Sandi Toksvig

Sandi Toksvig

Date of birth: 03-05-1958

Born in Denmark, and later educated in New York, Sandi Toksvig began her comedy career at Cambridge University, where she was studying archaeology and anthropology at Girton College.

She appeared in several Footlights shows and was the director, writer and star of the first all -female Cambridge Revue. She wrote for the Footlights show featuring Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson that won the first Perrier award in 1981. She was also one of the founder members of The Comedy Store Players improv team.

Her television career began with the children's show No. 73, which ran from 1982 to1986, and has been a panellist in shows such as Call My Bluff, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Mock the Week, QI and Have I Got News for You – appearing on the first ever episode in 1990.

On radio, she is probably best known as chair of Radio 4's News Quiz, which she took over from Simon Hoggart in September 2006, and also presents the travel programme Excess Baggage. She is also a frequent guest on shows such as I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and Just A Minute, and from 2002 to 2005 she presented a weekday lunchtime programme on London's LBC radio station.

In 2007 she was voted Broadcaster of the Year by the Broadcast Press Guild and Channel 4 Political Humorist of the Year, and the following year she was named Broadcaster of the Year at the Stonewall Awards.

She has written 18 books and has regular columns in the Sunday Telegraph and Good Housekeeping.

She is the mother of two daughters (born 1988 and 1990) and a son (born 1994) conceived through artificial insemination.

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Sandi Toksvig Live! National Trevor

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Royal Festival Hall, London

Charming, witty, curious and chirpy, Sandi Toksvig might be on many people’s lists of ideal dinner party guests. And her live show pretty much offers the chance to simulate that experience without having to sort out the catering.

‘Just an excuse to get together and have a chat,’ is how she describes it herself; the show’s stated themes of celebrity, death and seizing the day often sidelined as she holds court on whatever has caught her eye.

The ‘National Trevor’ monicker is something of contrivance, a title she wants to confer on any small acts of positivity, and she spends a little too much time in the first half trying to explain away the terrible pun, seeking candidates for that title in the audience, and setting out her loose agenda, especially bemoaning the youngsters whose ambition is simply to be famous – for what, they do not care.

Indeed, the show takes a while to find its course. Pre-interval, a few common punchlines are raised, from builders’ low-slung trousers – this doyenne of middle England is, of course, having her house done up – to Jesus having fewer followers than any tweeter. And a segment about the sex predators of 1970s TV doesn’t have any sort of joke that makes it worth reminding us of their awful crimes, a  sour note that’s out of place with her indefatigably upbeat nature.

What Toksvig has that few other comedians – even the most-celebrated ones – can claim is the almost unconditional love of her audience. The breezy likeability she exudes is reflected back two-thousand-fold, and we all bask in a mutual warmth.

Her passion for both people and for knowledge is infectious, too. Fans from QI, especially, will revel in her spreading of arcane titbits of knowledge. I daresay Toksvig is the only comedian with material about

Cheomseongdae, a 7th Century astronomical observatory in South Korea… which as the co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party, she uses to quietly illustrate a feminist point.

Elsewhere we learn more about Lord Byron, pioneering Scottish surgeon Robert Liston and Orkney warlord Sigurd The Mighty – one of a string of comedy deaths she shares with us. The audience even get to take part in a true-or-false quiz, full of fascinating trivia.

Toksvig also has a fantastic chunk of ‘found comedy’ in digging out some awful books that have somehow made it to print, of the kind that Robin Ince’s lamented Book Club used to revel in.

On the topic of fame, she speaks warmly of her father, for a long time the most famous man in Denmark, as ‘never less than charming’ and hopes that she can try to follow in his footsteps. Job done, on the evidence of this show, which might be more ‘audience with…’ than stand-up, but is consistently entertaining.

Toksvig is full of anecdotes from her own long career in the limelight, from saving a grand dame of romantic fiction from drowning in her soup to being recognised on the toilet, the maximum humour extracted from each situation with the same skilful timing she applies to the odd shaggy-dog story.

Full of positivity, her show might be described as an ode to joy had Beethoven not nabbed the title first in the rousing piece which Toksvig co-opts for her finale. If there’s a political undertone in picking the piece of music that’s also the anthem of the European Union, then it goes unsaid. Toksvig is all about bringing people together, not driving them apart, after all.

• Sandi Toksvig is on tour until February 8. Dates

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Published: 21 Jan 2019

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Products

Book (2012)
Valentine Grey

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