It was announced today that Stephen Fry has resigned as the host of QI. This announcement has come completely out of the blue. It has been a total shock for me personally.
Now it should be pointed out that I am a big QI officando: I maintain the guide to the series of the British Comedy Guide, providing details on every single fact there has been mentioned on the programme; maintain the BCG’s entry for the programme’s Radio 4 spin-off The Museum of Curiosity; and created the Wikipedia article on podcast No Such Thing as a Fish, presented by the show’s researchers, the QI Elves, with whom I am on friendly terms on. It is thanks to these shows that I know, in the words of my family, “a fountain of shit”.
QI is arguably the most successful comedy franchise in the UK today, covering TV, radio, podcasts, and releasing several best-selling books. It is proof that people like intelligent comedy. The show has always followed the guiding principles of the BBC’s motto: “To inform, educate and entertain.”
To see Stephen Fry leave the show after 13 series does feel like a huge loss. It sounds overdramatic, and it is, but part of me wants to mourn, like somehow it is signalling a death. Of course this is nonsense. Sandi Toksvig has already been confirmed as the new host of the show. She will make for a wonderful host of QI, and has plenty of experience, having hosted The News Quiz on Radio 4 for a decade. Plus, this makes her one of the few women to host a TV panel show, and certainly one of the women comedians to do so, which is brilliant. Hopefully she will keep QI’s standard up, and her performance will improve the general lot for women on panel shows, which has come under fire in recent years following claims of sexism.
The strange thing about Fry’s role on the show is that it came out because of necessity. Fry was not the first choice: that was Michael Palin, with Fry the head of a clever team and Alan Davies (who it should be pointed out is still very much taking part in the show) the head of a dumb team. However, Palin turned the job down, so Fry had to host the pilot (available as an extra on the Series A DVD). Since then however, Fry has arguably become almost as iconic in this role, as he has with his work alongside Hugh Laurie, his roles in Blackadder or reading Harry Potter.
I hope too that Toksvig becomes as loved in the her new role as Fry was. No doubt she will face some hardships at first, and I fear there may well be some sexist comments from some unsavoury quarters, but Toksvig will need support as she takes on this new role, especially as she will start her job in the year of the BBC Charter Renewal. In my few, QI displays plenty of the evidence that you need to show that the BBC needs protecting.
Good luck Stephen in all your future endeavours.