April 26

Let’s Get Quizzical by Craig Deeley

In 2003 I won a TV quiz show. Brainteaser was shown at lunchtimes on Channel 5 and contained a mix of crosswords, anagrams and general knowledge.

I imagine there were more people involved in making the programme than watching it, so my triumphant success never led to people sending me underwear in the post, or recognising me in the street; even people I knew. The fact that it was broadcast live added a few nerves. Once the show started, the lovely hostess Alex did the usual quiz-show introductions; who are you, where are you from, etc. I lied that if I won I would use the money for a trip to India, when in fact it would be going towards paying some of my overdraft off. I won the first round, which was a basic anagram / wordplay round. I sat off camera and watched the next two competitors battle it out, all the while remembering that this was a live show and no matter what my inner voice said, I should not see what would happen if I streaked or shouted bad words or pretended to be dead.

Then I was up again in the semi-final. The competitor I faced had been bragging in the green room before the show about his recent victory on Countdown and how he’d been exercising his buzzer-finger. It was a tough battle; he was very good on the anagrams, but in the final round, I took the lead thanks to a question about Acker Bilk which I think knocked the other guy’s confidence because he didn’t answer anything after that. I ended up walking away with a Brainteaser mug and couple of grand which was soon thereafter swallowed up by my overdraft.

I have always loved a quiz, and I prided myself on what I thought was a very good all-round general knowledge. One of my regular activities has always been a pub quiz. What’s not to love? The name alone contains two of my most favourite things.

For the most part, a pub quiz a team activity, which is very handy for me, because over the years I have come to realise that the broad general knowledge I thought I had, isn’t that broad. When there is a question about sport or any music after 1997, you can see me glaze over like a human screensaver. History, geography, science, I’m pretty good at. If there’s a round on TV theme tunes, Carry On Films, sitcoms, or the 1980s then we’re guaranteed a win. But besides working out who knows most about what topic, there is a lot of peripheral information you need to know if you’re thinking of doing a pub quiz.

Every team has to have a name, and there is a lot of pressure to come up with a name that stands out, ideally something topical or a pun involving ‘quiz’. Many have buckled under the pressure of thinking of a team name, and when names such as ‘Quiz Akabussi’, ‘Quizteama Aguilera’, and ‘Trivia Newton John’ flying about, it’s little wonder that the pressure trying to think of a name kills 100s of quizzers every year. Many teams will plan this carefully; they’ll do their research when it comes to naming a team and hone it to a fine art. I was recently very proud of naming our team ‘Quizzy Gillespie’, but was immediately out-funnied with ‘Quiz Quiztofferson’ and ‘We Thought This Was Speed Dating’.

Trust no one. You may be thinking that people who go to a regular quiz night enjoy the social side of it, seeing friendly faces and catching up with people they know. This is true – UNTIL THE QUIZ STARTS. From the moment the first question has been read out, the team will form a human wall around the answer-sheet to prevent any possible answer-stealing. If anyone at a nearby table gets up to go to the toilet, someone from the surrounding teams will throw themselves on top of their answer-sheet as if trying to absorb a bomb-blast. And, of course, the person who is, probably innocently, on their way to the restroom will be suspected of Googling the answers in the toilet cubicle. The advent of the mobile phone has taken some of the fun away from quizzes, in my opinion. When they first came to prominence, cheaters could be heard in the toilet phoning a friend, reading out questions that were written on the back of their hand. With today’s phones, you can simply Google an answer. I even hold my hand up (literally) to Shazamming songs during a music round in the past; I’m not proud of it, but in my defence they were post-1997 songs.

And finally, the quizmasters themselves. Not everyone can be a quizmaster. I admire them; I know I couldn’t do it, because although I love trivia, I never have any pens. I have done quizzes which have ranged from self-indulgence – “This week’s picture round involves close-ups of objects around my house”, to difficult – “Name the top 10 National Treasures of Armenia,” to the downright simple – “What colour is yellow?” Good QMs will mix it up and there will be something for everyone. That’s all for now, I need to go and make myself a cup of tea and work on this week’s team name. I’ve gone off “Team number 3”