Go on then, tell us a joke

I’ve heard professional comedians complain that as soon as they reveal to someone that they are a stand-up, they are asked to tell jokes. I’m no expert but I am a big fan, and I know enough about stand-up comedy to know that many of the best stand-ups don’t tell jokes. And even if they do tell a joke, a single joke in isolation doesn’t have impact – you can tell a joke and rarely will people literally LOL. They’ll nod and say “Oh yes, that’s a good one.” Or worse, they might not get it, and then you have to explain and suddenly you are a bit of a rubbish stand-up comedian in their eyes.

There is an equivalent situation, frequently suffered by me and my fellow professional quiz masters. Everyone loves a pub quiz  – or so they say when they find out what I do for a living. What they also say when they find this out is “Go on then, ask me a quiz question.” So I do, and either:

(1) they get it quickly because I chose an easy one (or more likely something I think they will know based on what I know about the person), or

(2) they don’t get it quickly because I chose a puzzley-thinky type ingenious question (like “In the UK, what is the longest month of the year?” (*answer at the bottom) to show off the finer nuances of quiz question crafting – although such questions are usually designed to be answered by a team bouncing ideas around to try and reach the correct answer.

What happens next? In scenario (1) they say “More! Ask me another” and do the festivities continue. In scenario (2) they think about it, try to work it through and either get there (with or without a bit of prompting and guidance) and appreciate the elegance of it or they refuse to be helped and we sit there with an unanswered question simmering in the background making it impossible to continue any kind of meaningful discourse.

This may sound like a bit of a complaint – but actually it isn’t. It is often more fun a “conversation” than many other options. I think people may just be jealous that I can have such a fun job. Much like with stand-up comedians…but the advantage we have is that quiz questions usually can work in isolation in the way that jokes don’t always work (unless perhaps you are someone like Jimmy Carr or Tim Vine – who incidentally was an excellent celebrity quiz master at an event with us last year).

*October (31 days…clocks change…)


3 replies
  1. Chris Philpot
    Chris Philpot says:

    I’m not surprised Tim Vine was a strong guest quiz master, given how funny he was at the helm of the short-lived ‘Whittle’. There used to be a wonderful out-takes reel on YouTube though sadly I think it’s now been pulled.


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