‘It’s me and a couple of thousand mates having a laugh’

Sandi Toksvig: loves performing live
Sandi Toksvig: loves performing live
Sandi Toksvig: loves performing live

Sandi Toksvig brings her tour My Valentine to York’s Grand Opera House. Described as her love-letter to life, here she talks about the tour, writing, and her numerous TV and radio commitments.

 

Why My Valentine?

I decided to call the tour My Valentine because it’s my valentine to life. I have a passion for life and honestly feel that we should all just bloody well get out there and enjoy it.

When I was 21, I was seriously ill. I don’t want this to sound too dramatic, but it was touch and go for a while. I’m not a religious person, but that whole experience changed everything for me. I’m determined to be cheerful… determined to seek out all the interesting stuff that the world’s got to offer.

Spike Milligan once said that jokes should be available on the NHS and there’s something in that. My intention is that people will come and see the show, have a laugh, enjoy themselves and, hopefully, walk out of the theatre feeling a little bit better than when they arrived.

 

Do you enjoy performing live?

It was where it all started for me. I can’t believe it was 32 years ago. In this age of tabloid headlines, it’s very easy to get cynical about the job I do, but there’s a wonderful simplicity to being on stage. If the audience is enjoying what you’re doing, they will laugh. If they’re not, they’ll tell you to push off.

 

How about the writing process?

I don’t always like it, but I like seeing the end result. My father was a journalist, so he was always writing and, rather bizarrely, he compared the process to eating fish. He said: ‘First you must land the fish. Then, you fillet out the rubbish and enjoy the tasty bits’.

There’s a section of the show where I talk about why I write and encourage the audience to write… we’ve all got a story to tell. No matter how many Kindles there are out there, people will always love books.

Books can change lives. If George Bush had just read one book about Afghanistan, the world might be different place. Actually, the world might be a different place if George Bush had just read one book.

 

How do you choose projects?

It’s either got to be something that makes me happy, like playing a grumpy polio nurse in the wonderful Call the Midwife or something I care about, like education.

My generation has done a huge disservice to the current generation by forcing them to pay for their education. I feel a lot of rage about that and I guess that I’m trying to give something back. I help out with staff training days at the university and, last July, I personally graduated and shook the hands of about 4,500 students.

 

What about the News Quiz?

It’s now a worldwide phenomenon I’ve actually been invited to perform in New Zealand and Australia next year, partly because of the success of The News Quiz down there.

I like to think people enjoy the show – and I’m told it’s Radio 4’s most popular panel show of all time – because it’s not nasty, vile or personal. Yes, we make jokes, but it’s a very inclusive show.

In that sense, I suppose it’s a bit like My Valentine. Every night of the tour, there’s me and a couple of thousand mates having a bit of a laugh with each other. We get the audience on their feet, we have a history quiz… there’s even a Q&A session.