John Lloyd mulls over stage version of hit TV quiz show, QI

And he is doing his own stand-up gigs in what he calls the best month of his life

It is never ideal to turn up half an hour late for lunch. And when the man you are meeting is fresh off a red-eye from Los Angeles it’s potentially disastrous; especially when, by his own admission, he lives to make every minute count. But if it says a lot about John Lloyd that there he is, suited up to the nines, glass of white on the table, waiting for me – eventually – to turn up, then it says even more that he is doing almost exactly the same thing less than 24 hours later, albeit just for coffee.

He agreed to our lunch out of a mixture of opportunism – he has a book and a show to promote – and because he hates letting people down. (For the record, his publicist told him the wrong time). But it’s the inner perfectionist that has him asking, after jet lag meant he barely nibbled his fish pie, if we can “pick this up some other time when I’m not wobbling about”. He’s worried, too, that he’s been “too serious”; this from the comedy mastermind behind shows from QI and Blackadder to Spitting Image and Have I Got News For You.

Not that being serious bothers Lloyd. He’s actually joking when, after a particularly intense spell of chat ranging from mulling the point of human existence to hypothesising that the brain’s main function “is to keep you stupid,” he exclaims: “Hell; we’d better make some jokes! On with the jokes!” before adding: “I do feel that good comedy has something to say that’s hidden beneath the jokes so I don’t really apologise for being serious about things.”

In fact, I realise afterwards that laughter be damned, Lloyd, 62, had treated me to a masterclass in how he writes comedy. As with Spitting Image, “when we – Ian Hislop, Nick Newman, and Grant Naylor, who went on to write Red Dwarf – used to sit down on a Saturday and just have a discussion about the news; the jokes came out of the opinions, not the other way round,” he says our entire conversation, hue dark, to very dark, would have been ideal material for a show. Which considering that at the time he was still half an hour short for the script for his own stand-up gig – which takes place tonight at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre – was somewhat handy.

But he might have to ratchet up the giggle factor. “Obviously, I don’t want to go and lecture people on the nature of consciousness,” which for the record fascinates him because scientists don’t know how it works. “That would be ludicrous. But there’s enough in it to ring bells, so if it could be done in a funny way, that’s what I would like to do.”

He’s being modest, of course, given that he’s one of the best qualified men on the planet to harvest laughs out of apparently infertile ground. Witness the success of QI, which for the last few uninitiated out there stands for Quite Interesting and runs round the clock on the Freeview channel Dave. His shows helped to make megastars out of people such as Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones – not to mention change the nature of hitherto stuffy broadcasting, for which in retrospect he is perhaps sorry.

Indeed, you could say there’s a simple word to describe Lloyd fans: comics. He exists to make them look good. And they have been returning the favour, with Jimmy Carr, Alan Davies, and David Mitchell all urging people to snap up tickets to his one-man show. The gig itself came out of a memorial event earlier this year in honour of what would have been Douglas Adams’ 60th birthday.

Lloyd and Adams went way back, to Cambridge days, and collaborated on The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy and the bestselling Meaning of Liff books – a dictionary of things that lack words. The upshot of Lloyd’s skit based on new “liffs made up by Hitchies”, which brought the house down, was a new book, Afterliff, and his first ever solo show in August in Edinburgh.

The whole process, which he calls the best month of his life, has him mulling the potential for a stage version of QI. What with turning up so late, I’ve had to bide my time telling him I don’t like the hit show. I won’t even let my husband watch it. To his credit, Lloyd’s fork barely pauses in mid-air, before he insists he’s not fussed despite telling me that more women watch it than men.

He’s borderline defensive on the hoary issue of female guests, pointing out that QI had lots of women in on the first series. “But because we didn’t understand what we were doing and nobody knew what the rules were, the blokes got very competitive because obviously no comedian wants to not get laughs in front of an audience. So they got very shouty and the women shut up.”

Besides, he wasn’t on a quest to solve the gender balance in broadcasting, he adds. “In the beginning, QI was trying to keep Reithian TV alive in some form. You forget in 2003 how low things had sunk. It was all reality shows and music programmes. QI was saying, ‘Surely there can be one intelligent entertainment programme that’s funny and smart at the same time.’ Doing that alone was enough of an achievement. I can’t be expected to fix everything.”

He’s happy if QI, which he calls “a way of thinking,” sparks people’s curiosity, which invariably dies along with childhood. Even better, “all those funny facts about potatoes and kangaroos’ vaginas might make people stop and think, ‘Hang on, of course I haven’t thought about volcanoes or whatever. I haven’t even thought about me. I haven’t thought about what it means to be alive. What’s the point of getting up in the morning?’” Lloyd warms to what is one of his key themes, adding: “We’re all going to die. Has anyone realised that?”

His own mini-death came in his early 40s when winning award after award – including a Lifetime Achievement one from Bafta – tipped him into an intense trough of depression. Young kids (he was 38 when he had his first with his wife, Sarah) didn’t help because he was, he confesses, an “awful” father.

He eventually forced himself out of his depression, which he regards as “a philosophical position. It’s a way of looking at the world which is a depressed way. And it’s possible to look at it in a non-depressed way so assuming you want to not be depressed that’s what you have to do.”

He also made himself be a better dad; a process he says took “blood and tears”. The trigger was realising that he’d become an “angry person”.

“I remember thinking, ‘I might have to buy a small cane so I can discipline Harry [his eldest].’ I thought, ‘I can’t believe I ever thought that. I have to do something about it.’” The “something” was a revolution in parenting style, which boils down to leading by example. He takes it very seriously, sharing a child-rearing tip as the one thing he hopes his audience might learn from tonight’s show.

“Whenever a child comes into your room and asks you to do something, drop whatever it is that you’re doing immediately, and say ‘Yes’. ‘Yes, I can mend the teddy bear’s eye, or look at your blister.’ And after about a year they stop asking. Because if they know that they can get your attention without question then they don’t need it any more.”

The net effect is that his family doesn’t just love each other, but they “like each other,” which he says was an “amazingly difficult” thing to pull off. It’s been so refreshing chatting about bringing up kids with a sixty- something-year-old dad that I can’t help liking him as well. Who knows, my views might even thaw about QI. Which, whisper it, is not just Quite Interesting, but Very Interesting.

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Adolf Hitler's 1914 watercolour 'Altes Rathaus' and the original invoice from 1916

Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible