Jeremy Paxman to explore comedy once he steps down from Newsnight

Media Editor

Jeremy Paxman is preparing to explore comedy and other new genres in a marked departure from the role he has held for the past 25 years as presenter of Newsnight and grand inquisitor of the British political establishment.

Paxman, 63, who will present a stage show at this year’s Edinburgh Festival called Paxo, is said by colleagues to have been impressed with the popularity of news-based comedy shows in America where many of the stars of TV current affairs are satirists such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

The presenter, who will continue to host BBC2’s University Challenge, is also believed to be exploring opportunities to present further documentaries for the BBC, following his work on Britain’s Great War in February.

Paxman told colleagues he would “quite like to work in different genres” and that his age meant that he needed to act quickly. The presenter has become known for his aggressive interviewing style, but according to the publicity material for Paxo it “unstuffs the man ranked by GQ magazine as ‘Britain’s 26th rudest person’.” The Edinburgh show will explore such themes as “pogonophobia, underpants and the human condition”, the former being a prejudice against beards.

Sarah Esdaile, the theatre director producing Paxo, has previously said the show will demonstrate “Jeremy’s positive mental attitude” and give audiences “a little insight into the enigmatic Mr Paxman and what makes him tick”. Colleagues believe that if the show is well-received it could be a spring board to a television format, possibly along the lines of Stewart’s popular The Daily Show.

It has emerged that Paxman blindsided BBC bosses by the suddenness of Wednesday evening’s announcement of his decision to leave Newsnight, which left colleagues shocked and some in tears.

The BBC issued a statement saying the presenter had revealed his intention to depart the flagship last summer but, while that is true, senior executives were caught by surprise as Paxman chose the day of his departure and called Newsnight staff around him on the third floor at New Broadcasting House where, sitting on a chair, he gave a warm and informal address.

The BBC hoped Paxman would remain until the end of the summer, when his latest contract expired, or until the next election. But the presenter, who is required to host 100 shows a year and who likes to take August as a holiday, calculated that he would complete his annual workload by June and then leave. He wanted to announce his departure on a day when he was in the office.

Although the BBC tried to give the impression of a well planned announcement, issuing tributes from director general Tony Hall, director of news James Harding and Newsnight editor Ian Katz, its statement was drawn up “on the hoof”, sources said.

Paxman angered senior BBC figures with comments in an interview in April in which he described the BBC as “smug”, dismissed its new headquarters as “ghastly” and said: “There’s a pile of stuff on the BBC I can’t stand.”

His presence on Newsnight was such that the late-night programme will have to fight hard to persuade viewers to tune in. But the show has enjoyed a year-on-year uplift in ratings for the past two months and is attempting to find a more distinctive tone. Paxman’s departure will allow for greater flexibility and additional budget, although money was not a factor in him leaving.

Laura Kuenssberg, Kirsty Wark and Emily Maitlis will share presenting duties with a further presenter being appointed during the summer. Tim Luckhurst, Professor of Journalism at the University of Kent and a former BBC journalist, said Eddie Mair, host of Radio 4’s PM, or Evan Davis, of the Today programme, would both make fine additions to the Newsnight presenting team.

The former Labour Home Secretary, David Blunkett MP, said: “I’ve always enjoyed my clashes with Jeremy Paxman. His style is what he is – sardonic, sometimes downright rude but always forensic, incisive and doing the job he was paid to do. He’ll be sorely missed and I shall be sorry not to cross swords with him in this particular theatre in the future.”

David Lammy MP said Mr Paxman was “so integral” to the BBC and Newsnight that “he has almost become an institution in himself”.

“His name and style have become inextricably linked to that of Newsnight and for over two decades he has been a leading figure in a new era of political journalism. It is always a pleasure – if one can call it that – to be interviewed by him and I’m sure viewers will miss his straight talking and tough interviewing, although I suspect a number of MPs will be quietly breathing a collective sigh of relief,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

Ashdown Group: .NET Developer : ASP.NET , C# , MVC , web development

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits - see advert: Ashdown Group: .N...

Guru Careers: 3D Package Designer / 3D Designer

£25 - 30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an exceptional 3D Package Designer / 3...

Guru Careers: Interior Designer

£Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking a strong Middleweight / Senior Inte...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss