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Tuesday 14th June 2005

After my success on the self-satisfied radio quiz show Quote Unquote, I appeared on the self-satisfied radio quiz show Whispers tonight. It was conveniently recorded in the British Library where I had been working all afternoon.
I had never heard the show before, but it is hosted by Gyles Brandreth, who I had met before when we appeared as panellists on this other radio 4 quiz show. He did a much better job as a host than he did as a guest, or maybe he was just on some kind of hallucinogenic drugs last time. Like last time though we were able to have some agreeable banter at each other's expense which worked quite well. Before the show when all the clever people were discussing what clever books they had written I said to Gyles, "For me your best book will always be, The Daft Dictionary." This was a kid's book of amusing punning definitions to existing words eg disconsolate - a record being played after midnight. We had had a little book club at school where you could buy books from a monthly newsletter and I recall this is the book we all wanted to buy back in, I guess, 1978. "It's nice to be a part of someone's childhood," Gyles replied, unoffended by my cheek. Increasingly I find that I am finding the same thing. At colleges I am always surprised when 18 year olds know who I am, but they watched TMWRNJ when they were 12.
Whispers is all about scandal and gossip. I was a little bit out of my depth when it came to answering some of the questions, which were largely intellectual. I knew quite a few of the answers, but my brain wasn't working at all well on that level and I couldn't even remember that it was George Washington who supposedly had wooden teeth - preferring to make the ludicrous suggestions of Wellington (you can see what I did there at least - similar name) and then Cromwell.
Also the other players were taking it incredibly seriously. There was a buzzer round where we had to fill in the missing words and there were plenty of opportunities for silly gags, but the other team captain buzzed in with lightning speed with the correct answers.
I think it turned out OK though and I wouldn't mind making at least part of my living being the slightly sarcastic and disrespectful one in self-satisfied radio 4 quiz shows. To be honest the media is becoming so anti-intellectual and pro-stupidity that I think that we've got to keep the idea that knowing things is not necessarily a bad thing.
My best joke was in a round where we were asked to speculate which two historical figures would produce the most magnificent progeny.
I went for the somewhat unlikely alliance of Anne Boleyn and Liberace. Because Boleyn had 11 fingers, so any kid of theirs would have been one hell of a piano player.
We recorded two shows. They will be broadcast in September and October. I know you can barely wait, but you'll have to.

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