Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Anderson, Clive (1952-)

Presenter, Writer

Main image of Anderson, Clive (1952-)

Throughout a long career, Clive Anderson has remained in touch with his comic roots. A former barrister and stand-up, he is best known in television as host of an early comic panel show and an irreverent late-night chat show. There, an acerbic wit and intellectual sharpness helped him gain a reputation as a (usually) mildly disrespectful interrogator sharp enough to run rings around his guests. The same gifts have also been let loose on more serious subjects in an eclectic career in television and radio.

Born in Stanmore, Middlesex on 10 December 1952, he was schoolfriends with Geoffrey Perkins and Michael Portillo. Portillo followed him in the early 1970s to Cambridge University, where both auditioned for Footlights; Portillo was rejected, but Anderson joined John Lloyd, Griff Rhys Jones and Douglas Adams, contributing as writer and performer to three revues including Chox (BBC, tx. 26/8/1974), the most celebrated of the period, and becoming president in 1975.

From there, he followed a well-trodden path, submitting material to BBC Radio 4's topical sketch show Week Ending between 1975 and 1977, reuniting him with both Lloyd and Perkins, both now well-established comedy producers. Called to the bar in 1976 - where he specialised in criminal law - Anderson was able to sustain dual careers for 15 years, writing gags for the likes of Not the Nine O'Clock News (BBC, 1979-82) and Alas Smith and Jones (BBC, 1984-87). His stand-up career blossomed too, with appearances at the opening night of the Comedy Store in May 1979 and regular work as a studio warm-up man and hosting radio showcase The Cabaret Upstairs between 1985 and 1988, where audiences became familiar with his impatient, nervous persona.

In the late-80s he moved in front of the camera, becoming a key face of Channel 4as host of improvised comedy Whose Line Is it Anyway? (Channel 4, 1988-98) and his own chat show Clive Anderson Talks Back (Channel 4, 1989-96), each running for ten series to great acclaim. On Talks Back, his celebrity guests were often caught out by his unorthodox lines of inquiry. His policy of refusing to meet guests before the interview was designed to bring spontaneity and a real sense of risk; on Clive Anderson All Talk (BBC, 1996-99), most memorably when the Bee Gees took offence and walked out.

The 1990s also saw him in a less cynical mode, presenting travelogues for Great Railway Journeys (BBC, 13/01/1994) and two series of Our Man In... (BBC, 1995-96). Anderson joked to Radio Times that "it's a reversal for me to be enthusiastic about anything, but it seemed the logical thing to do next."

In the new millennium Anderson diversified, hosting the shortlived vehicles God Almighty (Channel 5, 2003), Back in the Day and The Sports Show (both Channel 4, 2005) alongside occasional appearances on Q.I. (BBC, 2003-), Have I Got News for You (BBC, 1990-) and Question Time (BBC, 1979-). Perhaps his greatest success during this period was on BBC Radio where, by 2008, he was the presenter of three ongoing series. However, his television career soon saw a resurgence with hosting duties on the popular reality show Maestro (BBC, 2008) and the distinguished Last Night of the Proms (BBC, tx. 12/9/2009).

Ian Greaves

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979-82)Not the Nine O'Clock News (1979-82)

Satirical sketch show that paved the way for a new comedy generation

Related collections

Related people and organisations