The problem with panel shows.

 Last year I was chatting to an effervescent bright young comic at a party when he mentioned that he was doing Mock the Week later in the week. As he said the words , I didn’t feel envy as I once might have done. The days when I thought that I might be a boon to the show , or the show a boon to me have long gone. I was just curious – “What does that pay these days ?”   His answer surprised and mildly depressed me – “Oh I dunno. I end up spending nearly all of it on writers anyway”  

  That answer encapsulated for me why I find some TV comedy panel shows a difficult watch. The end product is often very entertaining. And there is no doubt about the amount of talent on display. But I would prefer to see a show that rewarded those acts who have taken it upon themselves to be topical comedians , rather than to be a showcase for those comedians who happen to have the right combination of agent , and perceived marketability , for whom writers can shore up that they don’t really follow the news.

     This is not a bitter position. I had a shot , the pilot episode of League of Their Own , and I was frankly misbooked and hopeless. It is quite clear that when it comes to this sort of thing I do radio better than TV. It is more a lament that the stand ups that you see on television don’t even come close to representing the breadth of talent that there is out there. When people discuss , as they have been , that women are underrepresented on TV panel shows , they are missing a bigger point. Huge swathes of British comedy is underrepresented on TV panel shows. It has long been an agent’s game , leading to the establishment of a coterie of comedians who faces just fit , and a larger group of comedians with their noses pressed against the window , wondering when Lady Luck will finally be smiling on them. 

        I’d like to see more women on the shows. But more than that I’d like to see more comedians booked for their content alone rather than their position in comedy’s complex infrastructure. I believe that British comedy is far richer and more diverse than is reflected in the booking policy for these shows , however entertaining the end product may be.

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The lower offer.

I’m “celebrating” two anniversaries this week , not entirely unconnected. It is my fifth year on twitter , and this week marks the 500th episode of The Chase. Thanks to the Chase my twitter  is a lot busier than it used to be. Especially when one of my episodes is on.

Yesterday’s episode was one of my best ones. i chased down 20 with a matter of seconds to go on what was a hard set. What was also hard was reading the sheer scale of the hatred and vitriol being spewed out on twitter. Not at me. But at the two contestants who had the temerity to take the negative offer.

It was in arguably the best episode of series 3 that the negative offer was introduced. The Beast took the contestant down with the full backing of the contestant’s team mates. Since then it has been a major feature. It adds drama to the dynamic and it gives us an opportunity to try and sow division in the team. Sometimes the player falls flat on its face. Sometimes the player is  triumphant. In one of the most dramatic of my episodes , a grumpy Scottish baker openly called his teammate a “maggot”. In another a young guy called Motherwell was slammed by his team , but then got back and proved to be the hero of the final chase. The producers know what they are doing. This is an entertainment show. It is also a gameshow with tactics.

So , for those of you out there who fell the need to send verbal abuse directly into the twitter profiles of contestants. Grow up.It is a gameshow. The person who told one of them yesterday that they were “subhuman scum”. Take a look in the mirror. You will see an inadequate person who feels the need to scream abuse at a stranger. Exactly where is your superiority complex coming from ? The one who sent him a message calling him a “spineless shite” ? If you are going to use your twitter profile predominantly for abuse , the least you can do is take your baby off your profile pic. Any number of people who have called lower offer contestants “worse than Hitler” ? Seriously , read a book. If you can’t complete a whole one , get a dictionary and look up the word “perspective”.

The lower offer CAN BE A VALID TACTIC. There are games I have lost because of it that I  would have won if they had taken the middle offer. Sometimes it’s a betrayal , sometimes it’s an honest appraisal by a contestant of how to maximise a teams chances of winning. But either way players do not deserve the hatred. They have come through auditions in order to answer questions under pressure and at speed. By definition they are not cowards. Cowards are people who sit behind their screen trying to make themselves feel better by spitting out hateful drivel at strangers.

The Chase is a gameshow. It’s a bit of fun.

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The gay man’s guide to Sochi

It is upon us at last. The 2014 Winter Olympics. The gay games. Russia’s brutal macho posturing and backward fuckwittedness plays host to hot men in tight outfits in what is little more than an ice cold version of Strictly. Although there is much to loathe about the moral vacuum the IOC seem happy to occupy , TAKE A LOOK AT THESE CONTENDERS…………..

The Ski Jumper

Image   Hubba hubba. This hard Pole is Kamil Stoch and he is the current World Champion.

The Figure Skater

Image This is Evgeni Plushenko , the big Russian hope in the men’s figure skating. As you can see he is the epitome of the testosterone heavy , butch Russian fanny hunter,

The Speed Skater

Image Multiple world and Olympic champion Sven Kramer is the world’s greatest long track speed skater. (Not short track which is a completely different discipline).

Brothers in Luge

Image They are brothers ! Multiple gold medallists Wolfgang and Andreas Linger. Which one is which ? Frankly I couldn’t care less. In certain situations names are frankly overrated.

The Great British Hope

Image This is David Murdoch , captain of Britain’s much touted men’s curling team. What’s going on behind him to cause such a facial expression ? Who could possible speculate ?

The Olympic Legend

Image This is of course the great Sidney Crosby. My inability to know that he scored the winning goal for Canada in the 2010 Olympic Ice Hockey cost me a crucial place at the World Quizzing Championships. I won’t be making that mistake again.

And last but not least …… The Skier

Image The eagle eyed amongst you will know straight away that this is Kristoph Innerhofer. This Italian stallion is the 2011 super G world champion , and by all accounts is hotly tipped.

It is important that nothing Putin can say or do should be allowed to get in the way of perfectably acceptable lust.

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Nothing but plugs.

 I’m in bed. In Doha. Six days of sloth and overeating are taking their toll. The gig starts in an hour and a bit. Just enough time to plug my three tour shows which are taking place next week.

1. Sunday January 26th. YORK Picturehouse

   The first time I played this fine city , York University was the fourth of consecutive nights performing. The first three were Portsmouth , Newcastle and Aberdeen. I was the lucky man designated to drive celebrated US comic Arj Barker and his predictably hot girlfriend around on this ludicrously scheduled tour. It seemed amazingly exciting at the time. If anyone suggested such a schedule now , I’d laugh in their face.

    I have done a solo show here before , in 2008. Afterwards I met up with Russell Howard in a pub , after he had finished his considerably larger scale show. About forty minutes after that , a girl punched her friend in the face for getting in the way of her deluded plans for Russell. The price of proper fame.

    This venue also runs an excellent Saturday comedy club. Two Decembers ago  I was walking back to the station postgig with my mate , when we heard a woman shout “TITS” at the top of her voice. We turned round to see a woman whose cleavage had fallen out of her outfit.We turned back round and walked on. Only to hear her friend shout “Oh my God that pervert looks like the bloke off The Chase”   I like York. Can be feral.


2. LEEDS The Wardrobe Monday January 27th

       Once got heckled with “These aren’t jokes these are stories” in  Leeds. That gig didnt go well. But I have had many of my favourite gigs ever in Leeds , especially at the Hi Fi Club , the only club where I have ever snogged a punter on stage. Not bad , bit stubbly. Leeds is home to Egghead Barry Simmons who has apparently bought tickets , terrible gay bars , brilliant Indian restaurants , and the branch of West Cornwall Pasty that David Cameron alleges he once bought a pasty from. It is where Stephen K Amos came out of the closet to me ( I was astonished ) , and where Sachin Ttendulkar hit this rather spiffing six of Andy Caddick.

   I’ve not played the Wardrobe , its a new venue and Im massively looking forward to it.


3. Thursday January 30th    EXETER Phoenix

      To this gay quiz loving music fan , Exeter was always known for three things. 1. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw defeating hideous homophobic Tory Adrian Rogers in ’97   2. Former Mastermind champion Gavin Fuller having studied history there  and 3. Thom Yorke having been at Exeter Uni at the same time. The conversations they would have had.

      Now I have gigged there a few times , I know it for different reasons. Or more specifically for doing a club gig there with an American comic called Eddie Strange about 12 years ago. I struggled , he tore it apart. Afterwards he could barely acknowledge me , as we set off for a meal in a Chinese restaurant. I made the observation that you can usually tell how authentic a Chinese restaurant is by the number of dishes which sound revolting. He said “I mean no offence by this , but that is the sort of stuff you SHOULD be talking about onstage.Not whatever it is you did tonight”

        Luckily for that self satisfied pompous twat , I dont hold a grudge. 



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Greetings from Abu dhabi.

Although I’m sitting in bed in the Crowne Plaza in Abu Dhabi , there’s not a lot to report from the last two days. I did take the other half out for a celebration lunch at Chez Bruce in Wandsworth Common. It was flawless , hughely impressive food and service , and the lunch deal remains tremendous value.

Im out in the Middle East for the next ten  days doing gigs in Dubai , Abu Dhabi and the spiritual home of football , Doha.  So I shant be blogging as often. But I will give you the answers to last Friday’s questions….

1. John Ratzenberger

2. Michael Bond

3. Bill Bailey

4. Ron Jeremy

5. Allan Simonsen.

And it seems only right that you have some more questions……….


1. On this day in 1870 , what was the significance of the cartoon “A live jackass kicking at a dead lion” ?

2. In 1971 Martin Luther King became the first posthumous winner of which award , which has since been won by Magic Johnson , Peter Cook , Dudley Moore , Barack Obama and Betty White ?

3. Happy 33rd birthday to the man of whom Jamie Carragher once said “He has one of the worst strike rates of any forward in Liverpool history. He’s the only no. 9 ever to go through a whole season without scoring, in fact he’s probably the only no. 9 of any club to do that.”     Who ?

4. The 2013 novel Sycamore Row is a direct sequel to which 1989 novel which was turned into 1996 movie ?

5. Which cocktail , invented in New York in 1894 was not directly named after a person or a novel but to celebrate the prmiere of a namesake operetta composed by Reginald de Koven ?

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Your five new questions

The answers to Friday’s questions are………….

1. Naughy Boy’s hit “La la la”

2. Jose Antonio Reyes

3. Flight of the Conchords

4. Chariots of Fire

5. Bananarama


Your new questions.

1. Prior to the TV show that made his name , which actor had small parts in Superman , Superman II , Empire Strikes Back , and Gandhi ?

2. Whio was the creator of the classic BBC kids TV show The Herbs ?

3. Which successful English comedian takes his stage name from a 1902 song which became a jazz and dixieland staple ?

4. Which legendary screen actor appeared as a contestant on Wheel of Fortune in the USA in 1980 under his real name Ron Hyatt ?

5. He has played in the English Football League albeit in the old second division. Who is the only footballer to have scored in an Uefa Cup , European Cup and Cup Winner’s Cup final ?

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Highlights of the weekend.

1. Banana Cabaret.

Part of the cultural fabric of Balham , the Banana Cabaret has been going for thirty years , and remains a fantastic comedy club. I first visited there in January 1990 and saw a slick young handsome Mark Lamarr make standup look ridiculously easy. Since then I have seen countless great acts there , and have been lucky enough to play there many times , including some of my finest gigs , my worst ever death , and Super Saturday. On Friday and Saturday I closed the show. The audience were better than good. And I felt that warm glow , that feeling that I was extremely lucky to be a standup.

2. Fighting Talk

No sports stars and no sports journalists this week. Richard Osman , Jon Richardson , Alex Brooker and myself. I like that FT are experimenting with styles , and Christian O Connell held it all together with great skill. It was a hugely joyous show to be part of. Went to the pub afterwards with Richardson and Osman. Disappointingly perhaps , given the teatime quiz rivalry , Richard Osman turned out to be charming , friendly , without affectation and sharing an enormous number of pop culrure references with me.

3. Serious quizzing.

Every other Sunday or so I play for Westminster in a competition called the President’s Cup. It’s part of the Quiz League of London , only the questions are harder. We were up against the Masterminders , a fearsome quartet containing Mark Grant (top 10 world quizzing championships 2013) , Gavin Fuller (youngest man to win Mastermind and a proper genius) , and Ray Ward (  We were falling behind when I gambled on an Edward Lear question and got it wrong. Pob is not the same as Pobble. I started to resign myself to the ignominy of having cost our team victory when we managed to claw the deficit back to two points with two questions to go. A question on finches unexpectedly fell into my lap. Then I had one question to answer to secure victory. It was on cricket. God bless Dame Fortune. This victory from the brink felt f888ing amazing.

4. The Darts.

Ever since that Keith Deller victory in 1983 , Ive wanted to go to the Lakeside and watch a world darts final. Now it’s off my bucket list. My boyfriend the darts obsessive has always maintained that despite the lower quality of play , the BDO remains a better experience due to a better behaved , more knowledgeable crowd. And certainly the PDC crod can lose interest in the actual darts very quickly. The atmosphere was much more respectful at the Lakeside. Yep there was a lot of boisterous drunkenness , and fancy dress. One guy had a tin hat , a kilt and a T shirt saying “employee of the month” , suggesting that his idea of fancy dress was to pick any three random items lying around.There were a lot of Elvises. Quite a few people seemed to be dressed as gigantic fat men. And the match itself was entertaining without ever threatening to be a classic. Stephen Bunting had looked the likely champion from early on in this tournament , and was comfortably the better player inder pressure. Norris though played with great skill for a man totally unused to this level.

My only complaint involved a man in a suit. I have never minded signing stuff , posing for photos. The opposite in fact , I like it and I am grateful that some people see me that way. But there was one drunk man in a suit who didnt miss any opportunity to get in my face asking me questions from “Who’s the worst Chaser ?” to “Are you married ?”. Not once did he seem to understand that I was actually there to watch the darts ,and that he was getting in my way. Though he did point at my boyfriend and ask “So who’s this , your son ?”  I made a mental note to moisturise more.

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