Ian Wolf

Gigglebox Weekly #58

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Gigglebox Weekly With Ian Wolf

This week Ian Wolf encounters a lot of jizz and a Time Lord.


QI, the cleverest comedy on television, is back on our screens this week. It’s now in double figures series-wise, (tenth series and not eleventh, as has been advertised in some quarters); although in terms of the alphabet it’s only up to “J”.

This first episode of this series covers the subject of “Jargon” – and words beginning with “J” – and featured Jimmy Carr, Bill Bailey and newcomer Victoria Coren on the panel alongside regulars Stephen Fry and Alan Davies. Topics included dictators and their hatred of jazz, the first use of “OMG”, and a lot of jizz.

In fact, the opening episode was rather smutty. Following on from a question about jizz (a bird-watching term for recognising a bird from a long distance by its shape), the panel, mostly Carr, performed quite a lot of rude material. I know that some people on the QI forums hated this, saying it was too rude for such a programme. But these critics should bear in mind that only a little while ago QI tried to be less rude when it was pre-watershed on BBC One and it failed miserably. People didn’t like it, so now it’s back in its old post-watershed slot on BBC Two – and now people are complaining about the show being too rude. Whenever the questions are lewd someone suggests it’s ‘dumbing down.’ Yet whenever the questions are clever someone says it’s not ‘being funny enough.’ I wish some people would make their minds up…

Series J is becoming notable for reasons other than perceived rudeness. For starters the “General Ignorance” round has been scrapped, because the panel were getting too wise to it and not going for the klaxon answers. Now the General Ignorance questions are spread out more to catch people out. I’m a bit worried about that, to be honest. It’s a bit like Have I Got News for You getting rid of “Missing Words”, Mock the Week scrapping “Scenes We’d Like to See”, or Celebrity Juice getting rid off… well, whatever they have on Celebrity Juice (I can never bring myself to watch). However, it’s best to wait and see after a few episodes if the re-shuffle works.

The other notable thing about this series is the guests. There are more women appearing on it. Next week’s episode will be the first in which all the guests are women, which I can’t remember happening on another panel show…ever. And some of the new guests are pretty experimental; they haven’t even appeared on British TV yet. New Zealander Cal Wilson,  appears in a fortnight’s time. She was on The News Quiz this week and seemed to cope alright, so hopefully she will put in a good performance.

I know some people will complain it’s too rude, or it’s dumbed down, or the guests are not good enough, but you can’t please everyone. In the end, so long as it keeps being interesting and surprising QI will be good enough for me.

Comedy World Cup

Channel 4 has also created a band new panel game, hosted by former Doctor Who star David Tennant.

The idea of Comedy World Cup is an interesting one, as the theme of the show is comedy itself. It’s a team game, with different teams each episode, consisting of one current comedy star as captain, with a younger comic and a veteran. This week, Captain Jo Brand with Dave Spikey and Shappi Khorsandi, played against Jason Manford, who lead alongside Paul Chowdhry and Nicholas Parsons.

The episode lasted an hour, which some might seem as being excessive for a panel game – but I disagree. For starters, it still isn’t the longest panel show in terms of episode length, as that title goes to The Big Fat Quiz of the Year (not counting David Walliams and his 24-hour long panel show marathon for Comic Relief). You also have the ad breaks too, so the show is broken down a bit. Put it this way; an extended repeat of HIGNFY or QI is between 40-45 minutes long. Comedy World Cup is 45 minutes long, plus 15 minutes of advertising during which you can make a cup of tea. So it’s nothing new. Some might say it’s an improvement to have a break in the middle.

The show consisted of seven rounds, many of them reminding me of other panel shows and game shows. For example there a “What happens next?” round (see A Question of Sport), and one where children act out stand-up routines (see The Big Fat Quiz where they get kids to act out news stories).

Now, I admit that this show wasn’t the funniest panel show I’ve seen. But to me, this isn’t the point. For someone like me who is really into their comedy, it’s like a pub quiz themed especially for me – and if you’re a comedy buff then this is the show for you. But it’s best watched with other like-minded people to see who really is more knowledgeable on these matters…