By popular request – you know who you are! – here’s a little bit about our participation in the recording of the News Quiz that was broadcast on the 13th January.
This was our second BBC audience event in one week and the two shows were quite a contrast. The ‘Click’ experience was a live broadcast whilst ‘The News Quiz’ was being recorded for broadcast the next evening. Both events happened in the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House in Portland Place not far from Oxford Circus in the heart of the West End of London.
[The ‘Click’ event is written up in the blog “A ‘Free’ Night Out in London”]
We arrived at Broadcasting House, feeling like professional audience participants, only to find that there was a long queue waiting outside. Anyway the queue moved reasonably quickly and soon we were inside the building, through security and into a room that still had some empty seats. Knowing we had the best part of an hour to wait this was very welcome and we grabbed two seats. The room filled up and it was standing room only for most.
At 7.15 the call came to move into the theatre and we were directed up to ‘the gods’, a balcony overlooking the main auditorium. Comfortable seats and a good view of the platform. This show was so popular that it was ‘standing room only’ for the late arrivals.
For anyone who is new to The News Quiz, thanks to Wikipedia for the following words.
Each week, four panelists appear on the show. They are usually either comedians or journalists, and sometimes politicians. The ostensible purpose of the show is to test contestants’ knowledge of the events of the previous week by asking questions which are usually oblique references to those events. However this has given way to a general free-for-all where panelists chime in with their own humorous and satirical remarks once the question has been answered. The participants frequently wander off topic. The host ends the discussion of each question with a summary of the events it refers to, usually with a scripted comic punchline, before asking the next question. It is not uncommon for the show to get through only two rounds of the panel before the final section is reached. Before the host announces the largely symbolic scores, the panelists read out funny newspaper cuttings.
And that’s the way it turned out.
The moment we had all been waiting for, Sandi Toksvig, the host, came onto the platform to a big round of applause. It being radio, sartorial elegance is not a pre-requisite so a casual shirt and baggy jeans were the order of the day – ready to dig the garden!! Sandi has a great personality and had the audience eating out of her hand from the word go. She explained that the show would last about 1 1/2 hours and would be edited down to the 30 mins that was needed for the broadcast. We were told that there was a BBC legal expert at the back whose job was to remove any content that could be construed as libelous or too risqué for public broadcasting. That turned out to be excellent as the contributors didn’t have to pull any punches in the knowledge that all would be cleaned up later.
Tonight’s star panelists were then introduced. Three were very well-known radio comedy personalities namely Jeremy Hardy, Fred MacAulay and Sue Perkins. There was a fourth panelist whose name meant nothing to us and so is now lost in the mists of time – apologies.
The format was simple. There were three rounds of four questions, although you wouldn’t know that when the programme was broadcast. It was reduced to less than two rounds. The panelists were allowed to ramble on until they had run out of steam. Sandi kept drawing the edge of the flat of her hand across her throat to indicate that they had gone beyond the limits and that the ‘knife’ would be used but they just carried on. At one point Jeremy and Sue had a bit of risque banter about Jeremy doodling penis’s whilst waiting for his turn and Sue’s lesbian life style. Surprise, surprise, most of this was edited out of the broadcast.
For my money, Fred MacAulay was best at managing the format and kept us all happily amused. He was followed fairly closely by Jeremy Hardy who is extremely quick at getting to the nub of the question and then wandering off tangentially in one hundred and one different directions. Sue Perkins was funny at times but spent a lot of time talking about herself – mostly edited out – but she always had something to contribute to each question. As for Sandy Toksvig, she was definitely the star of the show. In the edited version they take out a lot of her ad libs otherwise she would eclipse the guests – not a good strategy if you want to attract quality panelists.
By the time the end came we were actually quite glad. Although the humour was first class the amount of rubbish became a bit tedious. A lot would finish up on the cutting room floor thank goodness.
The next evening we listened to the Radio 4 broadcast. It was the product of masterful editing. Everything was really sharp, at least half of the questions were cut out, and no one was allowed to ramble on. It was right up to the best traditions of the programme.
So would we apply for tickets for another edition? The simple answer is “no”. It’s great seeing the contributors in person and doubly so to see Sandi in action. It was good to get to see them once but once is enough. That said we’ll still listen to the programme at every opportunity.