Metro 94

Richard Herring: My most Pointless ambition has come true

Friday 13 Dec 2013 
I am slightly obsessed with the early evening quiz show Pointless. I had originally dismissed it as a reverse-engineered Family Fortunes but there’s much more to it than that.
It’s true that both shows ask 100 people a question and that the contestants then have to guess what they said. But requesting the most obscure answer is Pointless’s genius. In most trivia quizzes you can have a punt at something obvious and have a chance of being right but to do well at Pointless you really need to know a subject. Yet, even if you do, you then have the additional test of working out what other people don’t know! Fiendish.
If that wasn’t enough for you, there is the wonderfully funny chemistry between the hosts, Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman. We’re bound to ask: ‘Will they? Won’t they? Or have they already?’ It’s impossible to know.
So it’s not hyperbole to say (and I am sure my wife will understand) that it was the greatest day of my life when I was asked to participate in Pointless Celebrities. I didn’t mind (and accepted as fact) the implicit joke in the title and was aware that most of the ‘celebrities’ that appear on this version of the show would be Pointless answers themselves.
Indeed, on a previous show, when asked for the erstwhile double act partner of Stewart Lee, only two people named me (I assume because they had no idea who Lee was).
Yet for all the excitement came the terrifying prospect of failure.
I hate to lose. Which is a shame because I usually do. I achieved the highest ever score on Celebrity Mastermind, a record I held for approximately three minutes, at which point Hilary Kay from the Antiques Roadshow broke it again and defeated me. I still have nightmares about it. How could I have said that Newcastle was at the mouth of the River Wear? I knew it was Sunderland. But for that I would have a Mastermind trophy.
But if I won a Pointless trophy, then none of that would matter.
I’d been practising all week, while none of the other ‘celebrities’ had even seen the show before. Dom Joly was nonchalantly drinking beer beforehand, claiming Pointless was enjoyed only by children and pensioners and nobody in between.
‘You’re wrong, Dom Joly,’ I would have declared had I not been scared, ‘because I love it.’
Smug-faced Dom Joly was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has been given everything he wants without having to try at all (in my imagination) and I have had to fight my way up from the ghettos of Cheddarin Somerset. What kind of a cruel god would allow someone so indifferent to triumph over someone so keen?
All I wanted was to not have the ignominy of being knocked out in round one with a maximum score of 200. And to win a Pointless trophy. And then be asked to host the show. And marry Richard Osman. And become King of the Universe and have Dom Joly executed. That’s all I wanted. Was that too much to ask?
Round one was about 1980s pop music, something both my partner and I knew loads about (and I was guessing that Tim Brooke-Taylor and John Wells were less hot on), so we were guaranteed to get through to round two. But under the studio lights, with my nerves rising, I began to doubt everything that I knew to be true…
To find out what happened (and whether there is a god), tune into Pointless Celebrities in the spring.
Richard Herring’s show, We’re All Going To Die!, is touring nationally until April 2014. For tickets and details, visit