British Comedy Guide

Gyles Brandreth

My Edinburgh: Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth began his career as a children's TV show host before going on to become a Conservative MP, starring as a fictionalised version of himself in That Mitchell and Webb Look and often appears in Countdown's Dictionary Corner.

Charlotte Lytton, The Times, 28th August 2015

Gyles Brandreth: how the Fringe saved me from politics

He took Shakespeare to Edinburgh and sang in suspenders and stockings. On the eve of a new solo show, ex-Tory MP Gyles Brandreth remembers how his love affair with theatre began.

Gyles Brandreth, The Telegraph, 3rd August 2015

Interview: Gyles Brandreth

For almost two decades, Gyles Brandreth has been searching for the secrets of happiness.

John-Paul Stephenson, Giggle Beats, 13th October 2013

Every day, in a stairwell at Broadcasting House, I pass by a photograph of Nicholas Parsons. If you haven't seen that photo, you've seen one like it. Down the years, Nicholas must have been photographed thousands of times with timepieces of all descriptions. He is invariably pointing at them, and beaming as if the clock in question is the most wonderful object ever conceived.

And well he might. Since the earliest days of Radio 4 in 1967, Nicholas has presided over Just a Minute with the same glee exhibited in every publicity shot. His cry of "Welcome to Just a Minute!" at the start of each programme is as enthusiastic a greeting as you'll hear on the radio... an enthusiasm that the passing decades have not dimmed.

His cheery and wily chairmanship are the backbone of it all, with the game's players giving the show new form every week. For a programme obsessed with the passing seconds, time has robbed it of some of its most accomplished participants. Paul Merton is now the mainstay, though he's not here for this first edition of a new series: here it's Gyles Brandreth who picks up and runs with his topics, full of clever word play, boisterous energy and mischief.

As always, anarchy is never far away. In round one, panellist Patrick Kielty accuses Parsons of behaving like a contestant and awards him a point. Never a wasted minute.

Eddie Mair, Radio Times, 12th August 2013

Bursting with joy

Former MP, author and comedy performer Gyles Brandreth is on the hunt for perfect happiness.

Claire Smith, Edinburgh Festivals, 1st August 2013

Up-and-coming TV presenter Michael Grade explains the evolution of a peculiar British cultural institution, in a lightly festive hour that begins with our host in full make-up, wig and tent-like dress. We learn how 18th-century impresario John Rich discovered harlequin shows were ten times more lucrative than Shakespeare; then how the specifics of a man delivering double entendres as a deliberately unconvincing woman gradually fell into place.

Grade chats with Gyles Brandreth, Richard Briers and Matthew Kelly about the demands of damehood. But the star of the show is Berwick Kaler, writer, director and dame of York's famous panto. The future of the art form looks safe with him.

Jack Seale, Radio Times, 20th December 2012

This is the third attempt to put JAM on the box, the BBC having done it previously in 1994 and 1999. Parsons and Merton appear in each episode, with guests appearing being Sue Perkins, Gyles Brandreth, Stephen Fry, Liza Tarbuck, Graham Norton, Josie Lawrence and Julian Clary. There are also a fair number of new contestants: Jason Manford, Miles Jupp, Ruth Jones, Phill Jupitus, John Sergeant and Russell Tovey.

The format is the same, but there are some obvious changes; for a start, there's no scorer sitting next to Parsons. Instead he just has the scores on a screen, and the clock is started by a large button next to him. There's also a little bell rang to indicate they are moving into the final round.

Some things do remain the same, though. The studio is designed to look like the art deco BBC Radio Theatre, where the radio series is normally recorded. For some reason, however, the studio lights change from blue to purple when the subjects start. Why they need to do this I have no idea. I find the camerawork even more irritating. There's no need to cut from here to there every three seconds.

However, there's still much to enjoy from this show. I for one enjoy the little amusing asides that go through out each episodes. My personal favourite was in the fourth episode when the panel kept making jokes about Miles Jupp being the supposed love child of Gyles Brandreth. The jokes just kept snowballing throughout.

With regards to the TV adaptation, I know that there will always be people who will insist that it's not as good as the one on radio, but there are always people who complain about TV adaptations of radio shows. If we rejected every TV adaptation of a radio adaptation out of hand we wouldn't have had the TV successes of shows like Whose Line is it Anyway? or Little Britain.

I'd love to see more episodes of the TV version of Just a Minute; but I doubt they'll produce them. Unless they want to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary, that is, and given that Parsons is 88 years old that might be a bit dangerous.

Ian Wolf, Giggle Beats, 3rd April 2012

Wordaholics was billed as a new comedy game show about the mystery and majesty of, yes you guessed it, words. With Gyles Brandreth in the chair, it was no surprise to hear Stephen Fry was on the panel, for the show certainly had similarities with TV's superior QI.

Sometimes Brandreth's smugness is a little over the top for my taste, but his endless enthusiasm for the subject matter did rub off. The obvious intellectual competitiveness, particularly between Fry and broacaster/comedian Natalie Haynes, also pepped up proceedings, and there was the added bonus that by the end of the half hour I had learned what a Melton Pad and a Piccadilly Weeper was - just in case I get asked at a dinner party in the near future.

Lisa Martland, The Stage, 22nd February 2012

Do you know what "Jedwood Justice" is? It is not, as the audience gathered for this new panel show obviously hope, some primeval punishment dished out upon the Grimes brothers. Fortunately, Stephen Fry knows exactly what it is, and host Gyles Brandreth is able to congratulate him with magniloquent verbosity.

Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 20th February 2012

Starting on Monday: Wordaholics

Wordaholics, Radio 4's new comedy panel game all about words, starts on Monday 20 February at 11.30am. You can find out more and you'll be able to hear the programme shortly after transmission on the Radio 4 website. On the Radio 4 blog Wordaholics presenter Gyles Brandreth takes us through his early years on BBC panel shows.

Gyles Brandreth, BBC Blogs, 17th February 2012

If I may say this without repetition, hesitation or deviation, a radio institution celebrates an anniversary on Monday as the splendid Nicholas Parsons introduces the panel show he has chaired since its inception in just a minute.

Doubtless the shades of such esteemed departed panellists as Clement Freud and Kenneth Williams will be issuing some hollow challenges from the wings as panellists Ross Noble, Jenny Eclair, Gyles Brandreth and Paul Merton are asked to pontificate on subjects given out in the original series back in 1967, from "Why I Wear a Top Hat" to "Knitting a Cablestitch Jumper".

Jim Gilchrist, The Scotsman, 5th February 2012

Gyles Brandreth's wearing petticoats and heels

No one has ever accused the Duke of Edinburgh of being oversensitive. But there are fears that his legendary thick skin could be breached next month if he accepts Gyles Brandreth's invitation to a performance of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest.

John McEntee, Daily Mail, 3rd November 2011

Radio 4 orders panel show hosted by Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth will host a new Radio 4 panel game called Wordaholics, in which panellists' linguistic knowledge will be tested.

British Comedy Guide, 25th October 2011

Interview: Benet and Gyles Brandreth - That's my boy

Self-proclaimed 'cult figure' Gyles Brandreth has passed on the performance bug to son Benet. Here, the pair tell Jackie McGlone the truth - but perhaps not the whole truth - about this family tradition.

Jackie McGlone, Edinburgh Festivals, 8th August 2011

Gyles Brandreth: The day I opened for Bernard Manning

The former MP reveals all to Marissa Burgess.

Marissa Burgess, Chortle, 5th May 2011

Tonight one of QI's infrequent female panellists, Sue Perkins, fresh from dusting the flour off her dainty hands in The Great British Bake Off, joins the boys. She's sparky and funny and will be more than capable of holding her own with those noisy, competitive lads. They are, of course, question master Stephen Fry and genial regular Alan Davies, here with Gyles Brandreth (so garrulous he never knowingly uses two words when he can use 20) and frequent panellist Bill Bailey, who is always good value as he dallies with the esoteric, the surreal and the downright daft.

Alison Graham, Radio Times, 24th September 2010

Along with Stephen Fry's quiz questions on the letter H tonight, it would be quite interesting to find out why the erudite Gyles Brandreth has taken seven years to make his second appearance on this show as a panellist. Also risking the blare of the klaxons for only the second time is comedienne Sue Perkins, who appeared earlier this year. Bill Bailey completes the trio of promising guests lined up to discuss esoterica with Fry and Alan Davies.

Vicki Power, The Telegraph, 24th September 2010

Interview: Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth is a man who wears many hats. In time, we'll get on to the one that says "playwright", perhaps touching on "journalist" and "novelist" and "former Tory MP". But right now, I need to get to grips with the hat which he calls "born-again stand-up comic".

Susan Mansfield, Edinburgh Festivals, 12th August 2010

Invented by Ian Messiter in 1967, now starting its 57th season, still brilliantly chaired by resourceful Nicholas Parsons (who got the gig when Jimmy Edwards, the original choice for chairman, said he'd rather play polo than turn up on a Sunday to record the pilot episode). Messiter, who also invented Many a Slip and other fondly remembered amusements, used to wear red socks at recordings, for luck. Perhaps "red socks" could be a subject for tonight's panel, Graham Norton, Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth and Jenny Eclair, as they strive to fill their 60 seconds.

Gillian Reynolds, The Telegraph, 31st July 2010

Ah, QI. It's the televisual equivalent of punting down the Thames in a top hat and tails, isn't it? It's an afternoon spent leisurely playing croquet with Mater and Pater, drinking cups of Earl Grey and reading PG Wodehouse. It's everything this proud nation stands for isn't it? Well, yes it is. This is the nation of intellectual snobbery, extreme pedantry and Gyles Brandreth after all.

Stephen Fry is a funny, charming man. All you must do to retain that image of him is remember he's a (quite) good author, he was in A Bit of Fry & Laurie, Blackadder and the less twee of his recent documentaries (obviously block out Kingdom, his crashingly dull Twitterisms and his shameless, omnipresent advert ho-ing).

The format, a simple panel game, works well enough and, along with some often genuinely interesting topics, it gives enough opportunities for some for the better guests to put their amusing spin on it and make for agreeable, if slightly passive, watching.

So why do we hate it? [Deep breath] Well... It's Jonathan Creek and his 'Cutesy Little Brother' act or whatever it is he's trying to do by consistently failing to grasp the basic idea of the show for 'comedic' effect, much to the hilarity of the fawning, hyperactive studio audience. It's a Quite Interesting fact that 98% of Davies's laughs are achieved by acting out a simplified version of another panelist's joke again and again and again, all the while looking like Anita Roddick in a particularly loud and ill-fitting blouse. Sitting there grinning, acting like a black hole swallowing up all the jokes and trivia, a comedy anti-catalyst extraordinaire, the anti-Midas of the one-liner. He is consistently, no always the least funny, the most annoying participant and yet, he's always there. He's the one constant. He's ALWAYS there. He's enough to make you wish your left eye was blind.

tvBite wouldn't point any of this out to him of course. We value our ears far too much to do that.

TV Bite, 17th February 2010