The Version Interview... Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding on The Great British Bake Off.
Bake Off is back and all eyes will be on new presenters Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding who have the unenviable job of replacing Mel and Sue. Here, they tell us more about the brand new series, which is now on Channel 4.
So how did you both feel about working together?
Noel. I had been a fan of Sandi’s for years. There is always a danger with chemistry that it is never going to work. And you just can’t hide it on screen. Equally, if you are not getting on with people, it really shows. But straight away with Sandi and I, it worked.
Sandi. We did a little test together and I turned around and said ‘that is the one’.
Noel. Again, it is the same with Paul and Prue (in terms of great chemistry). Someone knew what they were doing because I don’t think you can predict the chemistry.
How do you get on with Paul and Prue?
Sandi. Really great. Last night we all four went for drinks and we were laughing and laughing. We were reduced to playing a game of ‘what can you do with a cloth napkin?!’ It turns out quite a lot! It’s possibly a new show for Channel 4!
Noel. Paul is never mean. He is really honest. He is like Brando – always brooding. But actually he is so nice.
Paul says there is a Bromance going on between you both. Do you agree?
Noel. Definitely. He is so generous, helpful, never tells you what to do but if you want advice he will really help you.
And what is Prue like?
Sandi. She is the person to aspire to when you grow up.
Both are very fair, very clear. I think Prue always tries to find the positives.
Noel. Prue can be quite cutting when she needs to be.
She has got a few catchphrases!
Sandi. The two of them together, you can see the affection. But the four of us you can also see the affection.
Noel. We are a family
Paul describes you all as a dysfunctional family and he loves the fact he has a brother too. Would you use the same description?
Sandi and Noel. Yes definitely.
Sandi. I think we have all four grown so unbelievably fond of each other.
Noel. You just don’t get that in this world, but it’s so important as otherwise it is not going to work.
Did you have butterflies in your stomach when you first went in the tent?
Noel. The tent is strange as you get in there for five minutes and you feel at home. I wasn’t nervous about the tent so much
Sandi. It’s a programme that is much loved and it’s a very precious thing, and you don’t want to cause it any harm. You don’t want to spoil it for people and there is a tremendous amount of responsibility. I have taken things over before and I don’t suffer fools but you feel the real sense of responsibility that you must do your best and not let the programme down. I wasn’t feeling nervous – more excited.
Noel. If people are open minded I think they will be pleasantly surprised that we haven’t gone all crazy and shaken things up. For me, it has been important to come in and make the show. The show is always about the bakers. They are the stars of the show.
Sandi. You do fall in love with them.
What is your role with them? Are you the parents?
Sandi. I make a nice coffee for them all!
Noel. I make them laugh, give them a hug if they are having a bad time and you just want to show them off. It is not about us; it’s about us being there to show them off.
Do you get emotional when they leave?
Sandi. Yes. I am terrible!
Noel. I feel sick when I have to say bye to them. It fills your stomach all day and you don’t want to think about it.
Sandi. The standard is so unbelievably high and they work so hard. It’s not just in the tent because they are working at home too.
Do you both cook a lot?
Sandi. I cook a lot. It was quite interesting because the other day, we were having people for lunch and my stepdaughter asked if we could have cheesecake for pudding. I think probably two months ago I would have just bought one! This time, I made one. You know it tastes better and it doesn’t matter how smart a shop you got it from; if you make it yourself, there is something about it.
Noel. I don’t cook as much. Paul is quite determined to teach me how to make a Sourdough loaf, which he says is going to change my life! And how to drive a car! I can’t drive. He keeps saying for me to come over to make pizzas too.
Sandi. You were tempted to drive yesterday when I came in. Noel. I live in London, so there has been no point. But I have now realised you can just take off when you are in a car.
Have you loved filming?
Sandi. Yes but by the end, you can’t take the tension in the tent constantly! You want to know who is going to win by the end.
Noel. It has its own narrative and you want to get to know people. There is the start, middle bit, the end and the bakers’ own natural dynamics.
Sandi. I’ve loved it but it is hard work. It is long hours. Today we started at 6.30am and we will finish late.
Noel. You really do feel for the bakers. It’s draining. When I go home afterwards, I sleep until 10am, which I never normally do. You are quite emotional.
Sandi. It’s quite draining but my daughter is a doctor and it’s important to say this knowing there are jobs that are way more important.
What’s been your funniest moment?
Noel. Wow! There have been too many funny moments.
Sandi. I enjoyed frolicking with you.
Noel. Yeah that was brilliant! We got to frolic!
The bakers have all been really funny and we have had lots of comical moments with them.
How do you work together?
Sandi. What I would say is rarely have I had so much pleasure working with someone. For me, there was an instantaneous connection when I worked with Alan Coren. That was many years ago and for many years he was my showbiz husband. I thought it would never come again but oh my goodness, it is back and it is back in spades.
You are both friends with Mel and Sue aren’t you?
Noel. Yes it is quite funny as Sue is friends with Sandi and I am friends with Mel. I was sitting next to Mel on a show and at first; I couldn’t say anything about me doing this programme. It was killing me I couldn’t! She was so kind and supportive when I did tell her. She hasn’t got a bad bone in her body.
Sandi. But other comics don’t bit*h about each other, it’s not how we work.
Noel. Comics are very supportive. It’s a gang and we might criticise each other in that tight circle but if anyone else does, people won’t have it.
What tips have you learnt working together?
Noel. I am learning lots. Paul is a bit older than me, so he has a lot of experience. Sandi has done a lot of comedy, so she has lots of experience. At 77, Prue is a revelation. She is so inspiring. Wow! I love hanging out with Prue.
Sandi. What’s great is you say the unexpected and it seems the right thing to say. And I love that. We just go with it and it doesn’t matter what the other person said.
Noel. I was so excited getting to work with Sandi because when you get to work with people who you grew up loving, it’s amazing.
So have you been eating the cakes?!
Noel. Oh gosh yes.
Sandi. It’s one of the reasons to finish! Seriously I need to go and eat salad for a year. There is a weird thing on this programme that the wonderful kitchen at the back brings out deep fried food at 10.30am. Who does that at 10.30?! Then what happens is you find yourself saying it must be nearly time for Scampi!
Do you have a savoury or sweet tooth?
Sandi. At the moment, whatever is put in front of me! I need to stop. I need to go and suck on a gem lettuce for at least a year.
Noel. The bakers cook extraordinary things and it seems odd not to (taste what they have made) as you are so intrigued. Also the judges talk about the food and when they are really enjoying something, you think ‘let’s just have a taste’.
Have you built in a new exercise regime to cope with the extra calories?
Sandi. No but what we have got is a brand new vocabulary! I can hear myself saying ‘ooh there is some pistachio coming through’.
Noel. I have been trying to. I wasn’t eating sugar before doing this as I was playing Alice Cooper and I had to lose a stone, which was quite hard. I got rid of sugar other than fruit and now it’s a tidal wave of unbelievably delicious things.
If you were a cake, what would you be?
Sandi. I think we both would be a fruitcake!
Noel. You would have more icing.
Do you ever eat takeaways? Paul loves Chinese.
Sandi. Paul is lying to you! He is a man who likes a pasty.
Noel. I am not really a foodie. I am not obsessed. I like Thai takeaways.
Summing up, have you had fun?
Sandi. It is the funniest job.
Noel. It’s been the strangest life experience because it’s such a big show. You really realise it when you see cars following you, drones, the paparazzi – you realise you are in a crazy bubble.
Sandi. It’s all consuming when you are doing it
Sandi. Yesterday, Paul said he was going to have a big party at his house and we were all planning what we were going to do. And it’s not just a fantasy because I know that is what is going to happen - we are all going to have a party at Paul’s house.