Interviewing the interviewer

From Madonna to Muhammed Ali, he has interviewed more than 2,000 of the most important cultural figures of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Sir Michael Parkinson is widely regarded to be one of the best talk show hosts and broadcasters of his generation.

But now the tables have turned because the 86-year-old will be talking about his own life. At a special event at the Parr Hall on Monday, 18 October, he will be in conversation with his son – and long term producer – Mike in a show that will also feature highlights from his much loved and long-running show Parkinson.

The night will touch upon his wider life story too – from a pit village in Yorkshire to the top of those famous stairs. Ahead of the show, we got the chance to ask Sir Michael a few questions…

You are hosting ‘An Audience With Sir Michael Parkinson’. Can you let us know what the audience can expect?

Well, I’m co -hosting. The show is myself in conversation with son and long-term producer Mike who takes me though my life and career with the help of some classic clips from the Parkinson archive. It’s the story of how I made it out of a pit village to the top of those famous stairs with all the highs and low along the way in the company of Connolly, Ali, Lauren Bacall, Sir David Attenborough, Joan Rivers, Sir Michael Caine. Madonna, Dane Edna Everage to name but a few. It’s a great show which I love doing.

Looking forward to being in front of live audiences again?   

What a treat. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been affected by the lockdown mainly because like anyone in my age group where this virus is stalking you like a hungry wolf it has been a frightening period of my life. But getting out on the road again and sharing my enjoyment at remembering what was for me the best job in the world with an actual audience will be a real tonic.

In your mind what is the role of the media in society?

I’ve never found a better description than the original mission statement of the BBC – to inform, educate and entertain.

Best interview?

Not one you would expect me to say. It was with the eminent scientist Professor Jacob Bronowski. He was the writer and presenter of that landmark book and television series The Ascent of Man. It was the one time that the shape and progression of the interview went exactly the way I had prepared. But that was more to do with Professor Bronowski’s perfect command of the English language and his forensic mind then my interviewing skills.

Worst interview?

Once, when they were still with us, I sat down with Alan Whicker and David Frost, both of whom I liked and deeply admired, and we agreed to write down on a piece of the paper the worst interviewee we had all interviewed. We then showed each other at the same time. Each of us had written down Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian anthropologist most famous for the Kon-Tiki expedition in the Pacific. We all agreed he would not be our first choice as a crewmate on a deep-sea cruise!

Proudest moment from your career?

Being awarded honorary membership of the Musicians’ Union. Music has given me such joy in my life and my respect for anyone with musical talent knows no bounds. To be accepted into their inner circle without an ounce of musical talent is a real honour.

What do you make of current British television?

Slick, brilliantly produced, and full of talent yet sadly often soulless and derivative. I was lucky to come into television when I did.

Any advice for up-and-coming broadcasters / interviewers today?

It’s difficult to do so because the media environment they are coming into is not one I recognize nor to be honest understand. The only piece of advice I can give any aspiring interviewer is do your homework and listen.

  • To buy tickets to An Evening With Sir Michael Parkinson click here