Comedian and TV quiz host Sandi Toksvig on surviving lockdown, knitting and her new show – plus all Next Slide Please tour locations and dates

Sandi talks about knitting, surviving lockdown and why she's desperate to get back on the road with her new live show
Sandi talks about knitting, surviving lockdown and why she’s desperate to get back on the road with her new live show

“I collect books where I’m like, ‘Why would anyone publish that?’ “, she said. “So you should never challenge me because chances are I have a book about it.” A dozen such tracks will appear on his new show, Next Slide Please, among many other pretty interesting topics.

His first national tour since National Trevor in 2019 can’t come soon enough. “I want that feeling of joy when we hear people laughing, meeting strangers, having a drink and just being happy to be out for the evening.”

In pre-pandemic National Trevor, she had “strangely” focused on death and why it isn’t talked about enough…”. Phew. She also wants more discussion than usual with the public. “I want to hear what they have to say, I want people to feel they are being heard.”

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Toksvig speaks on Zoom from the house she and her therapist wife Debbie, her dog Mildred and her extensive library just moved into.

Her family – which includes three children from her relationship with Peta Stewart, as well as two grandchildren, all “fabulous” and clearly adored – come here for lunch on the weekends, and she couldn’t be happier. She did not see them during the various confinements, just made video calls.

“It was the most painful thing. This first Christmas of confinement without them was really difficult. Although I adore my wife, I missed the noise and the hoarse laughter of Christmas.

But the lockdown had a weird perk. She and Debbie would leave at nightfall for the exercise of the hour allotted to them: not just a simple walk, but a guided tour of Toksvig, street by street, of the totally deserted City of London.

“We made it a point to learn the history of every street in the Square Mile. I would bore Debbie with the information I had gathered – every corner has something where you go, ‘I didn’t know that, it’s amazing.’ We liked it. A pretty corny thing to do.

Has the lockdown also made us kinder and kinder? Not really, she says, making it clear that she thinks the British were already a kind and kind nation before the virus arrived; now we just look for those qualities and comment on them further.

She has learned over the past two years how much she enjoys the simple things in life, explaining how she started saying no to parties more, but will continue to lend time and support to the Women’s Equality Party and is visibly proud that of the five candidates the WEP could afford to run in the 2016 general election, all survivors of sexual abuse, targeted five male MPs facing allegations of sexual impropriety, none of whom currently sit. “We didn’t win the seats, but we won the battle.”

For Next Slide Please, she did more research, ready for the tour. “It’s a ‘brown sign tour’,” she explains. “Wherever there is a stately home and a cup of tea.”

Her schedule will be arranged so that she can spend time at local historical sites. But she will also dedicate part of the new show to the history of the city where she is and wants the public to tell her what is amazing. His nocturnal walks in the city taught him that every inch of a place is accompanied by a story. She wants people to see that she’s done “the best I can, I’ve done my homework.”

There’s something endearingly old-school about Toksvig, which is part of his appeal as a performer. You can tell she doesn’t like doing interviews because they’re all about her, “what’s boring and bad manners.”

And she’s like a Victorian model in her diligence. When asked which TV series she had consumed during confinement, the answer is: none. She readily admits that she doesn’t watch much TV. Her off hours, when not spent reading, are filled with things to do – weaving, craft projects, embroidery, woodworking, knitting. (She’ll do it on the occasional 10 p.m. news, she admits, after knitting a doll for her granddaughter that way.) And she knits with wool, not dog hair.

How on earth does she find the time for all these projects, alongside creating programs, writing and performing? “That’s what I do when others stuff themselves with boxes”…” Touché!

Does she ever consider slowing down or even giving up? She admits she has a “fantasy” – and points out that’s all – of becoming a teacher at a liberal arts college in New England, “wearing a slightly worn sweater and looking a bit vague and sitting around chatting about Catcher in the Rye or some other great piece of writing.” She likes talking to people younger than her, she says. “But I’m sold out, dahling, for next year.

And besides, she finds the world too interesting. “With every turn of the page, I learn something…” She begins to laugh at the memory of an episode of Extraordinary Escapes that she had finished for season 2 of the Channel 4 series. gong with Sarah Millican. Not a good idea, it made us laugh too much…” A gong bath? “You are lying in the woods and someone is playing the gong.”

She’s not done with “something new”, she insists: “NEXT SLIDE PLEASE will be full of new discoveries, new adventures, new ideas. Otherwise, you become a dinosaur. Curiosity is the key, his main recommendation to his peers. “Don’t be too certain. I challenge people to question their answers.

TUE 5, 7.30pm, CAMBERLEY, Camberley Theatre, 01276 707600

WED 20, 7.30pm, ST ALBANS, The Alban Arena, 01727 844488

THU 21, 7.30 PM, BAIN, Le Forum, 01225 463362

FRI 22, 7:45 p.m., MALVERN, Forum Theater, 01684 892277

SAT 23, 7:30 p.m., GUILDFORD, G Live

MON 25, 8 PM, SOUTHEND ON SEA, Cliffs Pavilion

TUE 26, 7.30pm, HIGH WYCOMBE, Wycombe Swan, 0343 310 0060

WED 27, 7:30 PM, IPSWICH, Regent Theater

THU 28, 7.30pm, CHATHAM, The Central Theatre, 01634 338338 BOOK HERE

SAT 7, 7.30pm, POOLE, Lighthouse, 01202 280000

SUN 8, 7.30pm, DARTFORD, The Orchard Theatre, 0343 310 0033

MON 9, 7.30pm, PETERBOROUGH, New Theatre, 01733 852 992

THU 12, 7.30pm, BRADFORD, St George’s Hall, 01274 432000

FRI 13, 7.30pm, YORK, Barbican

SAT 14, 7:30 p.m., BUXTON, Opera, 01298 72190

MON 16, 7.30pm, CARDIFF, St David’s Hall, 029 2087 8444

WED 18, 7.30pm, NOTTINGHAM, Royal Concert Hall, 0115 989 5555

THU 19, 7.30 PM, BIRMINGHAM, Symphony Hall, 0121 780 3333

SAT 21, 8pm, COVENTRY, Warwick Arts Centre, 024 7652 4524

SUN 22, 7:30 PM, CHELTENHAM, Town Hall, 01242 528764

MON 23rd, 7.30pm, OXFORD, Playhouse, 01865 305305

THU 26, 7.30pm, YEOVIL, Westlands Entertainment Venue, 01935 422 884

SAT 28, 7.30pm, TORQUAY, Princess Theatre, 0844 871 7615

SUN 29, 7:30 PM, READING, L’Hexagone, 0118 960 6060

SAT 4, 7:30 p.m., BEXHILL ON SEA, Pavillon De La Warr

SUN 5, 7.30pm, SOUTHAMPTON, Mayflower Theatre, 02380 711811

WED 8, 7.30pm, LEICESTER, De Montfort Hall, 0116 233 3111

THU 9, 8 PM, LONDON, Royal Festival Hall at Southbank Center

FRI 10, 7.30pm, CRAWLEY, The Hawth, 01293 553636

SUN 12, 7.30pm, KINGSTON, Rose Theatre, 020 8174 0090

MON 13, 7.30pm, BROMLEY, Churchill Theatre, 0343 310 0020

THU 16, 7.30pm, DARLINGTON, Darlington Racecourse, 01325 405405

FRI 17, 7:30 PM, SHEFFIELD, Town Hall

SAT 18, 7.30pm, LIVERPOOL, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, 0151 709 3789

SUN 19, 7.30pm, SALFORD, The Lowry, 0343 208 6000

WED 22nd, 7.30pm, BRIGHTON, Brighton Dome, 01273 709709

THU 23, 7.30pm, CAMBRIDGE, Corn Exchange, 01223 357851

SAT 25, 7.30pm, CHESTER, Storyhouse, 01244 409 113

SUN 26, 7.30pm, GLASGOW, Theater Royal, 0844 871 7615

MON 27, 7.30 PM, EDINBURGH, Festival Theatre, 0131 529 6000

TUE 28, 7.30pm, NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, Tyne Theater & Opera House, 0844 2491 000

THU 30, 7.30 PM, CANTERBURY, The Marlowe Theatre, 01227 787787