24 May 2009

The News Quiz 21 May 2009

The Friday evening comedy slot on Radio 4 alternates between The Now Show and The News Quiz and while I have been to see recordings of The Now Show several times I had never been to see the The News Quiz until this week.

The News Quiz is also recorded on Thursday evenings at the BBC Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House so much of evening followed the usual ritual.

Part of this was a pizza at the Pizza Express all but next door but this may be for the last time. Comments made on previous visits and provided a £10 gift token but not an improvement in service - the dough balls ordered for a starter failed to arrive but were included in the bill. Not impressed.

Decided not to rush for the show and was happy to join the queue in position 100, instead of the usual 50. This was still good enough to get into the first waiting room (despite the usual incident with security which then made it easy to get a seat in the middle of the second row.

The stage was set up quite simply in the traditional game show way with Sandi Toksvig, the chair, sitting in the middle with the news reader, Francis Wheen and Robert Ince on her right and Steve Punt and Fred MacAulay on her left.

Steve Punt, as one of The Now Show creators is not meant to also appear on The News Quiz, and I guess that he was there as a late replacement for Jeremy Hardy who is a regular on the show and who was in that episode according to the BBC website.

The format is quite simple, each contestant in turn gets asked a question on a topical question which they find a correct but amusing way to answer and then the other panellists chip in with other relevant am musing comments. When the rambling runs out of steam Sandi brings the question to a close and moves to the next one. This goes on for three rounds.

The show is clearly partially scripted and the panellists have prepared some bon mots on topics that they know are likely to come up, like MPs' expenses.

The overall effect is rather like a conversation at a dinner party where everybody lets everybody else say their piece and emotions are kept well in check.

As a result it is consistently amusing but rarely very funny. The broadcast version is funnier because they edit it down from around one hour to half.

Some of this editing is pretty simple and brutal, of the twelve questions recorded only nine were broadcast. The rest of the editing pares the rambling down so that only the bonnest mots that pass UK legislation are broadcast.

I was glad I went as being there to see a show being made is always interesting but, unlike The Now Show, the live version of The News Quiz is not that much funnier that the broadcast one so I am unlikely to go again.

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