A tweet from a random stranger a few hours ago reminded me that it is five years to the day since I made my debut on The Chase. Five years since my life changed from being a little recognised but perfectly successful comedian, to suddenly being thrust into the role of smugfaced, shit-suited jelly-necked Granny magnet. I have tasted triumph and disaster and utterly failed to treat those two impostors just the same. I have some pithy observations to share with you.
There is no “best chaser”
You will all have your favourites and Lord knows, I know you will all have your least favourites. But there really isn’t a best Chaser, we all have our different strengths. Shaun is supreme on sport and history, Anne is remarkable on literature. Jenny is one of the elite entertainment quizzers in the UK, I now know who plays Harry Potter. Mark brings the same ferocity and speed to devouring questions on the Final Chase as he does to finishing off three pork chops. What an afternoon that was.
We have never thrown questions.
The accusation of throwing questions is utterly bizarre in that the complete opposite is true. Chasers are all narcissistic dullards who want to show off to the world just how much we know. But what about the Celeb Chases? Those shows get us our bigger audience figures, and our need to show off is even greater. But we are human, and we all have our weaknesses. There are hundred and hundreds of very simple questions that I do not know the answer to.
Bradley is remarkable
Before I started the show, I didn’t really know the difference between Shane Ritchie, Brian Conley and Bradley Walsh. That was to my utter shame. Bradley’s natural, effortless bonhomie with every demographic of contestant has seen him rise inexorably up the light entertainment ladder, and deservedly so. In addition, in contrast to the notion that the “mainstream” and “alternative” comedy circuits don’t get on, he has never been anything less than supportive about my comedy career. I love the man.
I’m a stranger in my own town
Real life is now something of a rollercoaster ride. There are certain towns and cities where I can barely move for selfie requests. But in Crystal Palace where i live, I can wander around for a fortnight without a single human being spotting me. The show is not big in London, as people do not get back home from work in time. Either that or Richard Osman has Crystal Palace trapped in his vice-like grip.
The Lower Offer
The show has changed over the years. The questions are now harder, and fewer teams score 20+. It used to be that good players threw temper tantrums over contestants who take lower offers. Now, they actively encourage it. A good player who takes a higher offer back does not believe that that is the money he/she will be playing for. He/she knows that it is a tactical negotiating starting point. Do you know why the Chasers hate contestants taking the lower offer? Because it maximises the chances of us losing the game. Outside of the hate cauldron of twitter, it is seen as a valid tactic.
I’m a very good quizzer but…….
Kevin and Pat on Eggheads, and a guy called Olav Bjortomt are the three best quizzers in the UK. They have a combination of dedication and memory skills that mere mortals can only dream of. I am one of a number of quizzers who regularly trade blows in a quest to be amongst the “best of the rest”. I can hold my own in this company, and I was 10th in last years European champs, and 14th in this years world champs. But it pains me to say that sometimes, under pressure, I can be utter dogshit. It doesn’t make me a bad quizzer, and it doesn’t mean it’s a fix. It just means that I am human, have bad days, and should not have challenged The Beast to a pork chop eating contest at lunch.
The magic of this moment will sadly never be repeated. The reason being that Bradley’s magical corpsing was based on utter shock. Now that the surprise element has been removed, so has the corpsing. Our most joyous moments now come from things contestants say.
“Which Prime Minister had the middle name Hilda?” “John Prescott”
“What colour was the racehorse Desert Orchid?” “Green”
And my alltime favourite contestant.
Being a Chaser and being a standup comic does have certain similarities. There is a needy desire to be liked. And there is a tendency to focus on the negatives rather than the positives. I hate losing, and it destroys me when I perform badly. I can display a clumsily short fuse with idiots on social media, when i know perfectly well that the mute button can be my friend. And I should never forget that I am privileged to do a job that I love, and that it isn’t “proper” work.