Q&A: Gyles Brandreth on turning his love of words into a hilarious UK tour

Former MP and now star of QI, The One Show, Have I Got News For You and more, Gyles Brandreth is quite the witty wordsmith.

Here, the politician-turned-comic tells us everything we need to know about his new UK tour, Word Power! It’s totes redic…

What can audiences expect from your Word Power show?

“A two-hour show that takes you on a roller-coaster ride around the amazing world of words. It’s a show that should make you laugh and might even make you cry. It’s based around my lifelong love of words and includes stories from my life in the theatre and politics. It’s a show for people who love live theatre and who enjoy listening to Just A Minute or watching QI.”

What do you love about the English language?

“Everything! English is the richest language in the world. There are 500,000 words in the English dictionary. The unfortunate French only have 100,000 words in their vocabulary – and that includes “le weekend”. Language is what makes us human. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor but honest. Only words can do that.”

What is your favourite word and why?

“My favourite word changes from day to day. I’m currently rather liking the word YEX. It’s an old word for a HICCUP and it’s very useful for playing Scrabble. I’m enjoying another old word at the moment, too. To SQUIDDLE is to waste time in idle talk. I do quite a bit of that.”

How do you usually go about developing a new show?

“I was an MP – until the people spoke. When I lost my seat, I wondered what to do next. Someone suggested I take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe. I did. And I was very lucky. The show won awards and five star reviews. Since then I have taken three more shows to Edinburgh and I’ve been just as lucky with them. I try to create a show about a subject I love and that I think will interest and amuse people. My Word Power! show is my favourite so far.”

What can you tell us about your book Word Play and how does it tie in with this show?

“I love puns and palindromes and anagrams and word play of every kind. I love asking people to take the word MONDAY and rearrange the letters in MONDAY to form another everyday English word . . . and then seeing how long it takes them to come up with DYNAMO. Word Play is a book that contains all the fun and funny and fantastic things I’ve learnt about our language in my lifetime. After the show, I always stay to meet the audience in the foyer or the bar after the show and if anyone fancies a copy of the book I sign it for them.”

Should we be worried about the impact of the internet and mobile technology on the English Language?

“No! The English language is rich because it isn’t pure. New words are arriving all the time and lots of them have come along with new technology. I like acronyms like YOLO. I like fun abbreviations. RIDIC is a bit ridiculous, but why not? I love new words. Do you ever MOSH? (I do!) Of course, there are dangers in the brave new world of texting… and some of the funny ones feature in Word Power!”

Who is your linguistic hero?

“William Shakespeare. He died 400 years ago this year, but he is one of the reasons that English is the world’s richest and most wonderful language. Until Shakespeare came along, the English language lacked excitement. Yes, Shakespeare invented the word – along with more than a thousand others. It appears first in his play, Hamlet. (When I was a young actor, I played Hamlet once – not every successfully. The audience threw eggs at me. I went on as Hamlet, came off at omelette.)”

Gyles Brandreth brings Word Power! to London’s Richmond Theatre on Sunday 22 May, book now at

Full dates below:

Gyles Brandreth Word Power

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