Iain Dale’s Wednesday broadcast featured Gyles Brandreth’s mellifluously plummy tones navigating his way from pornography to Maureen Lipman, from dad jokes to serial killers, and almost everything in between.
Brandreth is the ideal dinner party guest
For folks like me, for whom small talk is the work of the Devil, Brandreth is the ideal dinner party guest: funny, friendly, seemingly genuinely interested in the world and the people around him, and able to keep the chat going. As such, he must be an interviewer’s ‘go to’ dream as well: little chance of dead air or rabid disagreements from this Grand Homme of the light entertainment circuit.
Much of Brandreth’s appeal seems to lie in the fact that he both knows and trades on the fact that he is something of a privileged ponce, but one who usually manages to reign himself in ‘just’ before ever taking himself too seriously. It is a persona that seems heightened rather than artificial, and one which has seen him bounce from celebrity jumper-whore to MP to ubiquitous media panellist to avuncular know-it-all with idiosyncratic charm.
It is this unique career patchwork which helps Brandreth regale his listeners much in the style of the raconteurs of old; and in an age where ignorance is a badge of honour, and learning seen as an unnecessary encumbrance, his delight in sharing information is both infectious and reassuring. And, you know, fundamentally, it’s just NICE to listen to someone who respects knowledge. Particularly someone who tries to wears it (relatively) lightly and who relishes fusing the low-brow with the high.
Brandreth moves from dropped royal names to emotional self-help with skill, making stops - which may or may have been scheduled - at Mental Health Parkway, Memory Lane Circus and terminating at Positive Mental Attitude Central. But it was when talking about the Edinburgh Fringe and how that glorious crucible of creative insanity revitalised him post-Parliament that he really hit the spot for this most bereft of Fringers. Without sentiment or saccharin, Brandreth conjured up all of the many reasons why we come back to play under the shadows of Arthur’s Seat year after year: the weirdnesses and wildness, the camaraderie, the kindnesses, the support, the invention, and above all... the sheer, bloody, wonderful artistic democracy that can see a household name such as Brandreth perform next to all the bright-eyed emerging acts just starting to dip their toes in the professional water.