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Comedy and Quizzes
BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE NEWS QUIZ
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PROGRAMME INFO
A week in the life of a Radio 4 satirical quiz
The News Quiz regulars, John Sergeant and four Radio 4 newsreaders at the anniversary recording

Thursday 6 February - the Build-up

"Shall we bother with the war?"

Another meeting with the three writers and a second set of eight questions to thrash out. This time Rasputin and a Patagonian tooth fish are chewed over and spat out and the final question proves a very tricky choice. Diets, seahorses, hayfever, and church music licenses all make their bid for radio glory but the Patagonian fish makes a last minute dash for the line and makes it into the show.

The day's next task is to "grid up" (picture above), which involves allocating each question to an appropriate panellist. Andy Hamilton gets the facial hair-related stories - Saddam Hussein and shaving - but should the question about women in the army go to one of the female panellists?

An important distinction between The News Quiz and its TV spin-off is that the panellists don't know the questions in advance. So the jokes you hear are truly off-the-cuff.

With the questions sorted, The Guinness Book of Hit Singles makes an appearance as it's time to choose the musical clues that accompany four of the questions in each show. We trawl the decades for tenuous links and draw up a playlist including The Beatles (Hello, Goodbye), Blondie (Picture This), Living in a Box (Living in a Box), Bob Marley (Concrete Jungle) and any number of Michael Jackson songs - Bad, Leave Me Alone, Off The Wall.

Marijke Good, the show's trusty BA, is dispatched to the BBC's Record Library to find the CDs and the writers get back to work. George contemplates war, John Prescott and close shaves, Simon wrestles with OFSTED, Catherine Zeta-Jones and the fish, and Paul tries to find the comic angle on prisoners' diets and the new black.


Are the writers trying to make
themselves laugh or Simon Hoggart?
   listen

Thursday 6 February - the Recording

"Imagine what the postman thought"

It's the evening of the recording and, once the panellists have confirmed they're definitely turning up, there's some final joke polishing and editing to be done and then we pile into a taxi and head for the Drill Hall in central London with our scripts and the box of records.
Several very eager listeners are already gathering outside but the theatre is still empty and the music is handed over to the studio engineers, Rodger and Tim, for dubbing. Marijke makes sure there's water, pads of paper and pens for the panel and the hospitality arrives.

Charlotte Green, this week's newsreader, will be late arriving as she's reading the 6 O'Clock bulletin in West London but Simon Hoggart is the first team member to arrive at 6pm, ready for a read-through with the producer during which the writers' jokes are tried out and cut down to a shortlist of favourites.

Andy Hamilton, Alan Coren, Linda Smith and Sandi Toksvig arrive with an hour to go before the curtain goes up. Just time for a quick glass of wine and a sandwich and to pick the funny press cutting they'll be reading out at the end of the show. The audience queue swells and Charlotte makes it through the London traffic with plenty of time to spare.

At 7.30pm Simon the producer takes the stage, reminds the audience to laugh at the funny bits and introduces Simon Hoggart and the panellists. After some horseplay with a stuffed deer they find in the wings the recording is underway and one and a half hours later it's all over, the retakes are on tape and the audience members leave, all laughed out.

The production team and the panellists retire to the bar to reflect on comedy bulls-eyes, missed opportunities and Charlotte Green losing it (briefly) on stage.


Simon Hoggart on the
shelf-life of The News Quiz
   listen

Should Andy Hamilton
be paid danger money?
   listen

Linda Smith has her eye
on the Chairman's seat
   listen

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RELATED LINKS
Back to the News Quiz homepage

Listen to the latest show

Relive some classic press cuttings moments

Interviews and photos from the News Quiz 25th Anniversary

Is The News Quiz on BBC 7 this week?

Don't forget to email your press cuttings to: The News Quiz - news.quiz@bbc.co.uk.
COMEDY AND QUIZZES
Absolute Power
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Dead Ringers
I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue
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The Museum of Everything
The News Quiz
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Paperback Hell
Quote...Unquote
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Round Britain Quiz
Think the Unthinkable
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