Interview: Sandi Toksvig

The writer, actor, comedian, feminist and new presenter of cult television quiz series, QI, shares what is important to her in life


Interview: Sandi Toksvig

The greatest lesson my father taught me was to live my life with passion. He was passionate about tiny, ordinary things. One day, we were driving along and saw a pheasant that had been killed on the road. He got me out of the car, saying: ‘Come and look at these feathers; how beautiful they are.’ He clipped some off and we went home and tied them to fishing flies. ‘Now the life of the pheasant goes on,’ he said.

Whatever my children need comes first. I remember when my daughter, Megan, was very ill – she was 16 and on a school trip to Cornwall. I was about to go on stage in the Lake District when I got the call, and I said to the audience, ‘I’m really sorry, I promise I will come back and do a show for all of you for free, but I have to go now, because my daughter is not well.’ And I did go back and do a show when she was better. I always try to keep my promises.

I genuinely believe that society would be more at ease with itself – men and women – if we had equality. It’s why I set up the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) in 2015. I am partly a feminist because of my son: I don’t want him to have to ‘man up’; to not cry; to feel as if he has to carry the burden of the world. I’d like him to share it. Even in the most egalitarian countries, there’s still a gender pay gap and it’s time that we said ‘enough’.

My main hope for the future of the WEP is that it does not exist. It’s the only political party in the world that hopes to be redundant one day.

I’ve just finished filming QI. It was like putting on a new pair of shoes and thinking that someone had made them just for me. The fit is perfect.

I believe in love at first sight. The night I met my wife, Debbie, I’d gone to a dinner party as an ‘add-on’ with a friend. I had never done that before. Debbie opened the door and, honestly, it was like being struck by lightning.

The secret of a happy marriage is talking to each other. We have family meetings. We make the time to sit down and talk about anything that is upsetting or worrying us.

I’m in a play next year, I’ve got a novel coming out and a new series of QI, but I’ve still got a million things I want to do. I’d like to learn another language; travel; study; spend more time with friends. I have an incredible passion for life. It can probably be a bit irritating at times. Debbie has a rule: no new ideas before she’s had a cup of tea in the morning.

Female friendship is not applauded enough. Women tend to undermine themselves. We need to be the ones to say, ‘You’re gorgeous; you’re sexy; you’re clever; you’re all the things you don’t feel.’ I’ve got a small group of incredibly supportive female friends. What I know about them, and what I hope they know about me, is that we could ring at any time, from any country, and say, ‘I need you.’

Debbie has made me think about things more; to be more reflective. My friends will tell you I’m a much quieter person than the public persona suggests – more inclined to have serious conversations than always be laughing.

I believe the core of all religions is love – and that’s been forgotten. I’ve also found homophobia and the desire to make yourself better than others in organised religion. This notion of being a ‘chosen person’ is absurd – why can’t we all be chosen? Having said that, if I’m not feeling 100 per cent, I will go to a Quaker meeting. I like the communal experience of people sitting together and enjoying the stillness.

The new series of ‘QI’, and the last with Stephen Fry, is on BBC2 on Fridays. For more about the Women’s Equality Party, visit

Photograph: Pal Hansen for Psychologies