Saturday, 23 April 2016

Audition Result

About 3 weeks ago I was in London for an audition for the UK version of the US quiz show 500 Questions. If you haven't seen the show, well, it might be worth your while looking it up on Youtube, as it's not without interest, although like most shows it is possible to point out some flaws in the format. I don't know how many shows, if any, you've ever auditioned for, but the usual outcome is either you'll get on the show, in which case they'll call you back, or you won't, in which case you often just don't hear from the production company again. So I have to pay tribute to the good people making 500 Questions. On the day they said that whether we're through to the next stage of auditions or not, they'd be in touch. They got back to me during the last week - sadly to tell me that I wasn't going forward, but at least they got in touch to tell me.

They're funny things auditions, and I'll come clean here, I enjoy them. So I'm not all that gutted about not getting on. Yes, sure, I'd have loved to have been on the show, but hey, I had a nice day out in London and got to take part in the audition which I enjoyed anyway. So driving the best part of 180 miles there and back in a day seemed worth it.

Yes, I enjoy auditions. Not that I've had that many of them really. The last one was in 2014 for Fifteen to One, and before that in about 2012 for Breakaway. In fact, I'll show you the list at the and of this post.

Out of all of them I think that the most exciting was probably the first, for the first series of Eggheads, which was exciting because I'd never had an audition before. The first Mastermind audition was possibly the most nerve wracking because all 4 of my nominated specialist subjects were rejected during the audition and I had to come up with others right off the top of my head. The most enjoyable was possibly Breakaway - mainly because when we played the game I broke away as soon as I was allowed and went right through to the end. Sorry, things like that I enjoy. Little things and all of that.

Here's the full list of my applications and auditions: -

* Who Wants to Be A Millionaire - the phone audition wasn't an audition as such. It was a simple question with a numerical answer. Get close enough and you were on.
# Mastermind Champion of Champions wasn't an audition as such. It was a chat with Laura from the production team about whether I was interested, and what my specialist(s) might be if I was invited.

The Weakest Link
Unsuccessful application
Unsuccessful Audition
Come and Have A Go If You Think You’re Smart Enough
Successful Phone Audition
Successful Audition
Successful Audition
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Successful Audition*
Successful Phone Audition
Are You An Egghead?
Successful Phone and Face To Face Auditions
Britain’s Best Brain
Unsuccessful Phone Audition
Brain of Britain (Radio)
Successful Phone Audition
Mastermind Champion of Champions
Successful Phone audition#
Only Connect
Successful Audition
Unsuccessful Audition
2012, 2013, 2014
Unsuccessful applications – no audition
Fifteen to One
Successful Audition
500 Questions
Unsuccessful Audition

Congratulations Explorers

Congratulations to my team mates in Bryntirion Penybont Explorers in the Bridgend Quiz League for clinching the League and Cup Double for the 6th consecutive year. Commiserations to the team from the Ty Risha, who had performed brilliantly all season in the cup.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

CIU National Quiz Final

I'll be honest, I haven't been over to Newport in a long time for a quiz, so I've been out of touch with the guys I normally play the CIU quiz with. It occured to me yesterday that it was this time of year that we played the CIU finals last year. So I googled it, and found out that the heats were scheduled for earlier this year, and that the finals are scheduled for this weekend.

Well, that's what can happen when you put yourself out of circulation. Presuming that the finals are going ahead as advertised, I wish all LAM readers taking part the very best of luck - it was a great weekend last year, and I hope it proves to be as enjoyable for you this year.

The Late Ronnie Corbett

Going through the news over the last couple of weeks, and I realised that I haven't said anything about the death of Ronnie Corbett. A wonderful entertainer, in terms of quizzing his greatest achievement was surely having participated n the greatest Mastermind spoof of all time. The classic Two Ronnies Mastermind sketch, scripted I think by David Renwick, is always worth watching and so here's a link to the sketch on Youtube for your enjoyment

Two Ronnies Mastermind Sketch

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

What is so wrong about showing it matters to you?

Right, let me state here and now that this is not a criticism of Oscar Powell, of the Peterhouse team who won Monday evening’s UC semi-final. No, it’s simply that something a friend said to me about the show, and Mr. Powell in particular, that raised an interesting discussion.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve been watching the current series. I have, even though I haven’t been writing about it. I think it’s fair to say that there’s been a certain amount of comment about Oscar Powell every time that Peterhouse have played. No doubt about it, Mr. Powell is a very good UC player. I doubt, somehow, that he is a brilliant poker player. I say this – tongue in cheek and no offence intended – because he does tend to give away how he is feeling, particularly every time he, or one of his team mates, gives a wrong answer to a starter. For a UC contestant he is very expressive, with both facial expressions and gestures.

Personally I don’t have the least problem with this. In fact, let me be honest, I like the fact that, while the game is going on, it matters so much to him. And so, it seems do quite a large number of viewers, judging by Twitter comments, for example. But there is also a body of opinion – my quiz mate included – who take exception to it. There’s a sizeable body of opinion which says that it’s wrong to react like this. I can’t say for certain, but I can imagine this goes back to the outmoded concept of the effortless amateur, the idea that winning is nothing, but winning without overly exerting oneself, and without showing any emotional response to it, is everything. The idea to show that one is emotionally involved in the contest, to show that winning matters to you, is somehow vulgar and to be frowned upon and criticized.

I do have an ulterior motive in bringing this subject up. You see, I could often be accused of wearing my heart on my sleeve when I’m quizzing. I honestly can’t really help it. I know that whether I win or lose a pub quiz, or a league match isn’t important. I do know that. But just because something isn’t important does not mean that it doesn’t matter. I’m afraid that I subscribe to the oft-quoted Vince Lombardi view – If winning isn’t important, why do they bother keeping score? – Well, quite. If I come back to my own example, I do try to stop myself from saying ’Yeessss!’ or ‘Good answer David!’ on the occasions when I do dredge up an answer which I didn’t know that I knew – but they do come out from time to time, and there’s no point me trying to say that they don’t.

Now, this is all directed at myself. I’m honestly not trying to wind up anybody in another team, but still some people make no attempt to hide the fact that they find it irritating. I’m not saying that they should attempt to hide it either – but I do find the attitude difficult to understand. I mean, if I was taunting the other team, calling them dumb, or their answers stupid, then yes, this would be absolutely out of order. If I crowed over beating another team, or taunted them after the match, then yes, this would be absolutely out of order. But showing a little pleasure in playing well? Getting yourself totally involved in a match/quiz? Where’s the problem?

I’ll give you another case in point. We were playing in a league match before Christmas, away. Never mind the opposition, no names, no pack drill. Now, I’ve learned through bitter experience that anything said in passing to that particular team during the quiz will not be received well – for example, I don’t say anything like ‘good answer’ to them because they seem to think I’m being sarcastic. I’m not. So, I had tried very hard to keep my mouth shut apart from answers, throughout the quiz. Then on one question I blurted out the answer before the question master had finished. It was a close match, and I was getting very involved in it. The question master reacted as if I’d slapped him in the face. He called me a smartarse – and this wasn’t said as a bit of banter either.  Thankfully I shan’t be playing in a match with him as question master again until next season.

If you’re not demonstrative, then that’s fine. But if you are, take it from me, there’s nothing wrong about showing enjoyment in a good personal performance. I don’t deliberately go out of my way to antagonize other people, but there comes a point where you have to say, well, look, if you think showing a little enjoyment and engagement is wrong, then it’s your problem, not mine. So, Oscar, if by any chance you’re reading this, good luck in the final, and you carry on reacting, my friend. Stuff the begrudgers. 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Mastermind 2016 Grand Final: Alan's Story

Just this morning 2016 Champion Alan Heath sent me a lovely email, and he included his take on the final, and gave me permission to post it. So here it is: - 

I was incredibly nervous during the final, much more so than the previous two rounds as you would expect.  It’s the waiting to go on that affects me. It didn’t help that we were kept hanging around in the green room for ages before hand whilst they fixed some technical problems.  I can imagine how prisoners may feel before they are led into the interrogation room! and my pulse was really racing as we walked out in front of the audience.
My specialist round was okay but my stumble on the one question made me wonder if I would be punished by the others.  After watching Jim put in his usual perfect round I thought that my worst fears had been realised.  I didn’t think that I had done enough in the GK round and watching Jim’s round (although not counting) I was sure that he had done enough to lift the trophy.  After he finished his round, but before his score was announced, there was an interminable delay whilst some issue was being resolved by the back room boys.  Whilst Jim was stuck in the chair I was quietly consoling myself that to come second in the series was quite an achievement.  Richard Tring then leant over to say that he thought that I hadn’t finished.  He had experienced a tie break in the semis so knew what was happening.  I then heard John H. speaking into his mic “has this ever happened before in a final?” and I realised that I was still in it.  So having been resigned and calm the dreaded nerves came rushing back.  Jim was then given his score and the tie break was on.
We actually had two tie breaks.  The first ended 3-3 and John H  announced that we will ignore that as though it had never happened and will do it all again.  The tension was rising in the studio and I was wondering if it would ever end!  I was really disappointed with my second tie break.  I over thought the fish question and guessed incorrectly.  I had heard of Galatea before but couldn’t bring it to mind.  I also knew that Sue Townsend had written that book but suffered a mental block and her name just wouldn’t come to me.  I was lucky with the remaining two questions especially as the night before I had been walking along the Manchester Ship Canal with my son-in-law, who is from Lancashire, and he been telling me all about it.  Nevertheless, I sat down once again thinking that it was over and that I had probably lost knowing some of the questions I had answered incorrectly.  Fortunately for me Jim struggled with the questions more than I did and I got the luck of the draw.  It was a roller coaster of emotions and I couldn’t believe that I had actually won!
I would like to congratulate Jim Maginnis on his performance.  He was the best prepared of the six of us which showed in the SS round.  He was also a great sport and a true gentleman before, during and after the show.  I am sure that his time will come if he decides to go through the mental torture again I will be cheering for him all the way. 
I stated in my insert (although that part wasn’t broadcast) that I thought that any of the finalists were capable of winning it and be worthy winners.  I would also include Mark Livesey, who was the reserve for the final and there on the day, in that group.  It was just my good fortune that the questions fell my way.  A different day, a different set of questions and there would have been a different result.
Amen to that Alan, and so could say most of us. Thanks for sharing this with us all. 

London Audition Visit

Yes, gentle reader, yesterday I was in London for an audition for a quiz show. OK – so I never need too much persuading to pay a visit back to my hometown. Hmm, now there’s a point. I will probably always think of London as my hometown. It’s a sobering thought that I actually lived in London for just the first 22 years of my life, while I’ve lived in Port Talbot, South Wales, for almost 30 years. Well, all I can say to that is where you’re born, brought up and educated will always have a pull on you. It will on me, at least.

The purpose of the visit, of course, wasn’t just pleasure. As the proprietor of the dormant Life After Mastermind blog, I sometimes get sent advanced publicity from production companies, asking if I’ll pass on the message that they are looking for contestants for new quizzes. One which passed my way a few months ago was for a new quiz. I don't want to say too much about it right no, because production companies can get very funny if you start giving away details of the show, or auditions before it goes into production, so you'll just have to forgive me for keeping a lid on that for the time being. On a whim, and the promises that a) nobody was going to automatically be disbarred from entering because they actually have a halfway decent general knowledge, and b) there are potentially oodles of bunce on offer, I applied, then promptly forgot all about it.A fortnight or so ago I got a phone call where I chatted to an assistant or researcher about the show, and my application, and they checked on my availability for audition. Only London was available, and it was scheduled for the 2nd April. If called, would I be able to make it? Well, to be honest, I might have had second thoughts, had this been at any other time than bang in the middle of the school’s Easter break. But since it is slap in the middle of the Easter break, well, why not? Not that this actually was an invitation to appear, mind you, they were just ringing to check that I would be available if they wanted to give me the once over. Ten days or so passed, and I didn’t hear any more, so I decided that they had probably got enough people they wanted to look at for the auditions already. That’s fine. It’s very difficult to know what any production team is really looking for in a contestant for a new quiz, and so there’s no point in getting bitter and twisted if you don’t get an audition, and if you don’t get on the show. Either persevere and apply to other shows, or give it all up as a bad job, and do something else with your time.

Three or four days ago I had a phonecall inviting me to audition. Could I make it? - Sure, no problem. – Great, we’ll email you with the details. – Terrific. So there I was To be honest, as long as I have the time to do it, an audition in London is probably just as easy for me as an audition in Cardiff would be – apart from the cost of the petrol, of course. So, yesterday, I got myself packed and ready, then drove down in leisurely fashion. Once a year I usually take part in a charity quiz event in Central London, and doing this I’ve learned that my best bet is to park the car in Hanwell, where I grew up, and get the tube into town from Boston Manor.So there I was. I walked the route from the station to the hotel where the auditions were being held, and then carried on walking down into Trafalgar Square, where I was as I wrote this next bit on my trusty school issue Surface Pro.


Saturday 2nd April: 3:15pm- So, here’s the bottom line. Why am I doing this? Going for the audition I mean? Well, the thing is, I have never said that I will never go on another TV quiz again. I don’t need to prove anything to myself, but my attitude has always been, well, if I see a show which I fancy trying, and I think there’s even a slight chance of me getting on it, then I’ll have a go. For example, I did Fifteen to One with Sandi Toksvig in Glasgow in 2014. I didn’t win – shame – but had a lot of fun doing it. But there’s more than that. When you get right down to it. . . well, when you get right down to it, I rather enjoy the audition process. This is going to sound arrogant, but there we are, so be it, but since Mastermind 2007, I don’t have this destructive urge to have to prove myself on a TV quiz. Whereas Mastermind 2007 was all about showing what I was made of after four unimpressive and underwhelming TV performances. 

Of course, there is always another aide of the coin. Having won Mastermind, there seemed simply no point in applying to many TV quizzes now. Case in point – Pointless. My son and I have applied together on more than one occasion, and never had any contact from the production team at all, let alone had the sniff of an audition offer. That’s the way it goes. Then there was ‘Breakaway’, for which I had an audition in Cardiff a few years ago. I was surprised to even get offered an audition, and my suspicions that my application form had not been read thoroughly were confirmed in the audition itself. We took it in turns to film short pieces to camera, and one of the questions we were all asked was ‘Have you ever been on TV before?” Well, the guy doing the audition supressed a chuckle when I told him I’d messed up the £32,000 on Millionaire, then his expression changed completely when I mentioned about Mastermind. Ah, Dave old son - , I told myself, for that’s my name, - you won’t be getting on this show, then. And to be fair, I didn’t.

I didn’t succeed in my first ever audition either. That was for a well known team quiz show, which was auditioning teams for its very first series. Since it had never been on we really didn’t know what to expect. Being the honest and straightforward chaps that we were, we played it absolutely straight, flaunted our quiz credentials, and wiped the floor with the other two teams auditioning at the same  time. We later found out that they both got on and we didn’t. I don’t really know that there’s any great moral that you can draw from that, other than auditions are funny things. 

I don’t think you can say that you’re not competing against the other people auditioning at the same time, if there are any, but the nature of the competition may well be a lot different from what you perceive it to be. It ain’t all about winning the audition folks.Another funny audition experience was for the second series of “Are You An Egghead”. This was getting on for a year after my Mastermind final was broadcast. Now, I want to make it clear that I didn’t actually apply for this show. The production team got in touch with Mastermind, who, quite rightly, said that they wouldn’t give out my contact details, however they would contact me and let me know about the interest from Are You An Egghead and leave it to me to decide if I wanted to follow it up. All well and good. I gave it a whirl, and had a phone audition. After this I was invited to a face to face audition in Bristol. My attitude was a little – well, hang on a minute, YOU wanted me, I didn’t even apply for the show. Well, what the hell, they explained it was just procedure, so I went along with it. It’s the only time that I ever went to an audition, though, pretty much knowing that unless I did something really stupid I was a shoe-in for the show.

The second Mastermind audition was interesting, because it was such a contrast with the first. In the first it had been a face to face audition, just me with two members of the production team. A nice chat was followed by a long and exhaustive bout of horse trading over specialist subjects, then we finished with the relative haven of the 20 GK questions. Then a year later, all I had was a phone audition, where we chatted briefly about my experiences in the previous series, and I was asked 20 questions, after which I was told ‘well you’ve obviously got a very good general knowledge’ Thanks very much – it did the trick whatever else came into consideration.

Millionaire had its own unique application process. Basically, answer a question either online or on the phone, and your name goes into the hat for a call back. So if you enter, let’s say 200 times, as I did, then your name went in 200 times. The callback was not an audition. You were asked one question with a numerical answer. Get close enough, and you were on the show, regardless of your appearance or personality. It was that simple, although changed for later series.

Then there was my last audition before today which was for Fifteen to One. Now, that was frankly a bit odd, if you want my opinion. Not the audition itself, but the fact that the team were so insistent that you didn’t post anything anywhere giving away any details of the audition itself. I have respected this request, and will continue to do so, but frankly I don’t see why. I have been through a Fifteen to One audition now, and believe me, I don’t see any way that knowing what happens in it would help you to perform better in it, but hey, that’s their choice, and I’ll continue to respect it.

When you boil it down, most auditions come down to a lot of the same basic ingredients, and are there to answer a few basic questions. On TV – how well do you present? It doesn’t have to matter if you’re no oil painting – I’d never have been on TV at all if it did – but it does matter how you come across, and how the viewers are likely to react to you.  Can you talk? No seriously, this is a lot more pertinent than you might think. Most shows don't need you to be a general knowledge genius, but they want to make sure that you have at least an average, man in the street(or viewer in the house) knowledge, enough to make it interesting. Do you have a discernible personality? Do you come across as the sort of person who will have an emotional reaction to playing the game - pleasure, enjoyment, anger - it's all good.

I’m currently thinking about my next move from here. I don’t want to show up at the hotel before 4pm at the very earliest. In my experience, while the people carrying out the auditions are usually super nice, with the best will in the world auditions rarely run to advertised time, and they are so busy they don’t really need you hanging around for too long before the audition is supposed to start.


Time – 20 past 6. Audition’s over- I'm currently sitting on a tube train bound for Northfields. That’s 1 stop before Boston Manor. Don’t sweat it – I can walk from there to the car.The audition then. Hmmm. Gotta be honest, you can only judge from what’s put in front of you, but my gut reaction is that I won’t be taking part in the show. Or rather, I won’t be going forward to the next stage, the short listing stage. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know if I would actually want to go to the next stage – oh, who am I kidding, I would. Why do I think I’m not going through? Well, for one thing, I was picked last to play. Maybe coincidence, maybe not. For another thing, when the  contenders in play at any one time gave a wrong answer, if it wasn’t modern entertainment, then I would give the right answer. Look, I said I wouldn’t lie to you, OK? And if I’m being totally honest, one of the main reasons I go to auditions is to show off.

So, no chance then? Well, I honestly do not think I will get on the show. The standard of the others seemed, on admittedly a small amount of evidence, to be okay, but not brilliant, which makes me think that this is what the team making it really want. It’s not impossible that I might get called to the shortlisting weekend, though, but if I was, I reckon it would only be to put the others into some kind of contrast by comparison. Well, I don’t know. One thing I did like though was that the lady carrying out the audition did say that win, lose or draw we would definitely hear from them. I’ve no reason to doubt her, and it will be very nice if it happens, because in my experience you usually only tend to hear back if you’ve got through.


OK, well that's what I wrote yesterday. I have no idea what the timescale is, and whether we'll get a phone call or an email, but that's fine. Looking back, I enjoyed yesterday, and that's really the point. Watch this space.