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Monday 2nd December 2013

Monday 2nd December 2013

If you've listened to my podcasts then you'll know that I am slightly obsessed with the quiz show Pointless, so I was delighted to be asked to participate in Pointless Celebrities today. How exciting to be on that set, with the hosts Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman with their brilliant chemistry, which is bound to make viewers ask, "Will they? Won't they? Or have they already?" It's impossible to know.

I have been preparing for this moment for what feels like my whole life. If I ever spot a big star in an early role in an obscure film I will try to make a mental note to remember it, just in case one day I am on Pointless and it happens to crop up and during the Edinburgh Fringe, instead of going to see theatre or experimental dance I would play along with Pointless with Ben Moor. I had hoped I might be able to play with Ben on the telly, but we were not allowed to choose our partners alas (because Ben is really great at the game - much better than me).

It's a very clever game show. I am pretty good at general knowledge - you might recall I scored the highest ever score on Celebrity Mastermind, a record I held for over two minutes until Hilary Kay beat it and me - but that's partly because if you know a little bit about lots of subjects then it's quite easy to guess. With Pointless you actually have to have proper knowledge on a subject to do well. And there's the awful jeopardy that if you lose in the first round you go out after answering just one question. If it's a subject you don't know about then you're screwed.

And I had practised as much as it is possible to do so. I'd looked through a few lists of countries and presidents and tried to remember a couple of obscure ones and I'd made a small effort to search out obscure films and I'd bought the board game so I could have a dry run at it. The board game is not as good as the show though. The rules are a bit over complicated and although it promises new questions I recognised some of them from the show. It made me realise just how tough the quiz is. I had been a bit drunk when I'd played it on Saturday against my wife, but I was amazed at how slow my once sharp brain was at dredging up names and facts. And it's not really possible to guess obscure answers in the way it is with a lot of general knowledge.

Even subjects I know about it can be a hard quiz. In the cab on the way there I tried to think of obscure Kurt Vonnegut novels. I have read and loved everything he wrote, but putting myself on the spot I could only think of the two most famous ones. A quick google and I was, of course, reminded of all the others. Maybe my memory is going, but was I going to choke under the pressure?

It was a comedy special, but it seemed that I was the only guest who had seen the show before. Most of them seemed confused about what was going on and impressed about how much I knew about what was going on. I did point out that that didn't really mean anything if the wrong subjects came up. I was teamed with Rhona Cameron and was delighted to see Robert Llewellyn, as well as to meet John Bird for the first time. As well as Tim Brooke-Taylor (who I think I've met before) just days after bumping into Bill Oddie at a gig. And then I was going to be meeting giant amongst men and sex symbol (to such an extent that I believe he has a false name on his dressing room to put off the groupies!) Richard Osman too.

And for the second day in a row I was doing a job where there was a terrific atmosphere amongst the crew and Richard and Xander made a point of welcoming everyone. I didn't feel as terrified as I had before Mastermind, though I was a bit nervous. I just hoped that I could acquit myself OK and then of course win a Pointless trophy to make up for not having a Mastermind one and win loads of cash for charity and then be asked to host the show. That's all I wanted.

But what kind of a world would it be if I actually won?

I can't talk about what happened in the show, but safe to say I am either delighted or devastated by whatever happened. I will briefly mention the first round in which I was placed in one of the quandaries that Pointless throws up. Two teams had high scores and two teams had low scores and I had to make a tactical call. I knew plenty of potential answers (though was experiencing grave doubts about some of them) but knew that if I scored really low we'd definitely go through, or I could give a reasonably obvious answer and hope that the last team couldn't beat it. But it would mean taking a chance on an answer I wasn't 100% certain on.

That's what makes Pointless so brilliant though. Would it be victory or humiliation? It would be terrible to go out on round one after so much antipation, almost as terrible as Dom Joly beating me...

And in that first round you're also in an odd position where you're desperately trying to think of answers, but also have to have a chat with Alexander about yourself. I was so nervous that I could barely think of anything to say and my voice actually cracked and went high at one point.

Tune in in the spring to see how I got on.

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