but I’m made of wood so it doesn’t take long for me to mend. I’ve never been ill. I’ve never had a day off work, and I’ve never taken an antibiotic in my life, ever.
“So to be told you’re ill and go to hospital was amazing. But I was better very quickly in five or six days.
“And then I wasn’t allowed to go on an aeroplane. But when you’re in Mallorca and you’ve got friends who live there and another friend with a boat there that’s not so bad.
“It had become blood poisoning which is dangerous. So I was shaking like crazy. I was taken to hospital and the doctor took one look at me and admitted me before he did any tests.
“He said ‘I know exactly what’s wrong’. I was purple apparently. But if you’re made of wood it doesn’t take long to mend it. So I was out in six days. I was reading headlines that I was dying — I thought ‘I’m not’.”
But despite doctor’s orders to stay healthy and not smoke, he still enjoys a drink and has no intention of cutting back on his beloved rose wine.
He says: “I’m a journalist. We work in a business where people like a drink. Television presenters don’t drink, journalists do. And I still call myself a journalist.”
The new series of the Amazon Video show, Jeremy promises, will be packed with the expected array of carnage and controversy which has made the trio a global phenomenon.
He insists he doesn’t deliberately seek out drama and struggles to keep up with the latest taboo topics, although he admits he has finally grasped feminism, thanks to his daughter Emily.
He explains: “You never know what’s controversial. It’s only after when someone says ‘that’s controversial’.
“I don’t know what’s controversial. Because what’s controversial changes every day as far as I can work out.
“I go to a lavatory now and it says I can go in the women’s one if I wanted to choose to be a woman.
“It’s very difficult for me to stay up to date with what you’re allowed to say and what you’re not allowed to say.
“I’ve got it with women — completely sorted with that. Totally equal and that’s just the end of it, in every way. Women are quite as capable as us of doing anything and we’re as capable as they are. I know that.
“But with me every day there’s a new thing you can’t say, a new thought you can’t have.”
He added: “I have a very feisty feminist daughter and if she thought for one second that I would ever say or do anything sexist she’d go berserk.”
Despite being regularly branded out of touch, the Doncaster-born presenter says he is reflective of society — well, at least 60 per cent of it.
The 57-year-old says: “As long as 60 per cent of the viewing audience is on your side you’re OK. When it’s 40 you’re in trouble. But 60 is fine.
“I don’t worry, because I always know. If you actually talk to people in pubs and clubs around the country and how they talk, what they say, the words they use, the language they use, they can hardly claim to be shocked or offended when somebody on television uses the exact same language they use in a pub.
“I’m not going to tell people what they should and shouldn’t be saying. I just use the language I know people use.
“I know they do because I listen, I talk to them, and I hear what they say. And I don’t care if people in Islington don’t like what I’m saying. I’m not doing it for Islington.
“I’m talking about people from, let’s say, South London. You go down to South London and sit and listen to how people talk in pubs.
“Go to a Millwall game. Then tell me I’m offensive. Seriously come on.”
His controversy got him where he is today. Not only as one of the highest paid men on television but also booted from the BBC and ending up on the books of internet giant Amazon.
While there are no hard feelings after his contract was not renewed following the punching incident with Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon in 2015, Clarkson is still critical of the BBC.
He has previously blasted the Corporation over their gender pay gap controversy, saying it was “unbelievable” that someone with a penis would be paid more for doing the same job as a woman.
And he reckons the broadcaster is in need of a total overhaul.
He adds: “I’d have BBC TV as subscription only. At the moment you’ve got schedules which means they have to make programmes that go out on a Wednesday.
“They have to take some of the money they get and make a programme to go out at two o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. Cash In The Attic or Flog It.
“They’re not expensive but they’re also nothing. Amazon and Netflix aren’t burdened with that.
“They just make hit after hit. They’re not having to fill in the cracks. It’s all bricks there’s no mortar — and the BBC has to make mortar because of scheduling.
“When was the last time you sat down and watched a TV show?
“If you want to watch Strictly or you want to watch Blue Planet or any of those great shows, you want to watch it when you’re good and ready.”
THE Grand Tour’s executive producer Andy Wilman has denied the new series is a copy of Top Gear.
The news the show would have a permanent base – a tent in the Cotswolds – plus celeb guests racing on a track prompted the accusations.
But Wilman, an old school friend of Jeremy Clarkson, revealed Amazon had a team of top lawyers on the case.
He says: “I’m quite relaxed at the minute because as you can imagine with the Americans we’ve spent quite a lot of money on lawyers. You make sure you stay on the right side of copyright. You do that because you don’t want any trouble down the line.”
Wilman is also convinced the second series is better than the first – despite all three presenters being hit by illness or injury.