Christopher James "Chris" Evans (born 1 April 1966) is an English presenter, businessman and producer for radio and television. He started his broadcasting career working for Piccadilly Radio, Manchester, as a teenager, before moving to London as a presenter for the BBC's Greater London Radio and then Channel 4 television, where The Big Breakfast made him a star. Soon he was able to dictate highly favourable terms, allowing him to broadcast on competing radio and TV stations. Slots like Radio 1 Breakfast Show and TFI Friday provided a mix of celebrity interviews, music and comic games, delivered in an irreverent style that attracted high ratings, though often also generated significant numbers of complaints. By 2000 he was the UK's highest paid entertainer, according to the Sunday Times Rich List.
In 2015 he signed a three-year deal to lead a new Top Gear line-up. On 23 June 2015 it was confirmed that TFI Friday will return for its seventh series with eight episodes in December 2015, Chris Evans confirmed that he will also return to present it. It was then revealed that the BBC Top Gear team told Evans he would have to leave TFI Friday after the upcoming series to stay with Top Gear.
Evans founded the CarFest charity motoring festival.
Evans was born in Warrington, England, the youngest child of bookmaker and health authority wages clerk Martin Joseph Evans (1921–1979), and Minnie Beardsall, who managed a corner shop. His siblings are brother David (born 1953) and sister Diane (born 1963). He started his schooling at St Margaret's Church of England Infants and Junior School, and later the Junior School in Orford, Warrington. Evans' father and both paternal uncles died of colorectal cancer. Evans' mother is a breast cancer survivor.
Evans passed the 11 plus exam and started at Boteler Grammar School, Warrington. After the death of his father, the 13-year-old Evans took part-time work at an outlet of T. J. & B. McLoughlin's newsagent–tobacconist in Woolston, and ran an alternative tuck-shop at Padgate High School, which was a comprehensive school he attended for the final three years of his secondary education. Evans left secondary school at age 16 after moving into the sixth form, and he then had a number of dead-end jobs in and around Warrington, including a private detective agency and notoriously as a "Tarzan-ogram."
Evans began his professional career at Piccadilly Radio, Manchester in 1983, where he had previously had unpaid school-boy work. Until 1984 Evans had three jobs: as an assistant to Timmy Mallett, and playing a character on his show called 'Nobby Nolevel' ('No 'O' Level'); acting as a disc jockey in the evenings at local pubs when he was not at Piccadilly Radio; and still working at the newsagents, opening up daily at 5 am to sort out the newspaper deliveries.
Evans switched to a full-time position at the station in 1984, his new role including being driven around the Manchester area in the radio car to turn up at listeners' houses. In addition he was producer to presenter James H. Reeve. Following this he presented a weekday graveyard slot with competitions and segments where listeners had opportunities to sell their belongings on air.
After working as a producer on Richard Branson's service The Superstation, where he produced material for Jonathan Ross, Evans went on to work at BBC London radio station GLR, first as a producer on Emma Freud's mid-morning show, then Weekend Breakfast with Danny Baker. Evans became a GLR presenter in early 1990, taking over a Saturday afternoon show. Three months later, he started presenting The Greenhouse, a Monday to Thursday evening show; he remained on this slot until the end of 1990.
In early 1991, as a result of his first regular TV hosting work presenting the Power Up breakfast show on The Power Station for British Satellite Broadcasting, Evans moved to presenting Round at Chris's, every Saturday morning from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, which he continued to present until April 1993.
In addition to his Saturday morning show on GLR, in March 1992 Evans began presenting a Sunday afternoon show on BBC Radio 1, replacing Phillip Schofield who had previously broadcast in the slot. His show called Too Much Gravy, was broadcast from 14:30 to 16:00 and ended in September 1992. His move to Radio 1 was short-lived but seen as a huge success, with controller Johnny Beerling later admitting he wished he'd offered Evans a full-time show there and then. At the time, however, Evans objected that Radio 1 had attempted to constrain his style, preventing him from using the "zoo" format, allegedly because Steve Wright was already doing that on the station.
Evans left The Big Breakfast on 29 September 1994 and formed his own television production company, Ginger Productions. Its first major programme, Don't Forget Your Toothbrush, was broadcast between 1994 and 1995. The original concepts proved to be lucrative for Evans as its format was sold to numerous foreign broadcasters.
In April 1995, Evans returned to radio to host the flagshipRadio 1 Breakfast Show. Evans negotiated into his contract with Radio 1 a clause allowing him to still make television programmes, and specifically an option to make a Friday night programme for Channel 4.
Allowed to create the "zoo" format he had previously been disallowed from performing on Radio 1, Evans was given a free rein by his friend, Radio 1 controller Matthew Bannister. Critics hated innuendo-laden features like Honk Your Horn and In Bed with Your Girlfriend, but Evans put on 600,000 new listeners over Steve Wright – one for every £5 spent on salary and advertising. The effect also flowed through into the listening figures for later programs. The audience grew as the breakfast format became more outrageous: humiliating assistant Holly Samos by repeatedly asking her about her sex life (Evans and Samos were reportedly in a relationship at periods through their time working together), and encouraging two female guests to perform a strip show on live radio. The show's highest listening figure reached 7.5million.
Evans began making editions of Channel 4's TFI Friday from 1996. The show – devised, produced and hosted by Evans through his Ginger Media company – combined celebrity interviews, musical guests and daft games and competitions. Largely based on the successful formula of his radio show, it was initially a big success. However, as the success of both shows peaked, combined with a string of celebrity relationships and highly publicised nights drinking with friends Danny Baker and Paul Gascoigne, the strain began to show, and a model emerged described as a "template for his approach to all his subsequent projects – an abundance of enthusiasm at the beginning which eventually falls prey to boredom and shiftlessness."
Beginning to think he was indispensable at Radio 1, the first big falling-out with management came in December 1995 after taking his crew out on a 17-hour pub-crawl which ended two hours before they were due on air: Evans was fined one day's pay, £7,000. In 1996, broadcasting watchdogs investigated a continual trail of complaints against the show: Radio 1 refused to comment, Evans never said sorry. Evans also made increasing public demands of the Radio 1 management: after taking an extra week of unplanned holiday, Evans chose to turn up half an hour late for his 06:30 show and then demanded that his hours were changed so that it was a permanent fixture – this request was accepted.
However, after the summer break things got decidedly worse. Criticised by the broadcasting watchdog for a tasteless joke about Holocaust victim Anne Frank, Evans countered with an item about haemorrhoids. Asked by Bannister to watch the rules, Evans the next day branded Bannister "The Fat Controller". In November, Evans announced on air that he was medically unfit to be on the radio – Bannister re-negotiated his contract to double his holiday to twice that of other Radio 1 DJs. After more publicised public drinking and self-confessed illness, Evans' spell at the station ended in January 1997 when he quit after his demand not to host the show on Friday (to have a full day getting ready for his TV show) was not accepted.
The Radio 1 Breakfast Show was taken over by Mark and Lard a.k.a. Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley. When Evans found out that they were a ratings disaster, he quickly got in touch with BBC Radio 1 management to ask whether he could take back the show again. Station management declined but did offer him a weekend slot, which he turned down. In response to the falling ratings, bosses decided to replace its presenters with the relatively unknown Kevin Greening and the well known children's TV presenter Zoë Ball. Their tenure started on 13 October 1997.
During a holiday in Killarney, he listened to the Irish broadcaster, Gerry Ryan on the radio. Evans claims the variety on Ryan's show made him want to return to radio. Evans was then hired by Virgin Radio to host its breakfast show, prompting an immediate upsurge in station listening figures of 1.8 million to 2.6 million. His first show was on 13 October 1997, the same day as Kevin Greening and Zoë Ball on Radio 1. Starting at 7:00 am, Evans' crew presented the show from Monday to Friday, but without Evans participating on a Friday.
As Sir Richard Branson had decided to reduce his media holding, he began talks to sell the station to Capital Radio in a deal that would have given him 10% of holding company Capital Group. As this became public knowledge, Evans, who did not want to work for Capital, publicly dismissed them as "a bleating, blowing asthmatic dog." On 9 December, with the assistance of investors, Evans' vehicle Ginger Media Group bought Virgin Radio from Branson for £85m, to control the interests both of Ginger Productions and Virgin Radio. Both Apax Partners and Branson each owned 20% of Ginger Media Group, while Evans and his investors owned the remaining 60%. The group later engaged in the prospect of buying the Daily Star newspaper, but decided against from commercial angles.
On 14 March 2000, Evans agreed the sale of Ginger Media Group to SMG plc for £225m. The sale made Evans the highest paid entertainer in the UK in 2000, estimated by the Sunday Times Rich List to have been paid around £35.5million. Following poor reviews of TFI Friday, and Evans himself handing over presentation of the last series to a series of "friends", the show was cancelled in December 2000.
Evans continued to host the station's breakfast show, but echoes of his earlier dismissal from Radio 1 began to emerge. In May 2000, the station was fined £75,000 (then the largest penalty imposed by the Radio Authority) for his repeated on-air endorsement of Ken Livingstone in the London mayoral elections.
Virgin Radio's new programme controller Paul Jackson, in light of audience figures which had dropped from a peak of 2.7 million to 1.7 million, had pruned Evans's "zoo" team and installed a music policy which replaced more eclectic choices with a strict diet of chart pop. As a result, on 20 June Evans was followed throughout the day by tabloid newspaper photographers, and undertook an "18-hour bender" which started after his show at 9.30 in the morning, and ended – after numerous pints of Kronenbourg and Guinness, plus five bottles of Dom Pérignon – with Evans asleep in front of a lap-dancer at Stringfellows. Later photographed by the tabloids that week with new wife Billie Piper in the nearest pub to their home in Hascombe, Surrey while claiming he was too ill to present his show, he was dismissed on 28 June 2001 for repeatedly failing to arrive at work. Evans was replaced by the older Steve Penk, whom Evans criticised for his age – 39 versus Evans's then 35.
Evans attempted to sue Virgin Radio, claiming that he was unfairly dismissed and denied share options worth £8.6 million. On 26 June 2003, in the judgement of Evans v SMG Television Ltd. & Ors 2003 EWHC 1423 (Ch), Justice Lightman found that he had been fairly dismissed and was not entitled to the share options. Giving his ruling at the High Court, Evans was publicly criticised for his attitude by the judge, who said of Evans: "He has the temperament of a prima donna." Virgin Radio/SMG later countersued, with Evans ordered to pay £1m towards their legal costs.
In his autobiography, Evans writes that shortly after the sale of Virgin Radio he was offered £56m for his SMG shares by Goldman Sachs. He declined the offer and eventually sold them for £250,000.
Following two high-profile shows which failed to perform in the ratings, UMTV hired Terry Wogan and Evans' former Big Breakfast co-host Gaby Roslin to host a weekday morning magazine show, The Terry and Gaby Show. Evans said publicly that if this show failed he would set up a market stall. Despite critical acclaim the audience numbers never took off and Channel 5 axed the show after its year-long run, citing its high cost as a reason. True to his word, Evans was pictured at the end of the final show with a market stall and later he opened it for real at Stables Market, Camden.
Evans then joined Radio 2 on a permanent basis in September 2005, presenting a weekly Saturday afternoon show from 14:00 to 17:00. His first show featured singer Robbie Williams, and accompanied by a posse including friend "Big" Pete Winterbottom and newsreader Andrew Peach. Evans told listeners to his first show: "We've had a couple of test drives over the summer and we've decided to take it. Yes, we like this vehicle."
The show was well received by listeners and critics, and Evans was announced as the successor to Radio 2's Drivetime show on Thursday 2 March 2006 to succeed long-time host Johnnie Walker, beginning on 18 April.RAJAR audience figures published in August 2006 showed Evans had 150,000 fewer listeners than his predecessor's last show but was on par with previous years. The second set of RAJAR's published in October 2006 showed his audience was up by 109,000-year-on-year, and up by 33,000 compared with the previous quarter. Figures showed he was drawing an average audience of 4.9 million a day on his drivetime show. By the end of 2007, the show was averaging over 5 million listeners. On 7 September 2009 it was announced that Evans would take over breakfast show from Sir Terry Wogan after Wogan announced his intention to leave the show at the end of the year.
In May 2006, Evans was named music radio personality of the year at the annual Sony Radio Academy Awards, defeating rivals Jamie Theakston, Lauren Laverne, Marc Riley and Tim Lovejoy to win. When accepting the award, Evans thanked the BBC for giving him "a second chance." Evans won 'music radio personality' the following year, while his show won the Entertainment award. "I didn't expect this," he said. "I wouldn't have minded if I didn't win, but I really love the fact I have won." Evans was voted the 82nd most influential media personality in The Guardian newspapers 2007 poll.
After his success in the 1990s, Evans' attempts at a TV comeback in the 21st century have been mixed with a record of poor ratings and cancellations, including falling viewing figures for his recent role as co-host of Friday editions of The One Show. In November and December 2005 Evans presented OFI Sunday on ITV. In a move described by Private Eye as Partridgean, ex-wife Billie Piper was the first guest on the programme.OFI Sunday was cancelled after just five shows following poor reviews and low viewing figures. Its cancellation led Evans to complain on air during his Saturday BBC Radio 2 slot that he no longer knew how to be successful on television.
On his radio show the next morning he confirmed his acceptance and explained the offer came after James May and Richard Hammond had confirmed to the BBC they would not be returning to the show. Before the announcement, he sent text messages to May, Hammond and Clarkson and received supportive replies from all three.
Evans has a daughter, Jade (born 1986), by former fiancé Alison Ward. In 1998 after a long running dispute, the couple reached an out of court arrangement whereby Evans provided a home for his child and an allowance to Ward.
Evans married Carol McGiffin in 1991. Their 1994 split was not amicable, however, and McGiffin has been scathing about Evans in newspaper articles in the years since. The two divorced in 1998. During his time at BBC Radio 1 and Virgin, Evans had well publicised relationships with Kim Wilde, model Rachel Tatton-Brown (whose sister was a researcher on The Big Breakfast), assistant producer Suzi Aplin, Anthea Turner,Geri Halliwell, and Melanie Sykes.
In May 2000, Evans met teenage pop star Billie Piper, whom he dated for a while. As a present to him, she proposed on his 35th birthday, and the couple married in a £200 ceremony at The Little Church of the West in Las Vegas, Nevada on 6 May 2001, in a ceremony attended by six guests including best man Danny Baker. In September 2004, news stories circulated regarding a trial separation – Evans at the time had a stall at Camden Market, where he was found selling furniture and paintings from his London and Los Angeles homes, commenting: "I just want to get rid of it all, it's just a headache." In Spring 2005, it was confirmed that Evans and Piper would divorce, with Piper publicly stating that she would take no money from Evans. Almost three years after they had separated, Evans and Piper finally divorced in May 2007, but have remained on good terms.
A keen golfer who plays with a handicap of 15, Evans met professional golfer, part-time model and columnist for Golf Punk magazine Natasha Shishmanian when they became golf partners in the All*Star Cup celebrity tournament in Newport – Evans gave his 17-year-old caddy at the 2005 event, Natalie Harrison, a £10,000 Russian Kristall Smolensk diamond he won for the quality of his play. Evans married Shishmanian in Guildford Register office on Saturday 11 August 2007, and held a reception in Faro, Portugal the following weekend, attended by ex-wife Piper. On 17 July 2008, the DJ announced that the couple were expecting their first baby together. Their son, Noah Nicholas Martin, was born on 10 February 2009 at London's Portland Hospital. On 1 June 2012, Shishmanian gave birth to the couple's second son. Evans announced the baby's birth live on air during his BBC Radio 2 Breakfast show by telephone.
In March 2008, Evans said in his Radio 2 blog that he had taken "magic mushrooms" a couple of days before he attended a Meat Loaf concert at the Royal Albert Hall. He said "I thought I was chronicling the Albert Hall moving sideways on the back of a giant rock and roll crab, something I didn't think the world should miss." However, given that magic mushrooms rarely exert their effects beyond the 12 hour mark and does not cause the effects described, the story is almost certainly not true.