Put the kettle on, put your feet up and settle in for a good old gossip with the master of the quick-change career, Gyles Brandreth.
It might seem unlikely, but Madonna and Gyles Brandreth have at least two things in common. First off, both seem to relish appearing in public wearing stockings and suspenders: Madonna in her stage shows and Brandreth in Zipp!, the musical he brought to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2001. We’ll move swiftly on to the other characteristic that Brandreth and Madge share: a chameleon-like ability to shapeshift, change career and re-invent themselves.
In his 62 years, Brandreth has been an MP, government whip, journalist, author, broadcaster, actor, businessman and, perhaps surprisingly, the support act for Bernard Manning. “It’s true,” he laughs, “hard to believe but true. It was in the early 1970s. He was filthy, politically incorrect, totally unacceptable but utterly brilliant.”
Manning may be long gone, but Brandreth is still going strong and his latest incarnation is as a stand-up, with The One to One Show.
“It’s an hour of me,” he says delightedly. “An hour of anecdotes about the people I’ve met in the theatre, in politics and at Buckingham Palace.”
His incredibly varied career means that Brandreth has indeed pressed the flesh with many famous names, and he’s in no way shy about dropping them. In the course of a 20-minute chat, he manages to shoehorn in mentions of his friends Kenneth Williams, Frankie Howerd and David Mitchell. He has well-polished stories about them all and absolutely no shame in using them.
“Oh yes, the show is full of terrible name-dropping,” he acknowledges happily. “As the Duke of Edinburgh said to me recently, “The amount of name dropping you do is very vulgar, Gyles. It’s bad form.”’
Intriguingly, Brandreth’s show time clashes with that of another well-known showbiz name. Nicholas Parsons’ chat show starts soon after Brandreth’s, and both are at the Pleasance. How does Brandreth feel about going toe-to-toe with his old chum from Radio 4’s Just A Minute?
“I’ve been head to head with Nicholas before. Thirty years ago, Nicholas and I competed to give the longest-ever after dinner speech for charity. After eleven hours, the charity organisers begged us to stop.
“I wanted to fight to the death. I thought I would win. After all, I’m 20 years younger than he is.”
The One to One Show, Pleaseance One, 4-30 August (not 11,18), 4.30pm, From £10, Tel: 0131 5566550