Great Britain has many television traditions, many of which have caught on in the States over the years – hello, everything from Doctor Who to The Great British Bakeoff . Others have been adapted into US cover-versions, and still others haven’t really caught on in force. (Though for Anglophiles everywhere, we know how to seek out the good stuff…)
One of the grandest UK traditions is the quiz show: A panel program made up of an assortment of British TV celebs, broadcasters, sometimes politicians and many comedians, usually with a distinctly funny bent. It’s not the same as a game show, with ordinary folks playing for cash – oh, they have lots of those too – but it’s definitely a genre full of great entertainment. A few of these shows have picked up dedicated fan bases on our shores, including Q.I. (the all-sorts-of-“quite interesting” facts quiz previously hosted by Stephen Fry, and now by Sandi Toksvig; check out some episodes on Hulu!); and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, which is all about music and a total treasure trove of appearances by comedians and big-time rock stars, too.
And then there are panel quizzes so special they are treated like major television events… which brings us to The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. The UK’s Channel 4 has been airing this celebratory end-of-year quiz since 2004 (Simon Pegg was one of the original panelists!), and its Boxing Day time slot has become as anticipated a television event as the Doctor Who Christmas specials or anything else with geeks. Host Jimmy Carr (who also has a regular panel quiz gig hosting 8 out of 10 Cats – not kidding, these shows are popular) grills its lineup on all sorts of news and pop culture headlines from the previous year in a 90-minute jam-packed program of jokes – and trust me, even if you aren’t familiar with British politics or sport, this is some truly hilarious stuff. (It’s also, because it airs after 9pm on Channel 4, chock full of swearing and R-rated humor, so DON’T let the kids watch this one, ‘kay?)
We thought we’d do our last Friday Five of the year in the grand tradition of exploring new ideas for the future, so whet your appetite for next holiday season by discovering the funniest Big Fat Quiz moments of the past… [WARNING: May contain strong language, and will contain at least a few UK references that fly over your head, but just go with it…]
Richard Ayoade Gives Mel B Some Endurance Advice: As we noted earlier this is a long program, as long as an episode of SNL. The jokes and the general knowledge come fast and furious. Which is why you’ve got to be on top of your game, and one of the fan favorites of recent years (he’s back again in 2017, kiddies) is dry-witted comedy legend Richard Ayoade. Here’s a gem from 2014 in which he warns “Scary Spice” Mel B not to assume it’s going to be a walk in the park, oh no… (Bonus: Monty Python‘s Michael Palin reads out the first question!)
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Goth Detectives: Mighty Boosh mainstay and glam icon Noel Fielding is also one of the most popular Big Fat Quiz panelists, having been on most of the eps in the last decade. He’s most often paired with Ayoade (a frequent collaborator), but for a while there before Russell Brand married into American pop royalty and became something of a superstar, he and Fielding were a raven-locked tag-team of some potency. As is tradition in UK pub quizzes, the teams have to choose a team name every time, and no one’s ever had a better moniker than “The Goth Detectives.” Break out the hairspray. (p.s. this is a LONG reel, so feel free to pause and come back for more goth lurve later…)
Jack Whitehall Is A Teletubbies Stan: One of the best moments of Big Fat Quiz every year is when they bring out the “Mystery Guest”: A person (or persons) of some significance that the panelists can only ask “yes” or “no” questions to, and try and figure out who they are. No fifteen minutes of fame is too fleeting for this segment. (Once, it was the two kids from the “Charlie Bit Me” video!) Now, this clip is actually from one of the annual show’s spin-off (oh, yes) episodes, all about the 1990s… and comedian Jack Whitehall memorably loses his **** in a millennial display of nerdity when the Mystery Guests turn out to be literal legends of British children’s telly.
Jon Snow Spits the Year’s Biggest Hits: So you think you know who Jon Snow is, do you? Well, as you might expect me to say right about now: You know nothing. Sure, the King in the North on Game of Thrones is a big name, but so is Channel 4’s preeminent news anchor Jon Snow (he even spells it the same way!), a stately gentleman with a classic voice for reading headlines. And as Big Fat Quiz has proven time and time again, he can even make the most bumpin’ pop lyrics sound like major news. Here’s a fantastic highlight reel of his greatest hits.
Oh, did we mention that in recent years he’s taken to dancing, too? Here he is jamming to “All About That Bass”. Honestly, the bar has been raised for news anchors everywhere… time to step up, Brian Williams:
And last, but by no means least…
The Theatrical Stars of Mitchell Brook Primary School: Many recurring segments on Big Fat Quiz have been introduced over the years, but this one was there from the beginning. And some might say it’s still the very best! It’s easy enough to read out a question about a big story that happened in the past year, but why do that all the time when you can have it acted out for you in the grand tradition of British theatre? Better yet: Acted out by the fine young boys and girls of Mitchell Brook Primary School in Neasden, Northwest London. These kids’ timely school plays are easily an all-time favorite… so much so we can’t choose just one clip. So enjoy them acting out Jeremy Clarkson being fired off Top Gear (above); and (below), the Edward Snowden/NSA scandal, and the Large Hadron Collider discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. HOORAY for the theatre!!!
Well, all of that and we still didn’t get to some of the best bits (truly, search “Charles Dance Big Fat Quiz” on YouTube especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan), but hopefully it’s a taste of an awesome pop culture tradition you’ll want to seek out more of! Get to it. (psst… just search “Big Fat Quiz” while you’re on YouTube and you’ll hit the mother lode. 😉 )
And Happy New Year, Looters!! We’ll see you in 2018!