My Life in Media: John Lloyd

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The Independent Online

J hn Lloyd, 56, is the co-creator of QI - now in its fifth series and currently airing on Friday nights on BBC2. An acclaimed writer and radio and television producer, his list of credits include creating long-running radio series Quote ... Unquote, The News Huddlines and The News Quiz and TV comedy hits Not The Nine O'Clock News, Blackadder and Spitting Image (which he co-originated). Lloyd also co-wrote the first series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with his friend the late Douglas Adams. Since 1987 he has directed commercials including campaigns for Boddingtons, Barclaycard and Phileas Fogg. In 1999 Lloyd set up Quite Interesting Ltd – a company dedicated to making life less boring in all media. Lloyd is the co-author of The QI Annual, published this month, and The Book of Animal Ignorance. He lives in Oxfordshire with his wife Sarah and three children.

What inspired you to embark on a career in media?

"It was an accident. I wanted to be a lawyer like John Mortimer defending the weak against evil large corporations, but as anyone studying law will tell you quickly learnt that law and justice were not the same thing. What I liked to do most was writing jokes. While I was in the Footlights David Hatch offered me a job at BBC Radio and at 22 I discovered workaholism overnight, but I was totally hooked from the first time I sat in the producer's chair."

When you were 15 which newspaper did you family get, and did you read it?

"The Telegraph. I read lots, so I'm sure I did."

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

"I still think of shows like Round The Horn and The Navy Lark as examples of perfect sense of humour. We didn't get a TV until I was 10 and then I was away at school so watched little."

Describe your job.

"Producer, director, writer, researcher, TV, radio, commercials – I do it all. Next year I'm presenting my new series The Museum of Curiosities on Radio 4."

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

"If I'm driving into London, Radio 4. It's a fantastic service with such a wide range of programmes. "

Do you consult any media sources during the day?

"I've become addicted to Google News."

What is the best thing about your job(s)?

"Making people laugh. When I left university and my friends went off to be bankers, lawyers and current affairs producers I felt ashamed to be a humble red nose, but as the years go by I see it as a wonderful thing to cheer people up and be paid for it."

And the worst?

"The whole business of sacking people, which you often have to do to save a project if it gets into trouble. Luckily I've been sacked more times than I've had to sack – including once when I was sacked by Douglas Adams from Hitchhiker's Guide. It's never pleasant."

How do you feel you influence the media?

"By assuming the viewer or listener is as intelligent as the person making the programme. You've got to lead by example. Underestimating the audience is always a mistake."

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

"Actually, there are three. The last few minutes of Blackadder when they go over the top. The Spitting Image election special in 1987. And when we brought out the Not The Royal Wedding Book and the following Christmas it went to No1 while the official Royal Wedding Souvenir Book languished in second place."

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

"In 1989 Blackadder won two Baftas on the same night. We were so pleased when we got back to our table we poured out the drinks to celebrate; I took off my tie. Then, in the background, I heard Princess Anne talking about someone who's career sounded a bit like my own. Suddenly I realised I was being given a lifetime achievement award and nobody had warned me. I went up on stage in a most dishevelled state with no speech prepared, although in the end it seemed to go OK. Princess Anne was fantastic about it, although I felt impelled to apologise to her and her mother. I learnt from the experience. Since then, I've never felt impelled to write notes when giving a speech."

Name the career ambition you want to realise before you retire.

"Write a novel. Direct a movie. And write a great pop song – the only one I've written was in the Eighties ('I've Never Met A Nice South African') and it was B-side to 'The Chicken Song'. Not that I can ever see myself retiring, mind you. My hobby is my job."

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine.

"The Sunday Telegraph. And The Independent on Sunday, honest. I love the New Scientist, too – especially for its alluring covers which ask questions like 'Is there a God?' then inside provide answers like 'Probably not'."

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

"I like people who stand for quality and truth, which is why I like David Attenborough and Jeremy Paxman, Roger Bolton, Ian Hislop and Richard Ingrams. And Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales."


1974: Joins BBC Radio Light Entertainment as a writer/producer fresh from Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied law and was a member of the Footlights

1976/8: Creates radio series including Quote ¿ Unquote, The News Huddlines, The News Quiz and To The Manor Born which when it transferred to TV in 1979 achieved the highest TV audience ever recorded for a British TV show – 27 million viewers

1979: Moves into television production for BBC TV and then ITV where he creates series including Not The Nine O’Clock News and Blackadder

1989/90: Awarded Judge’s Award for outstanding Contribution to Television and, the following year, the Desmond Davies Award for lifetime achievement by BAFTA

2003: The first series of QI, which he created with John Mitchinson, airs on BBC 2

2007/8: Creates, produces and presents The Museum of Curiosities which airs on Radio 4 in the new year