Bruno Tonioli: I’ve never watched a single episode of Strictly Come Dancing

The "passionate" Strictly Come Dancing judge has been on the show for 14 years, but has never watched a show back

Bruno Tonioli, Strictly (BBC, EH)

Where do you watch TV when you’re at home, Bruno?


Everywhere! I’ve got a TV in the living room and in the kitchen. I like to have it on while I’m cooking. In America, I have one in the bedroom, too.

Do you have a big television?

Oh yeah – you’ve got to have 55 inches with a soundbar. I can’t watch TV on a phone: it’s an insult to the directors.

What do you like to watch?

I’m addicted to drama. Bodyguard, McMafia, Happy Valley… there’s so much to choose from. I was up watching The Crown until 5am. I watch them and I say, “I should be doing this!”

What’s stopping you?

I know, it’s bewildering! I’m furious at being overlooked. I’d love to be in Game of Thrones. I need to call my agent.

Strictly Come Dancing 2018 full results

Do you watch any other genres?

I like comedy. I can’t stop watching Blackadder repeats because the writing is so good. And The Golden Girls. Bea Arthur is a genius. Those shows haven’t lost their sharpness at all.

Do you ever watch Strictly Come Dancing?

I’ve been doing it for 14 years and I never watched a single show because I don’t want to become self-conscious. But we recently made a DVD of all the best dances from Blackpool – that was the first time I watched something back.

Do you see a big difference between British and American television?

No, when you go on Netflix there’s all the British shows like The Night Manager and Broadchurch. There was a brilliant Spanish show called The Plague on BBC4 recently. We’ve become so global.

Strictly judges Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Shirley Ballas, Bruno Tonioli (BBC)
Strictly judges Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Shirley Ballas, Bruno Tonioli (BBC)

You are currently a judge on Dancing with the Stars as well as Strictly. How do you cope with commuting between Los Angeles and London every week?

I don’t go out for two months. I stay home in the evenings, I go to the gym and stay fit. It’s like being a nun. By the end I’m exhausted. Never mind Lady Gaga, it’s Bruno Gaga. But I’m very lucky and I will do it for as long as I can and as long as they want me.

How is Len Goodman – do you tell him all the Strictly gossip?

No, there’s no time! We’re doing a job. We’re not just sitting around having a cup of tea, you know! It’s not a holiday.

Does Strictly’s head judge Shirley Ballas ever tell you off for being so flamboyant? You’ve nearly hit her in the face a few times… 

Oh Shirley has very good timing, she knows to duck down as soon as she sees me getting excited.

Tell me about your Radio 2 show Bruno Tonioli at the Opera

We did one last year that went down very well and this is the second series. Being Italian, I love opera: the passion, the beauty of the music – it’s magical. The series is very light-hearted with everyday language to draw you in. We’re not talking down to people.

Have you always loved opera?

Yes. I’m from the Emilia-Romagna region, where Giuseppe Verdi was born, so it’s something you’re aware of from a young age. At school we were taught Va, Pensiero, the very famous aria from the opera Nabucco. It’s part of my DNA. I’m not an expert, I’m a member of the public who loves it.

People think of opera as being posh and difficult, don’t they?

Yes, but it’s not any more. We should not feel intimidated. It’s a great art form that should not be forgotten. And in fact in the 19th century operas were very popular and they’d be performed in the street – the equivalent of watching an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical now.

How does opera make you feel?

If I like it, I cry. Floods of tears; it’s embarrassing. Or sometimes I don’t like it and I get furious. But that’s my nature. I’m passionate.


Bruno Tonioli at the Opera begins on Tuesday 6th November at 9pm on BBC Radio 2