So, there we were, sitting on the pedestal of the
Chinatown gate waiting to see a live performance of a British TV show in an Australian theatre. The sun was shining. Lovely.
The audience was made up of an enormous variety of types, little old ladies, middle aged couples, youngish couples, and a few of ‘the other sort’ of couples; the sort of people who would rather watch QI live than dress up for Derby Day, I suppose. All of which is to say that the TV show QI – now in its tenth series – is not just a cult success but obviously a raging one.
Just one of the things that I thought would make a live version of QI ‘quite interesting’ was to see how on earth Stephen Fry and Alan Davies proposed to entertain us for two hours simply by doing what they do on the teev.
Seated and waiting for the show to start, we sat and laughed with other audience members as little bits of trivia appeared on a screen; things like “mother in law is an anagram of Hitler woman’. Eventually, the Oracle of the Obscure, that Expert Etymologist and Wizard of Words himself, Stephen Fry, appeared and treated us to a ¾ of an hour monologue.
Turns out he not only has that very pleasing English accent so many of us know and love, but is an excellent mimic. Relating a joke he had heard from Billy Connolly, he gave us both Billy Connolly’s own voice, and the voice Billy Connolly uses when he tells a joke.
In between jokes, stories relating to the friendly rivalry between English and Australian cricket teams, and taking the micky out of Australian TV voiceovers, Fry made frequent indirect but very funny references to his sexuality, prompting The Other to comment quietly to me “He’s a very naughty boy!”.
Alan Davies, QI’s regular panellist, tickles my funny bone mainly because he has a wonderful sense of fun. For the live shows in
, the plan was to choose three from a set list of Australian comedians to complete the panel. Australia
Dave Hughes is not just funny but someone whose values I like. With him today were Shaun Micallef [someone who has a fine mind but has never made me laugh much] and Jennifer Byrne [who also has a fine mind, and is a fine journalist, but probably only comes close to funny when she is at home with Andrew*].
There was no interval, which may or may not have been a good thing. No matter how entertaining the subject matter, two hours of active listening was a big ask but, on the other hand, the quiz show portion might have seemed a bit flat after Stephen’s entertaining monologue.
No spoiler required here – fans of the show /readers of the books will have already heard about the mating method of the octopus: Totally queer [in the true sense of the word] and revisited as a great launching pad for some improvised laughs. It did generate a lot of laughs, but having heard it more than several times already, Alan Davies struggled to appear as interested as he did when it was first discussed on the teev. The Australian panellists – with the exception of Dave Hughes – seemed almost overawed by the occasion. [I would have been too if it were me up there, but I wasn’t getting paid today to be amusing.]
Please don’t think I’m complaining. This was not meant to be great theatre, and if I live to be one hundred and fifty, I know nothing will ever come close to Gordon Chater in The Elocution of Benjamin Franklin, or Amanda Muggleton’s Shirley Valentine.
But it seemed a little like we were making up the audience for the filming of a TV show, with Stephen Fry as the warm up man. Which we were. Which meant it was a lot of fun, because not many TV shows have a warm up man like Stephen Fry.
On the train when we were coming home, a French couple and their 3 young daughters were seated not far behind us. They are travelling the world, and currently staying at Carrum. This being a day for fancy words, it was interesting to put my schoolgirl French [from 40 years ago] to the test: After eavesdropping for ¾ of an hour I am chuffed to say I recognised two words – vous and vous.
*Jennifer Byrne is married to comedian Andrew Denton