For most of us, arriving at work only to be bundled into an escape room and held there until you’ve cracked the padlock code would be decent grounds for a HR hearing, or at least a formal complaint.
For Greg James, it’s all in a day (or two)’s work. The Radio 1 DJ’s Breakfast show has become synonymous with increasingly ambitious - and hilarious - stunts that invite listeners to get involved, from his nationwide game of hide and seek to his post-Brits antics.
Here are some of his most memorable on-air moments…
Hide and Seek with Grimmy
— BBC Radio 1 (@BBCR1)July 17, 2018
James recruited his Breakfast show predecessor Nick Grimshaw for the first Hide and Seek stunt in 2018, which saw the two presenters ditch New Broadcasting House for a secret location.
They then provided listeners - and their radio colleagues - with a drip feed of clues as to their whereabouts, with fellow BBC stars traipsing around the country and knocking on doors in a bit to track them down.
One fan, Faye, happened to be driving along Liverpool’s Dock Road while listening to Scott Mills’ Radio 1 show, and noted that she could see everything that James had included in his description of his current view - and that she was driving the “little blue car” he had mentioned.
After chatting to producers, she headed to the Liver Building and met the presenters, bringing the nationwide game of hide and seek to an end 23 hours later.
Why did the duo choose the Liver Building? “We thought, let’s hide in plain sight,” James explained to listeners. “Let’s hide in one of the most grand, beautiful places in the city.” The fact that the Building, which is one of the Three Graces that crown Liverpool’s waterfront, is found between St Nicholas Place and Liverpool James Street station couldn’t have been a coincidence, either...
The escape room
In what he branded “the politest kidnapping ever,” James was inexplicably bundled into a white room and tasked with unravelling a series of cryptic clues, leading to a six digit number that would unlock the door.
Luckily, James had millions of dedicated listeners on the case, too. After successfully completing a hangman game, fans noted that all of the musicians featured in that clue had sung songs with “star” in the title - pointing James in the direction of his star listeners.
After a clip of Claudia Winkleman saying “Hello” was unveiled as another clue, star listener Claudia rang the show to suggest that she was involved somehow. In a baffling series of twists, the entire stunt hinged upon a copy of Ainsley Harriott’s Feel-Good Cookbook being couriered over to Claudia, with the escape room code then linked to ingredient quantities for a recipe for smoked haddock rarebits.
Did it make sense? Unless you were a dedicated Radio 1 listener (or equally dedicated Twitter sleuth), the answer was “probably not” - but it was certainly a whirlwind 30 hours, which James branded “even worse than climbing Ben Nevis - and I hated doing that more than anything in my life.”
Who’s Got Greg?
When James missed his Breakfast show after partying at the Brits, our alarm bells started ringing - and lo and behold, another wild stunt took over the airwaves.
Explaining that he hadn’t simply overslept with the world’s worst hangover, James revealed that he had been “captured” by a celebrity at the Brits after party and taken to a mysterious location.
It was then up to the DJ and his fans to unravel another set of bizarre clues, including the red scarf found in his near-empty room, a series of voicemails from Lizzo and a USB stick filled with pictures of fellow Radio 1 star Mollie King.
Eventually, it all pointed to a green jacket, which had been left at a dry cleaners, with a disposable camera in the pocket. Fans worked out that the jacket belonged to Alan Carr, and a listener got the photos from the camera developed to find the code to the padlock on James’ room.
He was greeted by his “captors” King and Carr - and learned that he’d been stuck in a makeshift structure in a luxurious hotel room on the 39th floor of the Shard for almost 39 hours. Once again, he’d been hiding in plain sight...
Blank Space with Taylor Swift
This lo-fi BBC precursor to Carpool Karaoke sees James driving around London listening to the radio - until Swift suddenly appears beside him as her single Blank Space starts to play (side note - this happened nearly six. Years. Ago.)
The pair then proceed to lipsync for their lives - Swift’s approach is a little more choreographed, while James spends a lot of the video looking alternately perturbed or terrified, until he steps things up in a dramatic fashion about three minutes into the track.
James later incurred the wrath of Swift’s fans when he interviewed her following her Radio 1’s Big Weekend performance in 2018, and joked “I think you need to have a shower now.”
Luckily, the singer took the comment in the spirit in which it was intended, replying with: “I agree! And I’m not offended you said that… there’s a lot going on and none of it’s good.”
“TS has a great sense of humour and we have known each other for ages and had a good catch up after the interview,” James wrote on Twitter afterwards.
“It’s all cool. It was hot up there. I almost said we should both go for a shower but after this reaction I’m glad we didn’t!”
Pass the Pasty
.@gregjames is sending a pasty from Cornwall to listener Sarah in Aberdeenshire, who has never had a pasty before! And we want the help of YOU our wonderful listeners. If you’re near the pasty and can help it on its journey, then please get in touch to help us out #PassThePasty pic.twitter.com/xNERzIR1yW— BBC Radio 1 (@BBCR1)September 3, 2018
After learning that a listener named Sarah had never tried a Cornish pasty, James and his team masterminded a nationwide epic journey.
Fans across the country took part in a relay race aiming to take a pasty - placed in a see-through perspex box for health and safety reasons - from Cornwall to Sarah’s home in Aberdeenshire. After 19 stops and four days of travel, it finally arrived at its destination, heralded by the sound of bagpipes.
As part of the journey, the pasty went on a rollercoaster, took part in Britain’s biggest professional bike race and travelled on a world famous train.
Recreating the painting
When fans pointed out that James bore an uncannily strong resemblance to a man eating his dinner in a piece of artwork from 1866 (In A Roman Osteria by Danish painter Carl Bloch, if you're interested), he did what anyone would surely do - put out a casting call to find two women who looked like the ladies in the painting so that they could recreate it… live on air.
— BBC Radio 1 (@BBCR1)April 18, 2018
Radio 1 invited artists in to paint James and the other two lookalikes - and the results were impressive.
For proof of how production values on James’ stunts have increased exponentially in recent years, rewind to this amusing Christmas spin on Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s controversial hit Blurred Lines.
James was joined by Radio 1’s resident newsreader Chris Smith (dressed in a Santa outfit with disconcertingly Thicke-esque aviator shades) for the skit, which thankfully substitutes the original’s dubious lyrics for lines about cinnamon, eggnog and Santa.
The duo managed to rope in an unlikely mix of famous faces to join them, from Coldplay’s Chris Martin to Keith Lemon via Jamie Oliver and Fearne Cotton.
If you’re not filled with festive cheer at the thought of watching a Christmas-themed parody out of season, skip to just over a minute in for the look of existential despair on Jake Bugg’s face as he presumably makes a mental note to tell his manager not to book him in for this next year.