Sandi Toksvig

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Sandi Toksvig
Sandi Toksvig in 2009.jpg
Sandi Toksvig in 2009
BornSandra Birgitte Toksvig
(1958-05-03) 3 May 1958 (age 56)
Copenhagen, Denmark
OccupationAuthor, comedian, radio and television presenter
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Sandi Toksvig
Sandi Toksvig in 2009.jpg
Sandi Toksvig in 2009
BornSandra Birgitte Toksvig
(1958-05-03) 3 May 1958 (age 56)
Copenhagen, Denmark
OccupationAuthor, comedian, radio and television presenter

Sandra Birgitte "Sandi" Toksvig OBE (/ˈtɒksviɡ/, Danish pronunciation: [ˌsand̥i ˈtˢʌɡ̊sʋiːˀ]; born 3 May 1958) is a Danish-British writer, presenter, comedian, actress and producer on British radio and television. She currently presents The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4 and previously presented 1001 Things You Should Know on Channel 4. She also began presenting the revival series of classic game show Fifteen to One on 5 April 2014.

In October 2012 she succeeded Sheila Hancock as Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth.[1]

Early life[edit]

Toksvig was born in Copenhagen. Her father, Claus Toksvig, was a foreign correspondent for the Danish television channel Danmarks Radio, so Toksvig spent most of her youth outside Denmark. In 1969, while her father was covering the Apollo 11 Mission, Toksvig held hands with Neil Armstrong's secretary as Armstrong stepped onto the moon.[2] She attended Tormead School, an independent girls' school near Guildford, when her father was based in London. Her first job was a position as a follow spot operator for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar at the age of 18.[3][4]

She studied law, archaeology and anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge, graduating with a first-class degree and receiving two prizes for outstanding achievement (The Raemakers and the Theresa Montefiore Awards).[5] One of her law tutors was Lord Denning.[6]

Her brother, Nick Toksvig, attended Hull University and was a friend of journalist and Beirut hostage John McCarthy, with whom Toksvig undertook a yachting adventure around Britain in 1995. Her sister Jenifer Toksvig is a musical theatre author and lyricist.


When I see comedian — and ‘comedienne’, of course I hate it — I think ‘Oh, really?’ because I think of myself as a writer and broadcaster. Sometimes it’s funny but I’ve just done a piece for Radio 3 all about Mary Wollstonecraft, and there’s not a joke in it.

The Times[7]
Toksvig performing in 2008


Toksvig began her comedy career at Girton College, Cambridge University, where she wrote and performed in the first all-woman show at the Footlights. She was there at the same time as fellow members Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery, and Emma Thompson, and wrote additional material for the Perrier award-winning Footlights Revue. She was also a member of the university's Light Entertainment Society.

She started her television career on children's series, presenting No. 73 (1982–1986), the Sandwich Quiz,[8] The Saturday Starship, Motormouth, Gilbert's Fridge and on factual programmes such as Island Race and The Talking Show, produced by Open Media for Channel 4.

In October 2012, in the wake of allegations about the behaviour of Jimmy Savile and claims that during the 1980s there was a culture within the BBC which tolerated sexual harassment, she says she was groped by a "famous individual" on air.[9][10] Toksvig said the allegations of inappropriate behaviour at the BBC "did not surprise me at all".


She moved onto the comedy circuit. She performed at the first night of The Comedy Store in London and was once part of their Players, an improvisational comedy team.[11]

She has appeared as a panellist in comedy shows such as Call My Bluff (a regular as a team captain), I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Mock the Week, QI and Have I Got News for You. She appeared in the very first episode of Have I Got News For You in 1990.[12] She was the host of What the Dickens, a Sky Arts quiz show. She is a familiar voice for BBC Radio 4 listeners, as the chair of The News Quiz, having replaced Simon Hoggart in September 2006. She presented its travel programme Excess Baggage until it was axed in 2012.[citation needed]

Drama and factual[edit]

In 1993 Toksvig wrote a musical, Big Night Out at the Little Sands Picture Palace, for Nottingham Playhouse, co-starring with Anita Dobson and Una Stubbs. In 2002, it was re-written, with Dilly Keane, for the Watford Palace Theatre, in which they appeared with Bonnie Langford.[13]

Toksvig and Elly Brewer wrote a Shakespeare deconstruction, The Pocket Dream, which Toksvig performed at the Nottingham Playhouse and which transferred to the West End for a short run. The pair also wrote the 1992 TV series The Big One, in which she also starred. She has appeared in a number of stage plays, including Androcles and the Lion, Much Ado About Nothing and The Comedy of Errors. Most recently Toksvig wrote a play entitled Bully Boy which focused on post-traumatic stress among British servicemen. The play premiered at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton in May 2011 and starred Anthony Andrews.

In 1996, she narrated the Dragons! interactive CD-ROM published by Oxford University Press and developed by Inner Workings, along with Harry Enfield.[14] The software was primarily aimed at children and featured songs and poems about dragons. She also narrated the Winnie the Witch CD-ROM. She appeared in the Doctor Who audio drama Red by Big Finish Productions, released in August 2006. In December 2006, she hosted and sang at the London Gay Men's Chorus sold-out the Christmas show, Make the Yuletide Gay, at the Barbican Centre.[citation needed] Over Christmas and New Year 2007/8 she narrated the pantomime Cinderella at the Old Vic Theatre. In October 2011, she narrated the new musical Soho Cinders at the Queen's Theatre, London. In 2011 she hosted a second season of BBC2's Antiques Master.

In the 2013 Christmas Special of BBC's Call the Midwife, Toksvig appeared in an "entertaining cameo" as grumpy ward nurse, Sister Gibbs.[15][16]

Toksvig was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to broadcasting.[17]


She has written more than twenty fiction and non-fiction books for children and adults, starting in 1994 with Tales from the Norse's Mouth, a fiction tale for children. In 1995, she sailed around the coast of Britain with John McCarthy, who had been held hostage in Beirut. In 2003, she published Gladys Reunited: A Personal American Journey, about her travels in the USA retracing her childhood. She writes regular columns for Good Housekeeping, the Sunday Telegraph andThe Lady. In October 2008, she published Girls Are Best, a history book for girls.[citation needed]

In 2009, her collected columns for the Sunday Telegraph were published in book form as The Chain of Curiosity. In 2012, she published her latest book, Valentine Grey, a historical novel set in the Boer War.[citation needed]

Awards and honours[edit]

Politics and activism[edit]

Sandi Toksvig was once a high profile political activist supporting the Liberal Democrats,[20][21][20] She both introduced party leader Menzies "Ming" Campbell at the party's 2004 conference and was named as a possible parliamentary candidate.

However MPs urged OFCOM (the UK broadcast regulator) to investigate an "obscene joke" after Toksvig said on air on Radio 4 in 2011, during daytime transmission, that Liberal Democrat leader, and by then deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg had "put the 'N' into cuts" to child benefit.[22] She now  – as of 2012 – says she has distanced herself from any political party.[23]

Toksvig supports the charity and pressure group Liberty, hosting its 2012 awards ceremony.[24]

In 2003 she stood as a candidate in the election for the Chancellorship of the University of Oxford, supporting a campaign against student fees.[25] She was defeated in the first round of voting, achieving 1,179 first-place votes out of about 8,000 cast.[26] The election was won by Chris Patten.

Personal life[edit]

I wouldn’t care if they came from Tesco. I don’t care about the blood thing. They call me Mummy and I earned it. We love each other. You can’t do better than that. Lots of families don’t.

Toksvig commenting on her children in The Times[27]

Toksvig is adoptive mother to three children: two daughters, Jessica and Megan[28] (born 1988 and 1990), and a son Theo[29] (born 1994). The children were carried by her then-partner, Peta Stewart from whom she separated in 1997,[27] and were conceived through artificial insemination by donor Christopher Lloyd-Pack,[7] younger brother of the actor Roger Lloyd-Pack.[30]

She lives on a houseboat in Wandsworth[31] with psychotherapist Debbie Toksvig,[28] whom she joined in a civil partnership in 2007.[32]

They renewed their vows on 29 March 2014, the day same-sex marriage was introduced in England and Wales,[33] and in December 2014, their civil partnership was converted into a marriage.

In 1994 charity Save the Children dropped her services as compere of its 75th-anniversary celebrations after she came out,[7] but following a direct action protest by the Lesbian Avengers,[34] the charity apologised.[35]


Books for children[edit]

Books for adults[edit]


  1. ^ BBC News – Sandi Toksvig made Portsmouth University Chancellor. (31 October 2012). Retrieved on 26 April 2013.
  2. ^ "Graham Norton welcomes Sigourney Weaver, Professor Brian Cox, Sandi Toksvig and Sugarland". BBC One. 10 February 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Toksvig, Sandi (24 January 2013). The Chain Of Curiosity. London, UK: Hachette UK. ISBN 9781405527231. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Tokvsig, Sandi (30 December 2007). "Sandi Toksvig: All the world's backstage". Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Press Association (23 January 2012). "Sandi Toksvig becomes chancellor of Portsmouth University". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b c Ginny Dougary (5 December 2009). "Sandi Toksvig on her Christmas cracker". London, UK: The Times. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "Artist Management". Vivienne Clore. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Sandi Toksvig claims she was groped while broadcasting". BBC. 7 October 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  10. ^ "Sandi Toksvig: 'I was groped on air in the 1980s'". The Guardian (The Guardian). 7 October 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  11. ^ Comedy Store Players Official Site – History -retrieved on 16 May 2008
  12. ^ Have I Got News For You episode guide at — retrieved on 16 May 2008
  13. ^ Review of Big Night Out in What's On Stage; retrieved 23 February 2009.
  14. ^ Television Graphics Around the World., 29 March 2000; retrieved 26 April 2013.
  15. ^ Gerard O'Donovan (25 December 2013). "Call the Midwife, Christmas special, review". Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Ellie Walker-Arnott (14 December 2013). "Call the Midwife Christmas special - first look preview". Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  17. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60728. p. 14. 31 December 2013.
  18. ^ Channel 4 Newsroom Blog – Behnind the scenes at the Channel Four Political Awards retrieved on 16 May 2008
  19. ^ 2007 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards -retrieved on 16 May 2008
  20. ^ a b
  21. ^ "Screen stars join election race". BBC News. 25 May 2004. Retrieved 16 October 2008.  "The celebrity bug has bitten the other major parties with the Lib Dems claiming the support of [...] broadcaster Sandi Toksvig."
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Sandi Toksvig: 'I don't understand boredom'". Guardian Newspaper. 26 August 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012.  "I don't think there's a party that represents anything I believe in."
  24. ^ Liberty honours inspirational human rights leaders., 20 November 2012; retrieved 26 April 2013.
  25. ^ "Toksvig enters chancellor race". BBC News. 24 February 2003. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  26. ^ Polly Curtis (17 March 2003). "Patten wins Oxford prize:". London, UK: The Guardian. Retrieved 24 May 2008. 
  27. ^ a b Wark, Penny (11 October 2002). "I have no secrets". The Times (London). Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  28. ^ a b Scott, Caroline (16 December 2007). "A Life in the Day: Sandi Toksvig". The Times (London, UK). Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  29. ^ Kerr, Alison (29 November 2008). "Sandi Toksvig interview: The history woman". The Scotsman. 
  30. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  31. ^ Rucki, Alexandra (31 December 2013). "Eighteen people make New Year's Honours list in Wandsworth". Wandsworth Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved 31 December 2013. 
  32. ^ "Sandi Toksvig renews wedding vows in public event". ITV. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  33. ^ "Sandi Toksvig Praises New Gay Marriage Legislation On 'This Morning': 'It's About Love And Equality'". Huffington Post. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  34. ^ "Lesbians protest over charity ban". The Independent. 5 October 1994. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  35. ^ David, Smith (November 1994). "Comedian and actress Sandi Toksvig, a well-known face on the popular comedy improvisation TV show, Whose Line is it Anyway, came out as a lesbian in the pages of the Sunday Times and Daily Mirror". Gay Times (194) (Millivres). ISSN 0950-6101. 

External links[edit]