QI Watchdown: I10 (Inland Revenue) or Thought Crime for Alan Davies

Another Sandi episode (feels like there’s been, like, 20 of them recently), but, on the plus side, we have two bald guys to counteract her. One has been here a billion times before, and it’s Dara O’Briain. The other is a SPECIAL GUEST STAR, in award-winning comedian and part-time-pub-landlord, Al Murray. All of tonight’s guests have been on Mock the Week, at least in the first 2 series. So this could be a nice one.

I got a kick out of the i-related intros Stephen does for every one, like the ‘eye-catching’ Sandi or the ‘eye-watering’ Al…and then the ‘I-RISH’ Dara O’Briain, which he gets a kick out of.

All the buzzers are I-related. Al’s is an amusing animal noise that even he doesn’t know what to think of.

Al mentions that he took tax advice from Harry Hill. This begs the question- do all bald funny british people know each other?

Sandi talks of a tax inspector who spent several days going through all the boring details, and at the end, when they hadn’t found anything, he’d gone ‘to be honest, Miss Toksvig, I just wanted to meet you’.

The first bit is about the transgender community of tax inspectors in Pakistan that are sent to embarrass people who don’t pay taxes by dancing in their shops until they do. Not a ton of very PC responses here, though Dara brings up a good point of ‘there’s only so many transgender people in Pakistan…they have to be very busy, they’re belting out ‘I am what I am’ in shops every day…”

Sandi, on the ways of annoying tax-avoiders: “What do we do here, then? Morris dancing outside people’s shops?”

I like that so far, Al is playing the game, going for the questions, as a guest star would, and focusing less on cracking jokes. With Dara here, I feel like there’s already the ‘bald funny guy’ quota checked off.

Sandi: “I once bought a racehorse by mistake…”
Dara: “What had you originally gone into the shop for?”
Sandi: “…I was there as a tax inspector…”
Dara: “You wanted a pint of Activia pouring yogurt, and you got a racehorse..”
Sandi: “…oh you HEARD about my little problem I had…”

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 4.25.58 PM.pngSandi: “That house would make a great Advents calendar…”
Alan: “Yeah, there’d have to be a HUGE chocolate behind it…”

Alan, on the narrow houses of Norway: “It’d be nice to have the stairs in a spiral,  but there should be a pole down.”
Stephen: “Have you even been down a fireman’s pole?”
Al, seeing the double-entendre: “…no, I haven’t..”
Stephen: “You really TRIED to keep a straight face…”

Stephen, on fireman’s poles: “It’s horribly squeaky, as well. They should be oiled.”
[A moment of laughter]
Al: “Well oil’s FLAMMABLE…you can’t turn up at a FIRE covered in oil…”

Stephen, still on fireman protocol: “Two machines a breast is usual, and-”
Alan: “Sorry, I just thought of breasts. Like ‘two machines?'”
Stephen: “TWO MACHINES PER BREAST?”
Sandi: “It was an odd moment, Alan, but I was with you…”

Stephen asks for the highest-paid sportsman of all time, and behind-screen shows pictures of Tiger Woods, David Beckham and (I believe) Rafael Nadal.
Sandi: “I assume it’s not one of those…”
Alan: “I was gonna SAY one of those…I was gonna say the one on the left.”
Stephen: “Were you? Well, not the best LAID-”
KLAXON
Alan, since he didn’t actually say Tiger Woods, looks around, betrayed, going ‘THIS IS RIDICULOUS!’
Dara: “THOUGHT CRIME! THOUGHT CRIME FOR ALAN DAVIES!”

Alan: “Is it true that people were killed in the filming of Ben Hur?”
Stephen: “Yes, in the silent film, the original-”
Sandi: “But you couldn’t hear them…”
Alan: “A card comes up: “AAAAAHHHHH”
[i laughed harder than I should have at this]

Stephen: “Who had to return to their birthplace for the census?”
Sandi: “….this is going to be one of those things where we say ‘Joseph and Mary’…and it isn’t Joseph and Mary because that isn’t what you wa-”
KLAXON
Sandi: “Yeah, it isn’t that at all, because-“Z
Al: “Tiger Woods?”

Stephen mentions the biblical prophecy mentions “the stem of Jesse. Does anyone know what that is?”
Sandi: “…there’s so many answers, I don’t even know where to begin…what time is this broadcast?”
[Second show in a row where someone asks THAT…]

Stephen spills a portion of rejected bible scripture, about an infant Jesus standing up and defeating a dragon.
Stephen: “Wouldn’t you have paid more attention in Sunday school if that had been in there?”
Al: “And you’re reading that in your Harry Potter voice as well…”

Stephen: “Now, what did the 2001 census reveal as the 4th largest religion in Britain?”
Alan: “…this is gonna go off, but I’m gonna say Jedi…”
Stephen: “OHHHHHHHH”
KLAXON

I will say that there haven’t been this many klaxons in a show since the early series, and this is feeling a ton like a Late-series-A show, in the best way possible. The panel is balanced, everybody’s making jokes, the guest star is focused on playing the game.

Stephen mentions a moment from last series (Horrible), where Dara mentioned that ‘surely, fish don’t have tongues’, and Stephen brushed him off.
Dara: “No, you stood over me, I remember vividly, with a cane, and you BEAT ME, saying ‘YOU ARE HERE AT MY MERCY!”

After Dara is given points, as fish actually don’t have tongues.
Sandi: “i’m sorry, is he gonna get points for something…and we weren’t even THERE?”
Al: “I know LOADS of stuff I haven’t said…”

Stephen, to Sandi: “Don’t feel bad. You may get points in…two years’ time.”
Dara: “Someday, when you least expect it, you’ll be sitting, having coffee, and Stephen Fry will appear and go ‘…some points.”

Stephen: “But what is this fake-tongue actually for?”
Al: “…FOOLING…Dara O’Briain.”

This questions ends up being a Nobody Knows question, which nobody gets.
Sandi: “If I do it now, will I get points in 3 years?”

On the Dollar Bill’s ‘all-seeing-eye’, Dara: “…so, a COMMITTEE decided on that? That’d be remarkable whether you get it past a committee.”
Alan: “So we’re all agreed! Floating eye on top of the pyramid!”
Dara: “Yeah, a freaky, disembodied eye. We all like that? ‘YEAH, SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA!'”
Alan: “I STILL WANT THE COCK-AND-BALLS!”

Stephen offers points if the panelists can name english words derived from the native Mexican language pre-European invasion
Sandi: “Chocolate?”
Stephen: “Yes, that’s one.”
Sandi: “….I’ve run out.”
Alan: “Burrito?”

After Dara gets a point for ‘tequila’ even if it was process of elimination.
Al: “That’s not knowledge, that’s a crapshoot!”
Stephen: “…welcome to QI…”

Stephen: “What did Prince Albert invent?”
Alan: “Ohhhh, cock ring.”
Stephen: “OHHHHHHH”
KLAXON
Alan’s buzzer: “AYAYAYAYAYAY-”
Alan: “….the combover.”

Stephen: “What noise does a mute swan make? And you’re allowed to do an impression if you’d like.”
Sandi, gruff-cockney voice: “…ALLO.”
Alan: “…I can break yer arm!”
Al: *mimes talking with nothing coming out*
KLAXON

Overall: A surprisingly fun show, made possible by a tone that brought us back to the earlier, spryer eras of the show, as well as deconstructing what made the show great. Alan and Al were great suppliers of klaxons, and Sandi and Dara were great suppliers of jokes, with an emphasis on Sandi’s work, as she did a pretty nice job of keeping things funny and not boring people to tears.

MVP: Sandi
Best Guest: Dara
Show Winner: Sandi
Best QI Fact: Prime Minister and AA
Best Runner: Dara’s leftover points.

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QI Watchdown: I9 (Illness), or The Michael Winner Joke Hour

QI this season had started a trend of booking two panelists with very similar interests or comedy styles, and a third that contradicts the first two. For instance, having Sandi and Clive, two very cultured comics, and then throwing in Henning Wehn, a quieter, more broad German humorist; or perhaps having Sean Lock and Frank Skinner, two picky, annoyed comedians who go for the jugular, and the meeker-by-comparison John Bishop.

Tonight, we feature Andy Hamilton and Jo Brand, two short people with wry senses of humor that have been known to either make or break huge panels…and then a newcomer, Dr. Ben Goldacre, an acclaimed science writer, essentially the Brian Cox of the medical and pharmaceutical world. This will be interesting.

Thanks to the theme, they’re all in doctor’s outfits. Which is a nice gimmick.

The buzzers are a nice 3 vs. 1 throwback: Jo, Andy and Ben have sounds heard in a doctor’s office, like sneezing and coughing. Alan’s is the somber death march.

The show starts with Stephen giving the panelists a questionnaire on their sleep cycles. Jo responds by falling asleep on the desk.

Stephen: “There’s a theory that only men are prone to napping. Jo, do you ever nap during the day?”
Jo: “Only during sex.”
Alan: “Is that…doing sex or watching sex?”
Jo: “…either. I don’t mind.”

Stephen, on using antimony as a constipation aid.
Stephen: “Once it had passed through, you would then…rummage through your leavings…and wash it, and use it again.”
Alan: “RUMMAGE THROUGH YOUR LEAVINGS?”
Stephen: “Wasn’t quite sure how to put it…”
Alan: “I’m gonna use that from now on…”

Stephen: “And these things would get handed from father to son, through generations…”
Alan: “My father’s leavings, and his father’s leavings as well…”
Andy: “THAT is the earlier example of a repeat perscription…”

This is just an observation, but Ben Goldacre looks like how Milton Jones looked before the explosion.

After Ben has another anecdote about John Harvey Kellogg and his anal-yogurt methods.
Andy, curiously: “What time’s this show going out?”

Andy grabs an early Nobody Knows card by saying that no one really knows how Placebos work. To be honest, neither does Brian Molko.

Stephen says that ‘studies show’ isn’t a very logical way of believing someone, and that Ben will want to know the specifics of the study.
Ben: “…to be fair, I think that this show is actually more guilty of that than anyone else-”
Stephen, trying to shoosh him: “MUUHHHRLXGJDFGLJ”

Stephen mentions that there’s a lot of vomiting in space, in zero-gravity.
Alan: “What, drifting around the cabin?”
And then Alan mimes eating a bit of floating vomit. So far, this has been a very highbrow show…

Stephen: “D’you know what causes seasickness, though?”
Jo, rolling her eyes: “Is it going up and down on the sea?”

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 6.00.22 PM.pngStephen: “Oh, that must be from the film of A Perfect Storm.”
Alan: “Oh, it HAS to be from a film. I can’t imagine that to be an exceptionally good photograph taken from another boat..”

A great deal of Jo Brand’s jokes tonight have to do with Michael Winner, which means either she ran out of ‘my husband’ jokes, or her ghost-writer is Ian Hislop from 1995.

Stephen: “You’ve really got it in for the Winster, haven’t you?”
Jo: “I have.”
Andy: “Is this because he hasn’t been returning your calls, Jo? Is that what it is?”

Andy, after another Winner joke: “I’ve got this fantasy of Michael Winner sat at home going ‘It’s Friday…what shall I do? I know, I’ll watch QI. Jo Brand’s on. She’s my favorite!”

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 6.07.18 PM.pngStephen, ever one to keep a joke going: “…who the hell is THAT?”
Alan: “I don’t know, but that’s what the girl’s thinking as well…”
Stephen: “They’re all thinking ‘I WOULD’, aren’t they?”

Interestingly, Ben says that the latest DSM is coming out in 2013. Not a ton of psychologists seem to like that one, especially in terms of how it refers to autism.

Stephen, having the panelists guess a potential DSM-IV term: “Sluggish cognitive tempo disorder.”
Andy: “CAN’T DANCE.”
Stephen: “…guilty feet have got no rhythm..”

The good part about this episode is that Stephen can turn to Ben whenever he needs an expert opinion on a topic, or a question, and he’s…really nice. Unlike, say, Brian Cox, he doesn’t always join in and joke with the panelists, but he’s still making this a very educational episode.

Ben, while on a topic, says: “it was about saying ‘desire is a matter of…clitoral bloodflow imaging, and…nitric oxide molecules in your body-”
Alan: “I think that might have been the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. Clitoral bloodflow imaging?”
Stephen: “….DOT COM?”

Stephen: “Who was the last british monarch to be deliberately killed?”
Jo: “Was it one of the ones who got beheaded?”
Stephen: “Uhhhhhhh…no. You’ve managed to avoid saying Charles the 1st, whom most people think-”
Jo: “Yeah, only because I couldn’t blood remember which one it was…”

On the doctor that gave King George V a lethal injection, Stephen, reading from the doctor’s diary, goes: “I did it myself, because it became obvious that Sister Bea, the king’s nurse, was DISTURBED by the procedure…”
Alan: “SO I INJECTED SISTER BEA AS WELL…”
And I’m gone.

Stephen: ‘What would you call a man who eats literally everything?”
Jo: “Winner!”
KLAXON: MICHAEL WINNER.

Stephen: “He eventually proceeded to drink the blood of patients and eat some of the corpses in the morgue…”
Jo: “You know who’s like that, don’t you?”
Laughter.
Jo: “I don’t even need to say it anymore, do I?”

It’s a nice detail that Jo puts, in the name column on her sleep survey, ‘JO MARLON BRANDO’

Stephen, reading over Andy’s: “Your total, which you haven’t bothered to do, and thank you so much for that-”
Andy: “I got too TIRED!”

Stephen, top of GI: “Why shouldn’t you sleep with a dog?”
Andy, channeling Sean Lock: “He won’t respect you in the morning, will he?”

There’s a runner in GI with Stephen, going back to an earlier bit about the preposterousness of said statement, ending every fact with ‘and above all, be sure to avoid fatty and spicy foods.’ And he just keeps going with it!

It’s funny- when Andy is announced as 1st place, you can hear a disappointed Jo go ‘ohhh’ in the background. She, as well as I, was hoping Stephen would go ‘TONIGHT’S WINNER!’, so Jo could make one more Michael Winner joke.

Overall: I might even say this was better than the last episode thanks to the Michael Winner runner, the fatty and spicy foods runner, and a bit more teamwork and equality than, ironically, the episode about Inequality. Still, I’d call this one an ‘alright’ show was well, because it never really broke out of ‘good’, and there weren’t any HUGE moments, even if there was an Alan line that I loved, or some good moments from Andy. Jo had the best show, by not sticking to her laurels and having a nice time, though Andy should be commended as well. Ben had a nice showing, but wasn’t as inclusive as Brian Cox.

MVP: Jo
Best Guest: Andy
Show Winner: Andy
Best QI Fact: recycled antimony
Best Runner: Michael Winner.

QI Watchdown: I8 (Inequality), or How About Some Marrowing?

From an episode literally about smashing ewoks into a lake of farts to a more cultured, sophisticated QI, featuring Clive Anderson and Sandi Toksvig, a pairing made famous when one was calling the other short, and the other was calling the first one bald. And in the other corner, we have German comedian Henning Wehn. This should definitely be different from E7.

Stephen: “Now, tonight’s show is about inattention…and ineptitude. Alan, what is tonight’s show about?”
Alan, caught off-guard: “…inattention and ineptitude.”
KLAXON. RIGHT OFF THE BAT.

Stephen announces that this show will be about unfairness, so something will be fair…so he starts the show by announcing that Sandi has won with 54.

I love that Henning’s buzzer is a high-pitched ‘DON’T MENTION ZE VAAAR’. I’m half expecting Sean Lock to pop out and start miming machine gun fire.

Right off the bat, Sandi gets a klaxon by saying that a statue, marked as ‘the puritan’, is of…a puritan.
Alan: “THAT is unfair..”

Stephen reassures Sandi that “It doesn’t matter, because you’ve already won.”
Sandi: “You know, I’m quite relaxed about the whole show…”

With Henning’s first line, I already like him: “Puritans, they regarded luxury as sinful, didn’t they? So some of them set off for America, and the others opened B&Bs in Britain.”

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 12.36.38 AM.pngAlan: “In this painting, did that Native there…did he bring that tree, to hide behind?”

Stephen says that a man in 1600s Connecticut was put to death for ‘lying with a beast’, or in this case a local pig.
Clive, putting it together: “He laid with a pig…”
Sandi: “Did George have his end away with a piece of pork?”
Clive: “No, he fancied a bit of crackling, that’s all…”

Stephen says the pig was brought on trial, and both the pig and George were executed.
Sandi: “Did the pig just shyly look at George in a kind of…’I remember that night’ way?”
Alan: “The pig came in and said ‘THAT BASTARD! HE NEVER *RANG*…HE JUST *USED* ME!”

Sandi: “Did you know that in Alabama, it is illegal to wear a fake mustache in church THAT CAUSES LAUGHTER.”
Clive, who is KILLING IT tonight: “they nabbed Groucho Marx on that one…”

(By the way, we’re 11 minutes in, and Henning’s said one thing. Quiet fellow, but funny when he does talk.)

Alan talks of a radio interview with an actress who’d been playing Lara Croft (after Jolie…and before Vikander?)
Alan: “Cut a long story short, they airbrushed her nipples out of the poster. Her nipples were showing through her costume…”
Clive: “But this was RADIO…”

Sandi tells an anecdote about doing a sitcom with ‘the lovely Mike McShane’. With Sandi and Clive in the same room. Man, this reminds me of a watchdown I should be doing fairly soon…

Sandi: “Mike was playing a sort of sex expert, and we were figuring out what would be in his apartment, and he would have a coat rack made entirely of penises. And this went to the Channel 4 lawyers, who said ‘yes, well you can have the penises, just as long as they’re not erect.’, and I said ‘…well, how will it work as a coat-rack, then…”
The panel spends about 15 seconds laughing at this, as Stephen tries to demonstrate how to hang a coat on a bunch of flaccid penises.
Sandi, after the laughter subsides: “…not my specialist area, but nevertheless…”

Stephen, in talking of the prince of Wales, reminds the audience that it’s only a recent development that child abuse has become frowned upon, and that it’s now illegal.
Sandi: “IT IS??? [cringes] Just on the way here, a small urchin annoyed me…”

Stephen has a snafu about Sarah Ferguson: “As that would the day that she would be marrowing- sorry, marrying…or, MARROWING Prince Andrew.”
Alan: “She loved marrowing Prince Andrew”
Sandi: “I think marrowing is illegal now.”
Clive: “Now, that’s a great phrase. ‘Well, then, how about some marrowing!”

Sandi, summing up the show so far: “D’you know…this is the most fun a Danish person has had with a German since 1945…”
Henning, pressing his buzzer: “DON’T MENTION ZE VAAAR!’

Henning has a very nice rant about how British people are so entitled about a war that they were too young to fight in, and you can tell he’s very passionate and very enthusiastic, but he’s not finding a ton to relate to in terms of the questions tonight.

Stephen talks of the train companies’ strategy of making the people on the third class cars look dirty so people would pay for 1st class.
Clive: “DON’T SAY THIS OUT LOUD…because i’m sure Ryanair will have an idea…”

Stephen explains how weird it is to here a German talking about cricketer terms, such as a ‘Yorker’.
Henning: “What’s a googly, then?”
Stephen, knowing what’s coming, cracks up: “A googly is, uh…”
KLAXON.

Sandi talks of a cricket game on St. Helena, “and they were playing on a pitch which was by a cliff edge, and the gentleman ran back to catch the ball…and DID catch it, and then fell unfortunately. It was put down as “caught [dead]”

Stephen talks of Oakland Raiders defender Lester Hayes, who covered his hands in ‘Stick-Em’. As the son of a Raiders fan, I’ve heard this one a few times before.

ANNNND THEN, Stephen talks of 3-foot-5-inch pinch hitter Eddie Gaedel of the St. Louis Browns, another one I’ve heard about.

Henning, after his ‘DON’T MENTION ZE VAAAAR’ buzzer sounds: “…ah, I forgot about dat…”
Clive: “We haven’t…”

On why the lepers were given bells:
Stephen: “It was to attract people, to give them arms…No, NOT ‘GIVE THEM ARMS’ IN THAT SENSE…”

Stephen: “I mean, most of us are unlikely to catch leprosy even if…even if we LICK a leper..”
Sandi: “Now THERE’S a game show…”
Clive: “Why do I see Noel Edmunds presenting that?”

Overall: A merely alright show, though, as it’s Series I, better than most merely alright QIs that have been. My main gripe is that the panelists weren’t exactly unified. Sandi would tell her various interesting stories, Alan would make cracks about the behind-screen paintings, and Henning would occasionally say something relevant and funny. The only person who truly worked on connecting and making jokes was Clive Anderson, and sadly this is one of Clive’s last QIs. I always enjoyed how different Clive was here than he was as the strict, stoic disciplinarian on Whose Line.

MVP: Clive
Best Guest: Sandi
Show Winner: Sandi
Best QI Fact: The dirty third class
Best Runner: mentioning ze war.

QI Watchdown: I7 (Incomprehensible), or When you say ‘Tossing Ewoks into a lake of farts’..

I feel like most of QI has been building to this episode.

Back in Series G, there was an episode where QI’s embodiment of ridiculous humor, Johnny Vegas, went toe-to-toe with QI’s then-supplier of interesting information, Rob Brydon, and the two ideologies clashed as the episode went on, while David Mitchell just sort of watched.

Tonight, Ross Noble, one of the most ridiculously funny people QI has ever had on, will be playing with Professor Brian Cox, one of the smartest men in the UK, one of the most charismatic informational presenters, and a guy who made Dara O’Briain look like the stupid one (which harkens back to Chris Addison’s Dara impression-‘So, WHAT YOU’RE SAYING, PROFESSOR COX, IS THAT IN A PARALLEL UNIVERSE, THERE IS A ME, WITH HAAAAAAIR”That’s right, Dara…’)

And then, on the other end, you have Sue Perkins there to watch.

The buzzers are funny tonight. Sue’s is a child’s voice saying ‘WHO DID IT, DADA?’ (which she says is ‘a million types of wrong, there’). Ross’s is a bunch of telephone sped up voices, which he unsuccessfully tries to imitate.
Alan’s is just a ton of Alan voices all played at once.
Brian: “…was that your internal dialogue?”
Alan: “I think so!”

Brian, on the rodent noise question, vouches for the animal language person: “my director on one of my documentaries got a phD from Oxford, studying frog communication.”
Stephen: “…he was a professor of French.”

Brian: “We sat out there in the Outback, and he was able to discern three words.”
Sue: “Was one of them ‘ribbit’?.”

Ross: ‘[the prairie dog’s] got that fact because he’s got Philip Scofield’s hand up his bum…”
Stephen: “Ohhh, THAT takes me back…”
The audience, of course, takes this the exact wrong way-
Stephen: “No, WHEN I SAY THAT TAKES ME BACK…”

Stephen explains that prairie dogs are able to distinguish height and color, but not gender.
Ross: “Apparently, if a transvestite in a tartan approaches, they explode…”

Stephen asks what the Pope’s librarian initially thought of Saturn’s rings, and Brian mentions that Galileo jokingly thought that the planet had ears.
Stephen: “No, I’m not talking about something SENSIBLE, I’m talking about the librarian for the POPE…”

And then…this bit:
Stephen: “He genuinely believed that after Christ’s ascension to Heaven…the rings of Saturn…were where he put his foreskin…”
Brian: “FIFTY THOUSAND MILES ACROSS! IMAGINE THE SIZE…”
Stephen: “They weren’t aware of that-”
Sue: “Gee, I need a place to hang this massive foreskin on…”

Brian, after hearing of said librarian’s dissertation: “This is how to interest teenagers in astronomy…”

(There’s a pretty stinging Mock the Week swipe that Alan has, but…I’m gonna let that slide, seeing as I rather enjoy that program…or at least Series’ 1-15 of it…)

Brian becomes the first NON-ALAN person to get the ‘Nobody Knows’ bonus, for saying that nobody really knows how the rings of saturn were formed. Right up his alley, too.

As Stephen congratulates the ‘true scientist’ for guessing the answer, Alan goes ‘AHEM’, and we cut and see he’s had his card up as well.
Stephen: “….well done, NOW…”

After Brian takes some time with some truly interesting information on the moons of Saturn:
Ross, earnestly: “Of all these moons…and this is the one thing I wanted to ask you, of all these moons, which one is MOOOST likely to be the home to Ewoks?”
[And the audience goes wild, of course, because this is a great moment.]
Brian, rebounding like a champ: “It would be, uh…TITAN, actually. It has a thicker atmosphere than the earth, so….you’d…need to be furry…”
Ross nods, approvingly, and starts jotting it down. I’m just glad these two polar opposite mindsets could work together to make something hysterical.

And then Stephen, being Stephen, goes ‘you’re just gonna have to destroy the one that has Jar-Jar Binks on it, I suppose…”

Stephen talks of astronauts seeing penguin poop from space.
Ross: “Yeah, they pile it up like toothpaste, and they put it together to spell out ‘Piss Off Spacemen’..”

It’s mentioned that helium’s the 2nd-most abundant gas on the planet. When asked why, Sue keeps perking up and going ‘squeaky voices’.
Eventually this gets her a KLAXON (“Making your voice go funny”), and she rears back in a Jo-Brand-esque arms-out stance. Like, her works here is done.

Okay, here’s why I like Brian Cox. Unlike somebody like John Sessions or Rory McGrath, Brian Cox has all of this knowledge not from the desire to pedantic, but from years of experience and studying. He’s lived all of this knowledge, in terms of astronomy and such, and he can take this knowledge and make it interesting, knowing full well that QI’s a comedy program as well as an informational show. His information enhances that of a given topic, rather than just being random, trivial knowledge. Hell, he might even rank higher than Gyles Brandreth in this regard.

Also, what’s even better is when Ross pitches a ridiculous question, Brian can actually use science to theoretically answer it, even if, after another iteration of this, Sue’s going ‘OW, MY BRAIN…’

Stephen: “When…is the present?”
Sue: “Ohhhh…I’m not gonna fall into that trap. WHO’S gonna say it?”

There’s a nice runner where whenever Brian says something intelligent, both Ross and Alan start taking notes, even out of context.
Alan: “the sun has exploded….we’ve eight minutes to live…”

After Brian says that all electrons are just the one electron going through time several times.
Ross: “I have a feeling that when you’re late for a meeting, you’re an absolute nightmare…’you were supposed to be here 8 minutes ago”well…actually…’ ‘OH, GOD, HE’S DOING IT AGAINNNN…”

Stephen starts lighting candles to start a new topic.
Ross: ‘Is this the point where we all have to kneel down and pray to Jesus’ foreskin?’

Brian makes a point about nitrogen gas being heavier than air, and pushing all the air to the top of the lift. So people can suffocate, even if it’s Nitrogen.
Ross: “Every Al Queda cell that’s watching this tonight is going ‘WE’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT!”

Stephen talks of a professor dipping a fresh rose in liquid nitrogen, and smashing it on the table, saying it was shockingly beautiful. Nobody else on the panel seems to share this sentiment.
Stephen: “I think you’re humoring me. I think you want me to go back to foreskins.”
Ross: “No, I think it’s a hilarious Valentine’s Day prank.”
Brian: “Imagine if they did that on Saturn’s moon titan, where the atmosphere is so cold-”
Ross, fetching his notebook: “Hold on, TITAN? THAT THE ONE WHERE THE EWOKS LIVE! HANG ON! Basically you’re saying that you can SHATTER an ewok!”
Brian: “YES!”
Brian: “It’s got layers of liquid methane, because it’s so cold. It has the consistency of water, so there’s methane rain, methane snow. There’s a lake of methane that’s the size of Lake Superior.”
Sue: “Methane, which is essentially a fart? Liquid fart? I don’t wanna go there! Strike it off!”
Ross: “If I could stand on a planet, and throw an ewok into a lake of farts, that would be-”
John: “Well, you couldn’t because it’d shatter…”
Ross: “……EVEN BETTER!”
Stephen: “It’s your heaven. Everyone has their own heaven, and that’s yours.”
Ross: “Hang on, when you say ‘tossing ewoks into a lake of farts’…
Stephen, seeing where he’s going: “STEADY…”
Ross, smiling: “That’s EXACTLY what I meant…”

Ross: “You know what? After this show finishes, I’m off. I don’t care. You’ll never see me again. ‘Where is he?’ ‘He’s off tossin’ ewoks again..into his lake of farts.”

Stephen, trying to keep the show going: “What variety of lettuce did they serve on board the titanic?”
Sue: “Iceberg!”
KLAXON
Sue collapses into that same Brand-esque ‘don’t care’ pose from earlier.

Stephen says there may have been 700 heads of lettuce because that’s just how much was saved.
Sue: “They SAVED the lettuce but not the people? FIFTEEN HUNDRED PEOPLE DIED! And they went ‘GET THE LETTUCE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD…”

Stephen: “No, it was actually 7000 heads of lettuce.”
Ross: “No wonder the bloody thing sank, then. It was filled with lettuce…”
Brian: “Hey, lettuces float!”
Ross: “…THEN WHY DID IT SINK, THEN? WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?”

There’s a round where the panel has to complete slogans for areas of the UK.
Stephen: “Welcome to Northamptonshire, let yourself-”
Sue: “…down.”
Ross: “‘let yourself out..'”

Stephen: ‘Welcome to Tower Hamlets, let’s make it ______”
Alan: ‘…out alive.”

Stephen, on satnavs: “I’ve just done voice for them, so that-”
Ross: “What, does it go ‘Turn left- now the interesting thing about…”
Alan: “Did you do it as if you were talking to me? LEFT, MORON!”
Ross: “If you make a left turn instead of making a u-turn, does the [klaxon] come on, and ‘WAAAAH-WAAAH-WAAHH…”

Sue nabs the SECOND ‘Nobody Knows of the night, by saying that nobody really knows the correct definition of a galaxy. Man, everybody’s just intelligent all-around tonight, even Ross Noble…

Overall: A truly fascinating show, not only being truly informative and thought-provoking, but also being truly hysterical. Ross Noble’s interactions with Professor Brian Cox made for some of the funnier moments of the series, and Sue Perkins had some insanely funny moments herself, leaving Alan with the least extraordinary day. Brian definitely seemed like he was enjoying himself, and was definitely the right person for this show, capable of spewing knowledge, as well as being able to laugh at himself (and mostly at Ross Noble.)

MVP: Brian
Best Guest: Ross
Show Winner: Brian
Best QI Fact: Goat-webs
Best Runner: Throwing ewoks into a lake of farts.

Every Never Mind the Buzzcocks Guest Host, Ranked (Part Three)

Alright Folks…now for the real countdown.

Out of all 59 guest hosts, the ones in this post are, in my humble opinion, the 20 best. There was something about the way they hosted that captivated me, entertained me, impressed me, and made me laugh like hell. I’m gonna note here that this may not be everyone’s opinion, that I may have ranked some people too high, or too low. But this is my list, and I think I did a pretty good job feeling out where everyone belonged.

Right. Onto #20, a show I was outwardly fearing..

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#20- James Blunt (Series 25 Episode 8)

Talk about a guy who knows exactly who he is.

What I like about James Blunt is that he’s probably heard every ‘James Blunt sucks’ joke there is, and still manages to be funny, and an amazing sport. When it came time for him to host Buzzcocks, after a fantastic appearance on the Terry Wogan show, he was prepared, and he went at it with high energy and some nice, if Tokvig-esque whip-fast, reads.

I do have to say that the majority of the show was the panel screwing in him, not just on his status as a punchline, but as it came out that he’d had relations with, and I quote ‘20% of the Pussycat Dolls’. That joke alone gave the panel, including Sarah Millican and Matthew Crosby, enough fuel for the rest of the night. Even better, James was a fantastic sport, never being afraid to make fun of himself. His reads would occasionally slip, and sometimes his quick presenting would impede with jokes, but he had a fantastic night, and proved that within the punchline was a legitimately funny performer.

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#19- David Tennant (Series 23 Episode 12)

In 2009, just as David Tennant was wrapping up his beloved run as a certain timelord, he agreed to do a run on some panel shows, to give back, and have one last Who-related run in the spotlight. His show on QI was wonderful, but for Buzzcocks, he decided to do something special. He made the whole show a DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL, rolling out two of his Who compadres, Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins, and two celebrity Who fans, Jo Whiley and Jamie Cullum, and peppered the entire show with Ood, Cybermen, Daleks, and a giant TARDIS sitting outside the range of the panel. To say it was Buzzcocks’ most ambitious themed show was an understatement, but it’s also one of the most rewarding, if you’re a fan of Who, and if you’re a fan of NMTB.

David was sure to let his personality shine through, by revealing that he’s an unabashed Coldplay fan, and having a running gag angrily shouting the name of a certain fellow Who-verse star. He was also great at the ‘hosting’ portion of the show. Like Blunt, after a while he knew when to let the panel snipe amongst themselves, especially considering Tate’s mental breakdown…and the fact that Bernard Cribbins became the show’s secret weapon. Even if David’s off-the-cuff abilities were sort of down, he still made sure everyone enjoyed themselves, and oh boy did they…

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#18 – Lorraine Kelly (Series 25 Episode 3)

Fresh off the rebranding of Series 25, and two forgettable, unnerving shows, Lorraine Kelly brought us a breath of life from a series that many thought was about to go south. Kelly, contrasting from her squeaky-clean morning show persona, introduced a swear box, spanking paddle, and halfway through the show waxed Phill’s legs. So in terms of morning show presenters, Lorraine Kelly was willing to bend over backwards to put them all in the dust.

It helped that, as a presenter, she didn’t have a problem hosting the show, or keeping the show running smoothly, but she was also responsible for being really funny, and leading to some ‘how the hell is that coming out of Lorraine Kelly’s mouth’ moments. She had this joking way of flirting with some of the contestants, which backfired in a way when her bra sort of exploded during a take, leading the entire panel to improvise around her. She was collaborative, funny, and melded well with everyone on the panel, even if the occasional dip to the well of sexy humor may have distracted from her endeavor of hosting the show.

Still, her show was something of a classic, and her presence ramped up the show into one of the craziest recordings in Buzzcocks history (and half of it wasn’t even Tony Law’s fault.)

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#17 – Lee Mack (Series 24 Episode 8 & Series 26 Episode 5)

Like Jack Dee, Lee Mack’s another instance of a guy who was sensational on his first time out, and whose 2nd hosting gig pushed him down a few pegs, though the strength of his first outing has pushed him up to #17. I don’t think anybody’s been more on top of his game than Lee on the Series 24 show. Every second, the breath of the comedy gods was flowing through him, and he was giving some spectacular off-the-cuff material, in addition to keeping the show tight. He managed to go off on a tangent on the proper flight attendant uniform, Andrew Stone’s proclamation is that a triple threat is someone who can sing, dance, act, and is coming for you, and his former roommate Noel Fielding.

Additionally, his off the cuff skills led to one of my favorite moments of this era, the entire ‘BATMAAAAN’ Intros round, with Lee commanding the audience to join in, and eventually buckling at the one renegade audience member who does it a third time. Lee was able to work that stage to the point where he could have hosted the show full-time.

However…his second show was sloppily hosted, sloppily structured by the producers, and just a weak effort compared to his last show. Lee spent an entire 3-minute bit completely mis-doing a teleprompter read, and while it was funny and well reacted-to, it was still hard to see from a guy who did it all so well the last time. It was, frankly, a disappointing show, but it didn’t come close to taking away from how strong Lee Mack could be when left to his own devices. As a Buzzcocks host, he was dominant, fast, and insanely likable, in good times and bad.

Moving onto another fellow who’s worked with David Mitchell…

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#16- Robert Webb (Series 24 Episode 11)

It’s great- when I saw Rob Webb was hosting, I thought ‘yeah, he’ll be alright’. I never thought he’d be THIS GOOD. Like, I was floored with how active he was in the show, and with the contestants, as he was always, in my opinion, the more passive member of Mitchell and Webb.

It helped that Webb was given the comedy goldmine of having Chris Packham on the show, and while Chris was an amazing sport, and a great guy to have on the show…the amount of animal-knobbing jokes beckoned, and Rob was there to help, as well as screw with Cee-Lo Green and Example. He was also dynamite in terms of material, giving some great reads off the prompter, and giving the entire room a belly-laugh after a Sinitta joke.

I’m impressed because I wasn’t expecting him to come out this strong, and he ends up completely ruling the show, and giving one of the strongest efforts from a branded comedian the show’s seen. Even Chris Packham would agree.

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#15- Ricky Wilson (Series 18 Episode 3)

In 2006, the Kaiser Chiefs were the biggest rock band in London, and Ricky Wilson was one of the best young guest panelists that Never Mind the Buzzcocks had to offer. Hosting the show was something of a foregone conclusion, but, as a lot of musicians jumping from guest to host has shown on this list, it doesn’t always go well. Luckily for Ricky Wilson, he managed to host one of the single greatest episodes to not be hosted by Mark Lamarr. And I don’t just say that lightly.

Ricky Wilson was in a fantastic mood that night, not only riding high off the Chiefs’ success, but because he was really jazzed to be hosting the show, and it SO SHOWED. There were several moments where he just flat out had conversations with people, like Colin Murray and Ryan Jarman, just shot the shit. He did eventually have a show to host, and while his reads weren’t PERFECT, he was definitely charismatic enough, and at the same time serious enough, to carry the show.

He was responsible for hosting while TWO classic runners popped up- Ryan Jarman claiming that he’d invented Live 8, and Phill’s entire team deciding to mail the show in and aim to end the show with 0 points. Ricky was stern on both accounts, screwing with Ryan, and playfully rolling his eyes at Phill, even as Phill BELTED OUT various Kaiser Chiefs songs (to which he added “you’ll soon run out of Kaiser Chiefs songs. We’ve only got one record….but we’re gonna DO another one…”)

Even better, Ricky was vulnerable, accidentally making a faux-pas about Stevie Wonder (‘yeah, sorry Stevie, if you’re watching…’), and still landing on his feet. He wasn’t perfect, but with the amount of fun he was having, and the amount of joy that was clearly present in the show, he didn’t need to be.

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#14- Richard Madeley (Series 26 Episode 8)

As good as morning-show presenter Lorraine Kelly was in the host’s chair, Richard Madeley was even better. Why? Because as dirty and vulnerable as Kelly was able to go…Richard Madeley went deeper, dirtier, and crazier, to the point where Phill summed it up by saying ‘I’m going to need counseling after this show’.

Richard’s strength was not only assembling the madness that was this show, featuring Seann Walsh and Andrew O’Neil, but contributing to it. He was great at talking back at the contestants, contributing to jokes, and just having a fun time with it all. He was also great at hosting, and had some great prepared jokes.

Now…where his hosting gig gains traction is his ability to defy expectations, by saying some of the filthiest, least-Madeley-esque things, most famously involving auto-fellatio by way of wheely-bin, but also involving his co-host Judy giving him head underneath the desk. The panel went into hysterics at how un-Madeley Madeley was being, and the fun continued solely because Madeley allowed himself to kick back and enjoy himself.

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#13- Terry Wogan (Series 24 Episode 4)

Terry Wogan is one of those gets that only happens every once in a blue moon. The guy is one of the most world-renowned presenters and TV personalities, singlehandedly engineering Children in Need and the Eurovision Song Contest, and he’s the kind of guy whose kind, yet intimidating, presence can light up a room. So having someone as HUGE and PROFESSIONAL as Terry Wogan host a least-common-denominator program like Buzzcocks is a risk. Here, thankfully, it paid off.

Terry took this grand, wonderful approach to everything, and while sometimes it didn’t pay off [his reads were often a bit too plummy], his general demeanor shone through the show, offhandedly saying to Rufus Hound ‘D’you know I had no idea when I met you…the depths of your depravity?’ After even more panel shenanigans, he just looked at the camera, and yelled ‘ENOUGH OF THIS…SOCIETY ENTERTAINMENT!’

Maybe it was the fact that Terry Wogan was being undermined by Rufus Hound talking about C3P0’s genitalia, or maybe it was just the way he said it, but I don’t think Phill ever laughed harder than he did immediately after that joke.

The marvel of Terry Wogan’s hosting appearance is that literally everything he did was funnier because of the concept of Terry Wogan doing it or saying it on a panel show. Terry’s offhanded wicked sense of humor shone through in numbers, elevating even the quietest of moments, and keeping the entire panel in a fantastic mood. Though you could tell he was a bit drained by the end, and though you could tell the insanity could overwhelm and confuse him, he responded like a true professional, and had a positively wonderful time of it.

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#12- Josh Groban (Series 24 Episode 10)

Josh Groban is living proof that people can have two sides in show business. One side can be the gracious, melodic, operatic singer that gets tons of sales at Christmas. The other side can be one of the most charismatic, all-out-funny people that Buzzcocks has ever had on, and his hosting appearance mixed the best of both worlds.

The main indicator of this show’s success was the mood everyone on the panel was in, especially Michael Ball and KT Tunstall, all having nice, ‘Grobanated’ moments throughout the show. Plus, having Ball on hand as Groban, who’s a big fan of his, got to host was a nice touch.

Look, I don’t think anybody knew it in 1996, but Buzzcocks was MADE for Josh Groban. The way he can interact with the panel, the way he can crack jokes, the way he can have really nice musical moments…that’s what the show had been clamoring for since its inception. Josh was quick, concise, had great judgment, and knew how to bring the best out in everyone, especially Tinchy Stryder.

His piece de resistance was the ending, where he and Michael Ball got to sing ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. You could tell this was a childhood dream of his, and it came off as an incredibly sweet, and terrific music moment. The show wasn’t perfect, but Groban gave more charisma and enthusiasm to Buzzcocks than arguably any American ever has.

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#11- Warwick Davis (Series 27 Episode 10)

Another one of the well-planned Theme Shows, the Movies special, was hosted by the guy who’d been in so many hit movies without you even knowing it, as well as being an incredibly funny compadre to Ricky Gervais, the great Warwick Davis. I think a lot of people underestimate Warwick because of his size, when in reality he’s one of the nicest, and funniest, guys in showbiz, and it certainly showed in Buzzcocks.

Warwick did a very nice job of keeping the show together, and keeping the panel engaged, coming off as an incredibly strong proctor for a ton of big personalities, including Chris Ramsey, who Warwick even had a little pseudo-rivalry with throughout the show. He also was able to provide an exclusive, once-in-a-show-run experience, with a tiebreaker round and a bonus Willow stunt double of his in the ID Parade. So, really, instead of the producers tailoring the show to him, he basically did all the tailoring himself, and it really showed- he seemed like he was having a ball.

He was terrific off the cuff, knew when to be stern, and, more importantly, wasn’t afraid of short jokes. Plus, this was a show where the panel could have easily overtaken the host, especially with the ‘Squirrels Ate My Cake’ runner, and…it didn’t really happen. So Bravo to Warwick..

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#10- Kathy Burke (Series 26 Episode 1)

So…knowing how good Kathy Burke was on her Series 5 show, I was expecting something funny, but I wasn’t expecting her to roll out the best Series Premiere since the Mark era.

You could tell she was up to the challenge when early on, she accentuated a joke with a casual wink, and she got loads of applause for it…and then threatened to do that for every joke for the rest of the show. She was also so incredibly laid back, as per her character, that the show just had this raunchy, fun, spontaneous feel to it, like any moment there could be a fun, ridiculous moment. And with Mark Hoppus on the panel, who also shared Kathy’s off-the-cuff and dirty ideology, that’s what happened.

Most of Kathy’s material could have been cut from the same cloth as Mark Lamarr, even with an ‘I *SAY* ____’ joke in there. Kathy, luckily, was savage enough, and had this no-holds-barred attitude about her, that a great deal of the prompter jokes were sold instantly. But moreover, she was able to communicate with the contestants, especially Greg Rutherford, and be very off-the-cuff (even lampshading that Greg’s seat was supposed to be taken by Mo Farra).

Kathy Burke may not have, on paper, looked like the greatest NMTB host, but she fit SO WELL with the brand of dry, sick humor, and she hosted a hell of a show.

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#9- John Barrowman (Series 25 Episode 12)

Onto another host that seemed to infect the entire show with their brand of humor, only this one in a jollier, slightly gayer fashion.

John Barrowman’s another guy who was born for this show, being a natural performer and a guy who’s entertaining simply breathing. What makes his show, which had a few gay jokes, different from David Walliams’ is that Barrowman doesn’t use it as a gimmick. He kinda uses his musical theatre background more than he uses his gayness this show, though he does plant a smooch on both Jason Manford AND Phill Jupitus. He gave all his energy to making this not only a show to remember, but a Christmas show to remember, and all the hard work paid off.

The guy’s skills as a presenter impressed me, as his reads and jokes were spot on, and the way he collaborated with the panelists, especially both Jasons (Derulo and Manford). Plus, once he realized something pissed someone on the panel off, he decided to use it to his advantage in the most cheerily evil way possible, like Phill and his hatred of Mr. Blobby (Rhod would use this several times in S28 as well.) Honestly, you could see how much love he had for the show, and the spectacle of it.

Even in the last moments, he got everyone that was a part of the show, including the ID Parade guests, to join him center stage to sing Silent Night. John Barrowman wanted to make this the single most memorable Christmas show of the series…and he damn near succeeded, too, but there’s one that beats his…

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#8 – Bob Mortimer (Series 26 Episode 12)

Now let me explain myself.

I just said so many great things about Barrowman’s Christmas show, the spectacle, the moment, the everything. So why, pray tell, does Bob Mortimer’s show, which pulled out less stops and was less grand, rank higher? Just look at Bob’s face. Bob Mortimer is capable of making literally any program he’s on the most fun time anyone’s gonna have. He did this back in his first appearance on Buzzcocks in S1, and he did this in his Guest Captain bit…but without the use of mistletoe, musical numbers or theatrics, Bob Mortimer was able to create the most fun environment this series ever had (save for a fellow coming up in a few spots).

Bob’s bizarre humor took full hold during the show, allowing for some bizarre Christmas anecdotes and crackers. The guy had a rolodex full of old-school keyboard sound effects that he kept throwing in to crack people up, and some of his jokes, and his ID Parade names, did enough to keep people laughing for HOURS. Plus, as host, he was able to second-guess contestants, screw with them, and yell keyboard noises at them.

The patron saint of this round was the entire Next Lines round, because everybody was already really happy and giggly, but the joke answers people were giving were insanely inspired. Plus, Noel and Bob’s dynamic was wonderful, both as weird comics, and both would crack each other up throughout the night.

So while, in a perfect world, both shows would be even, the Bob show slightly has the edge for just being insanely fun and ridiculous without trying too hard to be.

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#7 – Peter Andre (Series 27 Episode 3)

He sings. He dances. He takes off his shirt. He hosts. He smiles. He trains. He toilets. He celebrities. Yet despite all that, heading towards Peter Andre’s episode, I was fearing a dud. Why? Because like James Blunt, in my head I figured that someone that’d become a punchline also had to be a not-great person as well.

Well, look. Peter Andre, like James Blunt, knows exactly who he is. And he’s able to make fun of himself, as well as take a joke about himself. Literally moment one of the show, he’s coming in with his entire camera crew from his reality show, trying to document his hosting gig from both angles. If he was actually a stuck-up prick, he wouldn’t make a big thing of it at the top of the show. Even as a b-rate singer, he knows how to entertain people.

Peter’s hosting skills were great, and he was able to appeal to everyone without coming off like he was pandering. However, you can sum up Peter’s hosting gig with one song…Insania. When the song played in in Intros, Peter just waited for it to stop…and then he became visibly frustrated…and then the entire panel started dancing to the song.

Even funnier was the full ‘Insania’ round, which started with a full two minutes of Abbott-and-Costello-esque prattling between Peter and Noel (“Who am I?” “PETER!” “YES.”) The humor in this is the fact that Peter Andre is SO INTO HOSTING THE SHOW, and the charisma is SO SHOWING…and yet Noel, and Ana Matronic are BREAKING HIM. And there are moments where he just winces to the camera, but he’s doing it for the show, and he’s doing it for the experience. The whole ‘who am I’ but went on for so long, but only because Peter committed to it. Heck, Peter even brought out Bubbla Ranks, his ‘Mysterious Girl’ collaborator, for ID Parade, and for some of Intros, which is a great use of using your hosting cred to sweeten the pot.

So no matter how much Peter Andre squirmed, winced, or rolled his eyes, you could tell how much he wanted this show to be success, and how much effort he put in to entertain everyone.

Peter, exasperated: “…who am I?”
Tony Law: “…one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, frankly…”

(ironically, we go from Peter Andre to the guy that completely obliterated him on Mock the Week…)

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#6- Greg Davies (Series 25 Episode 6)

This show must have been a present sent from the Gods for Greg Davies. Not only did he have ‘H’ from Steps, not only did he have Frankie Boyle and Holly Walsh onhand, and not only did he have the offensively dumb Amy Childs in the building…but he had Tinchy Stryder, the guy basically half his height, on his show. The amount of comedic possibilities in that equation is endless, and damn if Greg didn’t milk it for all it was worth.

The thing that stands out is just how Greg absolutely MASTERED this show. He’s probably one of the most active hosts the show’s ever had, because every second of gameplay, he was collaborating with the panel, and making jokes with, and at, them. Plus, he engineered an entire runner around objects being small to him, and GIANT to Tinchy, which worked every goddamned time. Even when Greg and Tinchy had to go over to the ID Parade together, and you could see the insane height difference, it was still ridiculously funny.

Height jokes aside, Greg was insanely active in the game, and in most of the runners. When Frankie and Amy Childs were having their ‘vajazzling’ discussion, Greg absolutely had to keep it going. Greg was also great at fueling Frankie’s fire, having worked with him on MTW a few times. Additionally, the entire joke that Tinchy measures monetary amounts in ‘range rovers’ couldn’t have kept going without Greg needling Tinchy about it.

Greg was also naturally hysterical, both off the cuff and off the prompter, and was able to control the chaos of all the personalities by keeping the game running smoothly. And yet there are five spots ahead of Greg, which means that as top-to-bottom amazing Greg Davies was, there were five hosts that did better.

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#5 – Dermot O’Leary (Series 23 Episode 10)

Dermot O’Leary is responsible for hosting the single most fun episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks of all time. It’s very rare that people leave without any animosity, or without even demented, snarky jokes being hurled at them, but this was honestly one of the safest, most peaceful environments for a NMTB episode, and you’d be lying if you say that’s not Dermot’s fault.

This was a long time coming for Dermot, who’d done one quiet appearance during the Mark era, and one personality-laden-yet-still-lower-key appearance during the Simon era. The guy started off the show with a group hug (featuring a Mariah Carey song that wouldn’t shut off properly), and interspersed the show with Peter Dickson excitedly announcing the names of the panelists (and some of the rounds), which played either post-punchline [‘PHILL JUPITUS!’] or at the behest of a contestant who wanted to geek out [‘RUSSELL TOVEY!’].

Dermot’s strength, probably learned in his time as a presenter, is he knew when to be passive, like when he allowed David O’Doherty and Noel to go on about fake panda facts, and when to be active, like when he willed JLS’ Aston Merrygold to do a backflip center stage. He also was loose enough to have a personality through his reads and jokes, and interacted with both panels, making sure everyone got screen-time and awesome moments.

By the end of the show, Michael Ball and Phill were giggling to each other, and everyone was in a fantastic mood. That’s not a ‘good show’ detriment- that’s the sign of an amazing host.

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#4 – Martin Freeman (Series 23 Episode 8)

I think, out of everyone who hosted the show in this era, Martin Freeman’s career aged the best. I mean this because when he hosted, he was famous for being on The Office, and doing some minor stuff…and as of right now he’s starred in all three Hobbit movies, he’s part of the MCU, he’s been on Fargo, he’s hosted Saturday Night Live, and he’s best known for playing John Watson on Sherlock. Most of this career-defining stuff happened after this episode. So to say this show aged well, especially considering how well Freeman did, is an overstatement.

Martin’s been portrayed as this sort of composed, stick-up-his-ass type in everything he’s been in, so to see him cut loose and throw Lamarr-style insults at Dappy and Charlie Brooker was refreshing, as well as throwing in a few of his trademark eye-rolls. He was a fantastic proctor, capable of screwing with teams when they were unable to get an answer, or more likely just screwing with Dappy when he couldn’t get all of a Next Line. He also used his professional sort of persona to make everything he said come off as genuine, even if he was taking the mick.

The thing is, I would have ranked him highly had he just been a fantastic, Mark-esque host. But what brings him up to #4 is the way he handled a certain incident on the show, where Dappy made a crack at a rather overweight member of the ID Parade…which caused Phill, in jest, to walk off.

I compare this one to the Clarkson show because, unlike just giving Phill shit about it as he went offstage, Martin was able to stay genuine, and convince Dappy that he’d legitimately just insulted Phill Jupitus, all while joining Charlie in screwing with him. He just kept this persona of ‘oh no, how could someone do this’, when all the while Phill was probably just taking a piss break, laughing his ass off. Martin absolutely sold the event, and clearly defined the side the audience should take (read: against Dappy), while still sort of trying to keep the show going, and to entertain the crap out of everyone in the room that wasn’t Dappy.

A lesser host couldn’t have handled that incident like Martin Freeman did. He took what could have been a chaotic moment and absolutely owned it, making it look like Dappy was the real victim. And to be fair, the bloke kinda deserved it.

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#3- Russell Howard (Series 27 Episode 2)

I imagine there is a difference between ‘not liking Russell Howard’ and ‘not liking Russell Howard on Mock the Week’. Because honestly, I think the latter bit is where most of the backlash has come from. Russell’s a fantastic stand-up, and has built a career on being an incredible improviser and comedian, but his material on Mock the Week, especially in comparison to Hugh Dennis and Frankie Boyle, definitely is kind of lackluster. I think he’s gotten more love as a stand-up because he’s in a medium he’s more used to.

To that end, hosting Never Mind the Buzzcocks may have worked out better for Russell than 5 years of Mock the Week did. Because Russell may have been the closest resemblance to Mark Lamarr from anyone on this era, and Russell probably gave the greatest audition for a long-term tenure as host.

The second he began, it felt like he’d done this show a million times before. Obviously Good News and Stand-Up Central had primed him for this, as his prompter-reading and audience-reading skills were already on par with the best. Also, the guy wasn’t selfish. If he was gonna make jokes, he was gonna collaborate with the whole panel, which was one of his strengths on MTW.

His biggest moments came from screwing with the panelists, in particular, Stacey Solomon and Lethal Bizzle. But HOW he screwed with them is what sets him apart from the pack. With Stacey, he took her offhanded impression of a sea-lion and turned it into an entire David Attenborough special, where he talks about animals and Stacey just does the impressions of them (i.e. “HERE WE HAVE THE MIGHTY BEAR. STACEY?”) I’ve mentioned this roughly a billion times on this blog, but it made me laugh so hard that it’s worth mentioning over and over again. Plus, with Lethal, he screwed him over his use of the term DENCH, even bringing up specific tweets (including the one that ended in ‘Hashtag Fannys’). Still, with all this teasing, I don’t think anybody left the show legitimately hating him.

He didn’t have to do anything flashy, he just hosted the show, and had some really funny material at the expense of the panelists, and just in general. Russell Howard truly impressed me in that regard, and that’s why he gets to be #3.

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#2 – Richard Ayoade (Series 26 Episode 7)

Sometimes someone gives such a tonal jolt to the show that you can’t help but ignore them. This almost happened with Simon’s ‘Family Friendly’ episode, where he tried to veer the show back into safe humor (while still having Alexei Sayle and Jack Dee on the program), but it still fell short due to Simon’s cheeky-bastard sensibilities.

Richard Ayoade came on the show, and announced up front that there would be no jokes in this episode. Likewise, he delivered one of the funniest shows in recent memory, yet he still stayed true to his word. How? Well, Richard Ayoade can literally make anything funny given the right context, and the right deadpan.

In that regard, Ayoade was perfect to host the show. He never once broke out of his droll, deadpan character, and strung the entire show along to be factual, and interesting, rather than funny. Of course this was meant in semi-jest, but Ayoade made damn sure that he looked like he was serious, going so far as reading odd facts about musical genres throughout the show, and inciting theoretical discussion whenever possible. He made the show funny through anti-humor, through subverting the expectations of the audience and giving a completely different kind of humor than what the show is known for. And in an era when the show went more broad than sophisticated in terms of humor, this was welcome.

Richard’s crowning achievement was taking an offhanded comment by guest Ed Sheeran, spinning it, and spending the entire rest of the show berating him about it. It started off as innocently as Ed saying he passes out after sex, and Richard went further, turning the whole show on his head and completely embarrassing Ed Sheeran…even after he elaborated further and further. Like the Freeman show, a lesser host wouldn’t know how to react, but Richard just used his utter confusion and multiplied it, transferring it to the entire panel, and eventually the audience.

He was also quick on his feet, and able to improvise around a stumble without breaking character, and he hosted the show so swiftly and adeptly that it felt like he’d been trained in it.

Richard Ayoade, as Buzzcocks host, was a stone wall, in that nothing fazed him, nothing got past him, and he just built on himself and got stronger as the show went on.

So, after all that, you’ve probably done the math and figured out who #1 is. If you’ve read the blog, you shouldn’t be too shocked.

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#1- Frankie Boyle (Series 23 Episode 11 & Series 24 Episode 10)

To a lot of people, this would be a lot like saying Cape Feare’s the best episode of the Simpsons, or that Goldfinger’s the best James Bond movie. Like, yeah…but that’s WAY too obvious? Do something risky, do something unusual! And to be honest, I came close to putting Ayoade at #1…but I couldn’t. I couldn’t not put Frankie Boyle at 1st place.

Frankie Boyle is the single funniest guest host this era ever had. Yes, you say, but Greg Davies was really funny! How come Frankie gets the top spot and Greg doesn’t? Well…Frankie borrowed a bit of ‘unfazeable’ material from Richard Ayoade. In both of his hosting appearances, he had some moments where he could have cracked, where he could have made an easy comment, and he came back with something incredible.

For instance:
Carol Vorderman: “Are you on Facebook, Frankie?”
Frankie: “I am.”
Carol: “What’s your Facebook name?”
Frankie: “….Frankie Boyle?”
[The audience takes a moment to laugh at this.]
Frankie: “…to be honest, Carol, I’d heard you were smarter than this…”

or even:
Frankie: “Yeah, Dappy, now HE’s a muppet…”
Professor Green: “That wasn’t very nice..”
Frankie, IMMEDIATELY: “I’m not a very nice man…Glad I could clear that up for you.”
Michelle Williams: “That’s not true, I think you ARE a nice man.”
Frankie, IMMEDIATELY: “Well, watch this…”

This is the kind of dialogue comedy writers DREAM OF. Frankie’s just so amazing at just knowing the exact right shit to say, not even taking a moment of thinking of it. When Andy Parsons made a joke about him on ‘Scenes We’d Like to See’, Frankie was literally walking onto the stage JUST AS ANDY WAS LEAVING. HE ALREADY HAD THE JOKE THOUGHT UP. IT TOOK, LIKE 2 SECONDS.

With all of that said about Frankie, did he deliver, on BOTH his shows? Yes, he did indeed. His first show was great, as he was able to deliver phenomenal lines, some polished proctoring, and some really nice Carol Vorderman slams. You could tell he was a fan of the show, and a fan of music, and was pretty cheery to be honest, while giving his trademark amount of Michael Jackson jokes and AIDS slams.

His second show was the one that singlehandedly convinced me that I needed to do a watchdown for this show. Just from the way that Goldie spent the entire episode with his gold-plated teeth against the desk, laughing so hard, you could tell how outstanding that episode was. Frankie was able to screw with Professor Green, Goldie AND Michelle Williams throughout the show, to the point where I’m honestly surprised Michelle still liked him by the end. As dominant as he was in Show 1, he was even stronger in his second show, giving one of the funniest episodes I’ve ever seen, and never once breaking a sweat or not knowing what to say. And this episode had shit that could even render Richard Ayoade speechless, especially the ‘dotty bitch’ that showed up in ID Parade.

The best part of all this is that Frankie Boyle was able to comply with BBC standards, was still able to not really filter himself, and had a tremendous time both times. And he did so well that the producers asked him to fill in for Phill the very next series, which led to ANOTHER funny episode.

Simply put, Frankie Boyle crafted two of the funniest episodes of Buzzcocks of all time, and did so not only brutally, but professionally. To me, he is the greatest Never Mind the Buzzcocks Guest Host of all time, and if he had ended up hosting the show full-time, I would have collapsed in joy.

So, those are my Guest Host rankings. You may not agree with them, but I had a ton of fun writing this up. Next up, I’m probably gonna rank some of my favorite recurring panelists. Hopefully those lists will take a smidge less effort.

Ever Never Mind the Buzzcocks Guest Host, Ranked (Part Two)

When last we met, we counted down the bottom 19 Guest Hosts in Buzzcocks history, ranging from good-intending-but-badly-executed (like Alex James) to absolutely atrocious in every way (like Tim Westwood).

Today, we’ll tackle #s 40-21, the middle of the road section of the countdown. If you’d like guidelines for the ranking, check the previous post. We’re heading right into things here:

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#40- Sara Cox (Series 27 Episode 4)

We begin this stretch of the countdown with another radio/tv presenter who, despite some enthusiasm, couldn’t really distinguish herself from the rest of the pack. Sara Cox has always been a charismatic choice for Buzzcocks, giving a really smiley performance in Series 5, and graduating to give intros to Adam Ant in Series 28. So to say that she fit on Buzzcocks was an understatement. Her hosting gig wasn’t all that memorable, though it wasn’t really her fault as much as it fell on the shoulders of guest Iggy Azalea, whose antics and demeanor were the subject of lampoon and jokes from the entire panel. Sara couldn’t really compete with Phill and Noel for the Iggy jokes, so decided to just host a ship-shape show, which, to her credit, she did. Again, great personality, but by default she falls into the ‘anyone could have hosted this show’ category.

#39- Jeremy Clarkson (Series 18 Episode 5)

I tried to keep personal bias out of this one, as I’m not particularly fond of Mr. Clarkson, so I tried to put myself in the eyes of someone who, god forbid, does enjoy his work. Would a Top Gear fan, or Clarkson fan, have enjoyed Clarkson’s NMTB bit? Well…no, not really. While this was a very funny show, and while Clarkson was allowed to be himself and snipe at Antony Costa, you could tell there was a great dissonance between the material prepared for Clarkson and the mood Clarkson showed up in. It’s not always very obvious that Buzzcocks’ jokes are written by other people, but here more than anywhere else they just stood out, perhaps due to Clarkson’s plummy, shit-eating delivery of them.

But that’s honestly not the reason he’s this low. He’s also responsible for some generally murky editing around the last half of the show. To this day, for the life of me, I’m not sure if Phill walked off because of Clarkson, and if he really meant it. All I know is that once intros started, Phill wasn’t his jovial self, and was letting Antony Costa fly through the Intros. Then, mid-round, he got up and left, without any real reason given. He just left. And from the crack Clarkson had about a minute later, saying that Phill was already at a fish-and-chip shop, I’m not being given any reason to believe it WASN’T Clarkson’s doing. So I’m left with a hard-to-watch last half of an episode that was fun for some of the wrong reasons.

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 3.22.55 PM.png#38- Catherine Tate (Series 24 Episode 2)

After putting forth one of the single most baffling appearances on the show from someone not named Bill Oddie, Catherine Tate’s hosting gig was thought as an odd choice from me going into Series 24, but after the Mark Ronson show, I was hoping for anything that was slightly coherent. Surprisingly Catherine was the coherent one, playing off her ‘am I bovvered’ catchphrase, leading a relatively ship-shape show, and having a great deal of fun. But ironically the incoherency came from Noel Fielding’s team, dubbed ‘Team Fuzzy’, featuring a jet-lagged Tulisa from N-Dubz, and a perpetually glazed Howard Marks. So it’s equally ironic to say that I remember more about the antics of Team Fuzzy, especially with Phill screwing with Howard, than I remember about the host, the lady who confused the shit out of Bernard Cribbins the year before. Again, nothing too terrible, but when you’re drowned out by Howard Marks, you’ve got to do something better.

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#37- James Corden (Series 23 Episode 1)

I’m gonna start this writeup by saying that I don’t hate James Corden as much as everybody else does. Everybody in the UK’s probably sick of him, because he presented everything over there and wasn’t terribly funny, and Frankie Boyle wants him to kill himself. I…think he’s fine? I like The Late Late Show, I think Carpool Karaoke is a good concept, and I liked when he hosted the Tonys. His mindset is just having fun and making the best out of something dark, and I can totally respect that. Literally in the first seconds of the show, he brought up the elephant in the room, Simon Amstell, and said that this wasn’t gonna be another mean era of the show, which I thought was awfully nice.

The rest of the show Corden hosted…was okay. Not good, not bad. Okay. He didn’t do a great deal of envelope-pushing, but he didn’t need to. Obviously he knew how to read an autocue, and obviously he was good at interacting with the panel, but overall nothing really stood out on his show, save for Corden’s eternally jolly demeanor. It’s hard to believe Corden was the first guest host after the Amstell era, and while he didn’t start things with a bang, he at least gave an inoffensive, harmless entry into the canon.

Ironically, we move from the first ever guest host of the ‘era’ to the LAST ever guest host of the era, and someone who’s the exact opposite of safe and inoffensive.

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#36- JOHNNY VEEEEGAS, (SEEERIES TWENT-EH SEVUNN, EPISOOODE THIIIIHTEEN!)

Well. Somebody gave Johnny some booze, didn’t they.

I’ve always been on the fence about Johnny Vegas’ character, because on one hand, he’s this loud, boorish, obnoxious character, but on the other hand, there’s something very childlike and innocent about him, and the latter bit has been winning out a lot on QI. I never particularly enjoyed him on Buzzcocks, though, as he’d always be rather loud, esoteric, and take away from the quiz too much.

The Christmas show he hosted was, uh…wild. Absolutely wild. Johnny was visibly drunk, he would go into digressions that I’m still unsure of whether or not they were intentional, and he was kind of compromised as a host, giving semi-intentionally bad prompter readings, and nearly screwing up the hole show by handing Phill’s team the entire envelope of Next Lines…and then taking another 5 minutes to sulk about it.

The reason why he’s not so much lower is that while he was disastrous on the show, there was still something truly entertaining about it that kept the whole thing from being a ‘Johnny’s drunk, this is really unwatchable’ kind of thing, like the Amy Winehouse show or the Bonnie Tyler show. He was having a great time, and he’d go on emotional tangents for the camera which I think were intentional, and made the whole thing entertaining, in addition to bizarre.  So obviously his episode was flawed, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.

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#35- Tinie Tempah (Series 25 Episode 9)

In terms of rappers hosting the show, I think of someone who did pretty well, like Example, and someone who couldn’t break out of his funk, like Dizzee Rascal. I put Scunthorpe-obsessed Tinie Tempah somewhere in the middle. On one hand, you could see his personality there, and you could see he was trying to have fun, especially playing the Scunthorpe card, and plopping a giant bag of placenta on the desk, to the horror of the panelists. But on the other, some of his reads weren’t great, he took a passive approach to hosting, and didn’t have many cards to rely on in terms of material (hence the overreliance on Scunthorpe.) So while he was definitely enthusiastic, he fell short of lapping Example (who was on the panel that night), but the show could still be carried by the panel (and oh, what a weird show it was…)

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#34- David Walliams (Series 23 Episode 9)

With the amount of prestige and acclaim David Walliams has gotten, and the fact that he’s generally well-liked by the public, I was kinda surprised how much of a let-down his show was. The main joke running through the show was how gay David was (even though we know now that he’s bisexual), and he was sort of playing this up throughout the show, even using world-renowned motion capture actor Andy Serkis for a cheap anal-sex joke. He also just essentially flirted with Gareth Malone and Basshunter the whole show. I mean, there was a lot of good energy stuff here, and I definitely think David’s a nice rudimental host, but a lot of his material hit the same notes for me, and couldn’t really be elevated above ‘okay.’

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#33- Elvis Presley (or Eamonn Holmes) (Series 27 Episode 6)

I’ve been going over in my head whether or not the Elvis thing was a show-long gimmick. I mean, I honestly think Eamonn just wanted to dress up like Elvis, didn’t have a ton of Elvis-shoehorning into the rest of the show, and this doesn’t really feel like the ‘Elvis’ show, to me. So it’s not a gimmick. Eamonn just wanted to dress up like Elvis, which he’s more than capable of doing.

Other than some rudimentary stuff, Eamonn didn’t really interact with too many of the panelists, and mostly stuck to his guns, which is why he’s down here, but I’d like to point out that his hosting skills were excellent (obviously, as all those years on GMTV trained him correctly). Additionally…the prompter jokes they gave Eamonn were some of the most savage, hysterical jokes in a while. Unlike the Clarkson show, it felt like Eamonn was perfectly game with the material, even if it included a fat joke at his expense, and a LETHAL Anthea Turner slam. He was insanely game with the script for the night, almost as if he helped write it. So while he wasn’t the perfect host, his skills in front of the prompter were top notch, and that’s what puts him above Walliams for me.

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#32- Alex Horne (and his Horne Section) (Series 26 Episode 9)

This booking I will give the producers some credit for. On one of the foremost music institutions in the UK, having Alex Horne and his entire jazz ensemble host the show was a fantastic choice. The Intros round playbacks had band renditions instead of play-ins, and the Next Lines round had the band do the prompt, and required the panelists to sing back the Next Lines, leading to an adorable, impressive moment from Paloma Faith.

The interludes didn’t always work- in the middle of a conversation about olympic gymnast Louis Smith, the band improvised a song about Louis in action, which, while a great idea in question, took away some much-needed quiz time. These digressions weren’t always great, but the band was a great innovation for the show.

Again, like the Catherine Tate show, I don’t remember a ton about Alex’s hosting, charismatic as it was, because the show was taken over by Team Abstract, featuring Paloma Faith and Tony Law, two of the most bonkers panelists the show’s ever had. Most of their antics made up the show, instead of Alex Horne’s hosting. So while Horne and his section made for a great show, his hosting skills took a backseat to some panel action, which, while not a bad thing, takes away from what could have been a higher ranking.

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#31- Michael Bolton (Series 27 Episode 8)

Sometimes an episode-long theme actually fits a host’s strengths, and this is no more evident than getting Michael Bolton, post-Lonely-Island-aided Boltonaissiance, to host the ‘Sexy Special’, complete with over-the-top mountain for Bolton to stand on, and Shane Filan to teach everybody how to stand sexily.

Look, Bolton’s strengths were obviously not in reading from a prompter, as some of his reads were kind of wooden and unnatural. Additionally, he’d get something wrong, like assigning a song to the ‘Kaiser Chefs’ (cue Seann Walsh going ‘WHAT’S THAT COMING OVER THE HILL, IT IS A BLENDER!’). So while he wasn’t the most mentally prepared for the show (maybe attributed to slight jet-lag), he still worked his charm when he could, and was still fully aware of his status as not only a sex symbol but a pop culture punchline. And yeah, he was capable of singing sexily anytime he wanted, leading to a great moment of, on Seann and Phill’s request, singing ‘IT’S NOOOOOT ANAL DAAAANGERR…”

So he was game, he was himself, but as a host he was lacking a bit. Still made for a great show, though.

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#30- Example (Series 26 Episode 2)

Directly in the middle of the countdown is an appearance from E.G., a guy who was a panelist a bunch of times, and always seemed to have a really good time. As host…yeah, he was pretty good. I don’t have a ton to say about him, as he kept the game going well, interacted with the panel well, and came off like he was happy to be there. Granted, he was tied to a ‘And the Love Kick Starts Again’ runner, between Gareth Malone and Wretch 32, which, by the umpteenth rendition, had Gareth literally banging his head on the desk in frustration.

Still, Example kept the main bulk of the humor to the panelists, and thank god- Rufus Hound, Wretch and Gareth made this one of the filthiest shows on record, thanks to a ton of jokes involving soldiers’ wives and pantomime horses. Example, to his credit, joined in on the fun in addition to keeping the game going.

So yeah: Example is pretty much the standard for guest hosting. A perfect example, if you will.

#29: Huey Morgan (Series 18 Episode 6)

Before the mug-smashing incident, and after the show where he came to set high off a number of narcotics, Huey, the smooth MC, hosted a show in Series 18, as a friend of Mark’s. Was he a good host? No. His reads weren’t great, he screwed up a bunch of his lines, and wasn’t THE greatest at keeping the game going. BUT…off the cuff, Huey was absolutely hysterical. In messing up a line, he kept giving uncensored takes of a joke about Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz, because he was really passionate on the subject. He also had a ton of jokes about himself being secretly gay, and even more about a New Jersey weatherman taking on England. The stuff he improvised, and the amount of fun he was HAVING as well as IMPARTING onto the panelists (especially Phill) more than made up for his lack of mechanics as a host.

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#28- Tim Minchin (Series 24 Episode 6)

Slightly disappointing seeing as Tim’s one of the more fun panelists and personalities of this middle-era of the show, but ultimately worth it being that it’s Tim bluddy Minchin hosting Buzzcocks. I like the fact that he was able to work off of pretty much everyone on the panel- fellow aussie Jason Donovan on his right, and fellow weird musician, and fellow weird comedian, Paloma Faith and Tim Key on his left. He had plenty of material on them all, even a little screwing with Tim in Intros.

Even better, Tim donated his piano talents to the Intros round, as he gave both teams a ‘Tim’ card, saying he’d help them out with a piano rendition of the intro in question, which was a great touch. His jokes, and autocue reading, take him down a few pegs, as well as the quality of the ongoing ‘bow and arrow’ joke directed at DJ Target. He could have done better, but I’m still quite happy this show happened.

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#27- Alice Cooper (Series 25 Episode 7)

Alice Cooper is probably the NMTB producers’ greatest triumph- not only getting him to come on back in Series 14 and joke around with Mark Lamar, but getting the so-called Prince of Darkness back to host in Series 25. Ohhh, let me tell you, the opening moments of the show were followed by a great deal of geeking out on my end. Then, I saw Alice Cooper the man, rather than Alice Cooper the performer, do his greatest strength- amidst the black smoke and lightning, he grew a goofy smile, and, like the uncle who’d just made a toast at a wedding, semi-pathetically asked everyone to ‘siddown’.

Alice Cooper’s strength is his ability to be, you know, ALICE COOPER, while at the same time, still be able to come off as a normal dude from the midwest. In hosting the show, this really came off well- he wielded his rock cred with a smile and grin, and quizzed the panel on the name of his new album as a twist. But still, he came off as one of the nicest guys in rock’n’roll, and even managed to throw in his Elvis story, which I’d heard before, but was even funnier when surrounded by Noel and Phill.

Still, some of the prompter reads needed some work, and Alice wasn’t a terribly active administrator, but I didn’t care. He was ALICE COOPER- he could be as good as he wanted to be.

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#26- Jack Dee (Series 24 Episode 3 & Series 25 Episode 2)

The trouble you can get with bringing someone back a second time is that they can back away from what made them great the first time and instead stick to what’s easy, and hand in a less-than-favorable result. And that, sadly, applies to the eternally-dour Jack Dee.

Jack’s first go-around was fantastic, thanks to the influence of a certain pair of Irish chipmunks to send Jack into a near-tailspin for most of the show, and give him enough comedic fodder to remain grumpy for the entire show. Jack can read off the prompter well, and like we saw in his Guest Panelist show, he’s very savvy and inclusive when he needs to be, sort of behind the guise of this character. He didn’t reinvent the wheel, but his hosting skills were outshone by his ability to work off the cuff and keep screwing with Jedward and the rest of the panelists.

The problem he had in the 2nd show was that he didn’t really have a natural source of grumpiness, and the show had to center the show around Jack being grumpy, complete with digressions and prop-related asides that fell flat. It felt manufactured, rushed, and fake, and while Jack did the best he could to still give funny moments, he was dwarfed by the production team’s intervention…when they clearly didn’t need to intervene.

Jack’s a great talent, and had a great first show, but the weak quality of his first show pulled him down a tad farther than I would have liked.

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#25- Adam Buxton (Series 25 Episode 4)

Adam Buxton’s hosting tenure was responsible for one bit I really, really hated…and another bit that makes me laugh to this date. The fact that he’s #25 on the countdown means that the second one won out a little bit.

Adam was another victim of the show tailoring the specific episode to the host in Series 25. Between every round, Adam sang a self-written jingle, describing the next round, done in a specific style. I…did not like this. Not one bit. I do love the fact that they were all written by Buxton, and the fact that he was really into it, but I felt like it took too much away from the quiz, and since Adam hadn’t really made a big deal about being a radio personality on his prior 2 shows, it was sort of an odd angle to go about. So, love the ambition, hate the execution.

His other innovation was the final round, where, instead of Next Lines, he’d read Youtube comments left on videos featuring the panel (and other vids), and asked them to fill in the blank. In concept, I wasn’t too pleased, but once this round got going…oh dear lord, I was in tears. The second he started imitating the voice of commenter ‘GerryBaboona’, who said, on the subject of magician Dynamo, ‘DIS GUY MUST BE AN ALIEN OR SUTIN’, and going off on a bit there, I was gone. And the round just got funnier and funnier from there.

Adam’s hosting abilities were great, and he, for the most part, knew how to keep people engaged. I took away some points for the jingles, but I think he was a terrific host.

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#24- Nick Grimshaw (Series 26 Episode 4)

Nick Grimshaw had a pretty difficult task lined up for him- not only did he have to host Buzzcocks, but he had to host one of the most ambitious themed-Buzzcocks shows in years. The ‘Hey Mr. DJ’ show, which features ample screen-time for guests Pat Sharp, Tony Blackburn and Mike Read (all three Buzzcocks royalty, by the way), was engineered to have a new element to the game, and be even more live and innovative than the rest of the show. So while Grimshaw didn’t exactly succeed with flying colors, he did a pretty nice job of keeping the ship tight.

He was great at engineering the soundboard of DJ sounds, and knowing when to hand it off to the three guests, as well as keeping the DJ element present and including them when necessary. He was also great at reading the prompter and keeping some guests into the mix. The one flaw of his is that he wasn’t always there to bring humor right off the bat, as he was a bit preoccupied with things, but luckily Nancy Dell’Olio was on hand to provide several cc’s of unintentional humor, and Fred Macpherson and Joe Lycett were there to spin the humor back onto her. So, honestly, having Nick not really be the funniest guest host wasn’t really a problem, as the show was insanely funny anyway.

A solid start from the so-called ‘Savior of Buzzcocks’, especially considering the workload he was given.

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#23- John Hannah (Series 27 Episode 1)

Admittedly, John Hannah was a very odd choice to host the series premiere of Buzzcocks. He’d been a character actor for years, most famously appearing as the gay widower in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but he’d never really been a spotlight type, so even he admitted he was an odd choice. However, the first second of Hannah’s energy, charisma, and exuberance, I kinda knew we were gonna be alright.

Hannah’s show was essentially Tennant lite. He had a good show, was great at interacting with the panel and reading from the prompter. Plus, his actor cred shone through a few times, during a bit where, as a Kiss song played, he mimed passing a blunt to Phill’s panel. The whole time he just seemed really happy to be there, which I love.

The big moment that vexes me happened in Next Lines, where John recited lines from his speech at the end of Four Weddings, next to a picture of the deceased professor. It vexes me because I’m not sure whether or not the producers booked him JUST BECAUSE of Four Weddings, and just because that moment was gonna happen. Either way, the panelists’ way of reacting was friggin’ hysterical, especially Noel’s addition of ‘My Sharona’.

So John Hannah, despite not being anyone’s first choice to host a great show, hosted a great show. Just not quite memorable enough to top this piece of Buzzcocks royalty at #22…

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#22- Jonathan Ross (Series 18, Episode 1)

Wossy was, in fact, the very first guest host that Buzzcocks ever had, and he was vocal about the fact that he did the show as a favor to Mark Lamarr, who, at that point, was only taking a break due to mental exhaustion (or Toyah exhaustion). To say that Ross was a natural for the job was an understatement- he’d been appearing on the show since the beginning, and knew the exact beats Mark hit as host. He spent some time screwing with Tom from McFly, rolled his eyes at the antics of Bill Bailey and Teddy Mitchell (or Bill and Ted), and kept the game rolling, though stopping to make his usual amount of fun, quick-paced digressions. Said digressions aren’t really for me, and made the show kind of hard to edit, as the first round squeezed Intros-to-Next Lines into the 2nd half of the broadcast. So in terms of hosting and keeping the emphasis on the quiz, he wasn’t great…but in terms of everything else, he was Jonathan Ross hosting Buzzcocks, and it went exactly was well as you would have thought.

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#21- Frank Skinner (Series 23 Episode 5)

Frank Skinner was responsible for guesting on a supremely good Series 5 episode…another really nice Series 6 episode, and being the best Guest Captain of Series 22. So I had no doubt in my mind that he’d be a fantastic host, and while he didn’t completely outdo my expectations, not well enough to land in the Top 20, he still managed to host a bang-up show, and was able to be himself.

Frank’s best stuff came from screwing with panelist Tinchy Stryder over his height, his fame, and ‘de knickaz’. He was very fun off-the-cuff, reacting to the panel like Mark would, and keeping the show going like Mark would. He’s also responsible for one of my favorite callbacks in the show’s history. Jon Richardson’s constant guess for Intros was ‘Winds of Change’, by the Scorpions, so Frank was able to get lyrics from that song into Next Lines…and Jon couldn’t get it!

Honestly, what keeps Frank out of the top 20 was the fact that, with the exception of the things i mentioned, I can’t remember a ton about his episode. He was obviously a fantastic host, with some funny material, but the folks in the Top 20 gave me a little more to take away than Frank did, not to disparage him whatsoever.

So, those are the Middle 20. Expect the Top 20 very soon, and expect the #1 spot to be fairly obvious if you’ve been reading the blog.

Every Never Mind the Buzzcocks Guest Host, Ranked (Part One)

I’ve got a few different ways of wrapping up the ubiquitous Nevermind Watchdown planned for the next few days. I figured since this one only refers to a specific timeline of Buzzcocks history, I’d start with that one. So, we’re gonna count down every single person who’s ever guest-hosted an episode, from the bottom to the top.

Several criteria have been taken into account, including hosting skills, funny material, the overall quality of the episode, and the memorability/repetition. So if you were a host who ran a shipshape panel show, made a ton of great jokes, hosted a fantastic episode and came back for an equally great appearance, you’re probably gonna rank highly. People who’ve hosted multiple songs will be subjected to an average- so if you hosted one fantastic show and one terrible show, the average might drag you down a bit. Or, in the case of a certain Mr. Whitehall, if you hosted two terrible shows and one surprisingly fantastic show, you’re only gonna rise a smidge.

Everyone who hosted from Series 18, as well as from Series’ 23-27, is illegible, save for two names…Simon Amstell and Rhod Gilbert. As they ended up hosting series’ of the show, it’s kind of obvious that their ‘audition shows’ in the Guest Host series were successful. Additionally, one of them may have hosted a show that wasn’t really indicative how how their full-series went. So, for the sake of continuity, they’re not included here.

On with the rankings, from #s 59 to 41:

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#59: Tim Westwood (Series 24 Episode 7)

(fixes palm to temple)

Somebody had to come in last, and if it was somebody other than Westwood, I’d have seriously question the quality of guest hosts Buzzcocks had. Westwood, to his credit, was himself, didn’t change for the recording. However, that was also his biggest problem- this childish, unsophisticated, boorish DJ was the absolute wrong fit for the show, constantly referring to Phill Jupitus as ‘Uncle Phill’, and trying to keep the show hip and cool while simultaneously dating it with every colloquialism and slang phrase. The show’s runner, the ‘wheel of JLS’, was even shoddier with Westwood at the helm, and not even Aston Merrygold could escape from the banality. Hell, Noel had to stop the show at one point to correct Westwood’s atrocious delivery on a joke, which resulted in an even more painful, awkward telling of it.
Just…the absolute worst. And probably my least favorite episode of the show.

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#58- Mark Ronson (Series 24, Episode 1)

Say what you will about Mark Ronson’s achievements in the world of producing, helping Adele produce ’18’, and currently prepping the latest Queens of the Stone Age album, but when he showed up on the Series 24 premiere, something felt…off. Especially considering his boilerplate-but-harmless appearance guest-captaining the Series 22 premiere. This Mark felt distracted, lost, and…for lack of a better word, high off his tits. I’m not sure what kind of substance Mark was on that night, but his autocue readings were a series low, and his joke-readings were just as appalling as Westwood’s. Plus, his appearance looked straight out of a bad sequel to The Mask.
Despite this, I will say his moment of geeking out to ‘Captain Cabinet’ with Noel was pretty great, but he seemed dead and blurred for the rest of the show.

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#57: Kristen Schaal (Series 27 Episode 5)

As much as I love Kristen on Bob’s Burgers, and on 30 Rock, leaving her to her own devices as guest host was a mistake, as she was annoying and yelly for most of the show. Kristen’s known for this childlike, high-pitched, goofy, borderline psychotic demeanor (So Louise Belcher, essentially), and it was off-putting for the panelists, as well as for the audience. The producers’ decision to stock the show with 3 X-Factor personnel who all knew each other…and David O’Doherty, who only knew Kristen, was also a mistake, as the dynamics were mixed and flawed from the start. The boorish show was capped off by a dastardly plot to give the show to Kristen’s pal Noel by swerving next lines in his favor, which pissed off Phill’s team. Just an unfortunately unwatchable show from someone who’s best suited for an ensemble.

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#56- Ne-Yo (Series 26 Episode 6)

That picture just about says it all. Ne-Yo just thinking to himself ‘how the fuck did I get here?’

To be fair, Ne-Yo tried, quite hard actually, to make the most of a booking that’d obviously been handed off at random, but his autocue readings, his unexcited demeanor, and his slowly growing confusion as to what the hell was going on around him, led to a less-than-favorable performance, one where it seemed like the well-stocked panel was carrying the show forward despite him. It didn’t help that Noel, David O’Doherty AND Stacey Solomon were there to take his relaxed demeanor and make him regret it. In all fairness, this was a pretty nice show, and the panel was pretty sharp, but Ne-Yo’s performance detracted from what could have been a great one, ironically, by simply not wanting to let himself love us.

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#55- Juliette Lewis (Series 24 Episode 10)

Along the same school as Ne-Yo, in that the people who do the bookings for the show probably put up their hands and shrugged, and Juliette Lewis probably wasn’t doing anything that week…and probably agreed thanks to the promise of booze. I mean, on one hand she was happy, and in a great mood, but on the other hand she was so wasted that you really couldn’t have expected a coherent show out of her. She also didn’t really know how to host, as she gave teams points for deliberating between the correct answer, and just sort of kept the game on autopilot, again, leaving the panelists to carry the game by themselves. I mean, with Vic Reeves there you really didn’t need her, but the fact that she was so out of it definitely detracted from the show. That’s the main problem with Juliette- she was a distraction rather than an addition.

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#54- Cilla Black (Series 25 Episode 10)

When someone with legitimate old-school mystique around them hosts the show, you kinda want them to pull through and knock it out of the park. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, and the people you’ve been building up in your head as these legendary, indestructible figures are a now kinda senile and scattered. This was unfortunately the case for the great Cilla Black, who seemed a bit out of her element hosting Buzzcocks, and aside from a nice little anecdote about the Beatles’ sex habits, never really got the laughs she wanted (that weren’t unintentional). It felt like she was being carried by the mystique of what she used to be, rather than what she was trying to be then. Plus, having Angelos Epithimieou on the panel may not have been the best idea for someone who’s easily confused like Cilla Black. So yeah, the thought was in the right place, but it didn’t work out, and that’s kinda sad for someone who had a career like Cilla’s.

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#53- Rizzle Kicks (Series 27 Episode 7)

Ah, yes, the two guys responsible for one of the hardest-to-watch Buzzcocks episodes of all time. It’s not that they weren’t funny- they actually had some nice moments, especially Jordan’s cry of racism when Noel didn’t invite them to watch Grease with him and Paul- but how they handled the Huey Morgan meltdown was pretty mean-spirited. First of all, they kind of goaded him on throughout the show, annoying him to the point that by the time Next Lines came around, he was sick of them, to the point where he, yes, smashed a mug and stormed off. The sadder part is that up until that point, Rizzle Kicks were merely okay at hosting, without any real memorable moments, or anything that lifted them above par. It’s just the Huey incident, and the way they followed it by making fun of them, that damages their case. They tried, but no matter whose side you’re on in the Huey-Rizzle Kicks debate, you have to admit that they could have handled the whole thing MUCH better.

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#52- Jack Whitehall (Series 23 Episode 4, Series 26 Episode 3, Series 27 Episode 9)

When I was going through a few message boards for Buzzcocks, I got a lot of people saying that Jack Whitehall’s episode was one of the worst, because he’s not at all funny. And as someone who agrees that Jack Whitehall is not funny, I tried to find a silver lining in his episode in Series 23…and I couldn’t. Not for the life of me.

The biggest problem I have with Jack Whitehall, especially on this show, is that he’s way too cheeky and outwardly mean towards people, especially people on the panel. After a low-energy Series 22, I thought that Buzzcocks was trying to get away from someone like Simon Amstell, someone who was busy making it fun for him rather than making it fun for an audience. And through Jack’s first few gigs, that’s what we got- direct meanness, takeaways from the quiz, unfunny jokes, bad hosting technique, and just some really poor shows.

What keeps him off of the bottom spot is the fact that his Series 27 episode was a ton better, but only because he had the kind of panel to buttress his cheekiness. Kriss Akabusi and Alex Brooker swerved the offensive from Jack onto the panel…to the panel onto Jack, thanks to the running gag about Johnny Worrell’s sister. So they managed to get a good episode out of Jack Whitehall, thanks to someone finally getting the best of Jack Whitehall.

#51 – Dale Winton (Series 18 Episode 7)

Series 18’s guest hosts stand out to me, because it’s clear that the producers tried to farm from a wide range of BBC talent, but mainly stuck to a bunch of presenters (Ross, Laverne, Clarkson, Amstell). Dale Winton was the umpteenth presenter to, well, present Buzzcocks, and definitely brings up the rear as far as Series 18 efforts are concerned.

Dale’s main schtick is being an orange gay guy who occasionally hosts Supermarket Sweep- I’ll argue that he was used a ton better in the Series 21 episode he was a panelist on, rather than this episode, where I can barely remember any of his material, mostly just lines had at his expense. I don’t think I need to tell you that he can read a prompter or be good on camera, but I don’t think he was the greatest fit for the host’s chair. Not really for any appalling things he did, but for what he didn’t do, which was make any real impact.

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#50- David Hasselhoff (Series 25 Episode 1)

In 2011, David Hasselhoff was plucked from his steady gig judging for America’s Got Talent to judge…Britain’s Got Talent. It was so close to his old job that the Hoff couldn’t have been able to fuck it up…and yet, he did. Still, while he was farming his comeback in the UK, he stopped by Buzzcocks to host, and it was…memorable. Yeah. Memorable.

Part of Hoff’s appeal is that he’s not exactly what you’d call intentionally funny. The guy’s made a career out of being a joke, whether he’s taking himself too seriously or not seriously enough. He kept the former ideology while hosting Buzzcocks, with some over-the-top autocue reads, bombastic hosting, and general bizarre Hasselhoffishness. Honestly, his biggest problem was his ultimate inability to take the show seriously, taking some time out of autocue jokes to break character and go ‘this is true’ or ‘this is gonna get me fired’. You could see Hoff the character cracking to reveal Hoff the man.

Like Whitehall, Hoff’s finest moments here were when the joke was on him, including a moment where he had to read a nasty joke about Simon Cowell and Sinitta, and you could see the enthusiasm drain from his face with every word, knowing he’d be losing his job soon.

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 9.55.35 PM.png#49- Dizzee Rascal (Series 27 Episode 11)

While Dizzee’s show was a solid middle-of-the-road one, fueled by some insane panel moments, a botched backflip, and Jamie Cullum’s piano playing, Dizzee’s hosting was less middle of the road and more tar off the road. The guy’s idea of hosting was just sitting around and watching the panelists go, instead of realizing that he could occasionally chime in. He kept a very low-key, defensive approach to the game, which ultimately stopped his episode from making a real impact.

His only highlights were his brief abilities to be himself, breaking into an impromptu version of Bonkers, and laughing at an autocue joke about himself. Other than that, not much lifted him off the ground.

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#48- Mark Watson (Series 23 Episode 7)

My main gripe with Mark Watson’s show wasn’t his humor, his hosting, or anything. I simply thought he was a much better panelist than he was a host. Mark’s best stuff comes from adding onto material rather than initiating it, and with him as the anchor this show, it wasn’t as successful. The show was fine enough, if kinda low-key, but Mark took a quieter, less animated approach to reading and hosting, and fell victim to a gimmicky bit involving Chico, who, according to Mark, had ‘been down there since 2006′. So yeah, while he’s a funny chap, and had some great Buzzcocks’, his hosting gig was disappointing to me.

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#47- Stephen Mangan, (Series 26 Episode 10)

What the producers would do rather often during this era was take a host that didn’t bring too much to the table and assign them a gimmick to weave through, rather than spin them on their own merits. With Stephen Mangan, they made his episode the ‘World Music Special’, which detracted from a quiet enough panel. While the gimmick was initially amusing, there wasn’t a great deal that was fresh after a while, and once you took away the theme, Stephen didn’t have a ton of great material, despite having his usual charisma and quick lines. I mean, Stephen tried, but what can you do when the producers are more focused on what the theme/gimmick can do than what you can do?

#46- Lauren Laverne, (Series 18 Episode 4)

Another presenter-friendly Series 18 booking, and another great personality that failed to break out of a ho-hum show. I’ll give Lauren credit for trying, as she’s one of the better recurring guests of the show’s history, and she used the personality to her advantage with her autocue reads, but I can’t remember much at all about her material, or her dynamic with the panel. If anything, this was more Rhod Gilbert’s show than it was Lauren’s- the fact that you could see that a panelist would be a better pick as host than the person actually hosting wasn’t a great sign. Again, Lauren would have much better luck as a panelist, but her hosting gig, while not particularly bad, couldn’t really make itself memorable.

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#45- Claudia Winkleman, Series 23 Episode 6

Even from her opening moments, Claudia Winkleman knew she wasn’t necessarily the producers’ first choice: “I’m Claudia Winkleman, and that can only mean one thing…Biggins is busy.” With Buzzcocks, you can’t really be sure if this is an indirect slam or an allusion to a booking that fell through, but if it’s the latter, that does explain why Claudia didn’t have a ton to do that set her apart from the pack, other than having fun and doing good-enough hosting and reading. Honestly, what brings her down this low is the forgettability of her hosting- I remember more about Harry Shearer and Jamelia than I do about her hosting, which is kinda sad. Yeah, Claudia’s a great addition to the fold, and her stuff as a panelist, and on the Big Fat Quiz, is exemplary, but she didn’t have a ton to do here. Maybe an appearance from Christopher Biggins would have at least been more memorable.

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#44- David O’Doherty, Series 24 Episode 5

David O’Doherty HOSTING Buzzcocks. In my head, this was a fantastic idea, and I was kinda looking forward to the show as it got closer, knowing his bizarre humor, especially relating to pandas or megaphones. But when I got there…the producers decided to throw me a curveball, and, like the Mangan show, made it entirely gimmick based, with almost no room for David to be himself and make weird, fun little jokes, because the entire show was beating the one-joke premise that Shakira was supposed to host, and David O’Doherty is absolutely nothing like Shakira. Maddeningly, that’s really the only takeaway from this show that it was the ‘Shakira show’, not the ‘David O’Doherty show’. Again, as funny as he is, especially on shows where he was a panelist, the producers shafted him when it came time for him to host.

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#43- Liza Tarbuck, Series 26 Episode 11

We’ve gotten to the part of the countdown where some of these guest-hosts were so middle of the road, so good-but-passable that honestly anybody could have hosted, and the game would have gone on the exact same way. Liza, despite her enthusiasm and the fact that her birthday was the day after the taping, hosted a very middle of the road show. She was good, didn’t make any wrong moves, but didn’t do anything too memorable, either. When it came time to screw with guest Rita Ora for her dog fixation, it was mostly Jason Manford and Noel Fielding who took the offensive. I’d actually compare her material here to anything from an episode of QI with her- amusing, good for a second’s glance, but nothing too extraordinary.

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#42- Alex James (Series 23 Episode 3)

I’m not gonna sit here and lie and say that Alex James wasn’t happy to be here- he was thrilled, enthusiastically blasting his band’s ‘Song 2’, and handing out his trademark cheeses throughout the show. What keeps him this low is the fact that he didn’t especially do much else, other than cover those same two bases over the course of the night. It’s obvious he loves the show, and he loves the experience, but his reads were slightly askew, and he let Peter Serafinowicz and Holly Walsh do most of the comedic heavy lifting for the night. That’s not to say that James made no impact on Buzzcocks history- his eventual return as a panelist was pretty cool, and his role as narrator of the eventual retrospective series ‘What A Load of Buzzcocks’ was a charismatic touch on the generally pretty good run. But the hosting gig of his wasn’t as good as could have been because it only scratched the surface.

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#41- Will Young (Series 25 Episode 5)

Yeah, you can tell by that first shot that the former Pop Idol winner wasn’t 100% into this hosting gig. Young stuck with a very laid-back approach to hosting, and a general demeanor that said that the producers had waited about 8 years too late to book him. I mean, he was harmless enough, and did well enough keeping the game going, but his autocue reads were less than favorable, and he didn’t seem terribly interested in the proceedings. The one saving grace of his episode was the fact that Phill and the panel were able to rip him a new one over allegedly having sex in a bin, and the fact that Will didn’t really know how to break from his hosting demeanor in order to respond.

That’s all I’ll do for tonight- expect #s 40 to 21 to come very soon. Expect a bit more optimism in those.

The Final Nevermind Watchdown: S28E12, or ‘This is the wrong show for THAT shit!”

(long sigh)

Well, this is it. The last Never Mind the Buzzcocks episode ever. The series went for 28 seasons, three permanent hosts, four permanent captains, and seven Richard Fairbrass appearances. And it wasn’t angry guests, or appalled network execs that did the show in, but a lack of ratings, and a network that wanted to move on to other programming. While I’d normally criticize BBC for not giving Buzzcocks a chance…they’d given them 27.

So tonight’s not only the last episode of the show, but the last Christmas episode of the show. A few returning players are here, like hateable X-Factor judge Louis Walsh and legendary Sex Pistols member Glen Matlock, as well as some newcomers, like comedian Lloyd Langford and R&B/Pop singer Melissa Steel.

Everyone’s in costume, too- Louis is early Yoko Ono, Glen is a ‘Cockney John Lennon’, Melissa’s wearing a puffy coat like the East 17 music video, BOTH PHILL AND NOEL are Roy Wood, and Rhod…is dressed like Mariah Carey.
Noel: “You look like Benedict Cumberbatch in drag!”

Rhod eventually asks Lloyd, in choir boy garb, who he’s come as.
Lloyd: “I’ve, uh, come undercover from Operation Yewtree”

Rhod, for his Album Covers round, asks some good rhetoricals: “Do Daniel Bedingfield album covers always feature a bloke called Daniel…in bed…in a field? Do Garbage covers always have a picture of Westlife on the front?”
And WHO DO THEY CUT TO?
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Rhod: “…I’m waiting for the defense!”
Louis: “No!”

Rhod, on the first album cover, with a guy with a beard looking at the camera: “What d’you think we’d see if we panned back a bit?”
Noel: “Children’s shoes?”
Audience groans at this
Rhod, trying: “Yes, because who doesn’t love…a children’s SHOEMAKER??”

Rhod, motioning to his costume: “It’s about an A-cup girl.”
Melissa: “Oh, you’re bigger than an A, darling..”

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 9.44.39 PM.pngLloyd: “I love my rat so much I let him sleep under my nose.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 9.46.29 PM.pngPhill: “Is that just me, or is that a young Stephen Fry on the right?”

This round was actually really nice, and had a nice, loose feel to it, and we got a ton of personality out of the panelists without needling them. It reminded me of Alice Cooper’s final round, where Wretch-32 just had some really off-the-cuff hysterical answers.

A conversation with Louis about X-Factor stuff leads Noel to bring up Jedward.
Noel: “They were on my team when they were on. They were delightful boys. They ate a whole box of Celebrations before the show, and went out of their FUCKING MINDS…”
That explains a lot.

Phill, continuing reminiscing: “They had a handler with them.”
Noel: “Yeah, a whisperer…”

Phill, to Louis, pre-intros: “I’ll do the bells…and then you do the neighing, and then we’ll really get into it…”
Noel: “This is like the audiobook version of the song…”

Melissa and Noel work really well on Intros. This isn’t a necessarily funny round, but there are some really good intros here. Glen even says one of them sounded exactly like the record.

There’s a nice runner where whenever Rhod announces the scores, Noel overshoots a guess of how many points his team has.
i.e.-Rhod: “PHILL’S TEAM HAS 3, AND….OOOOOH, NOEL’S TEAM-”
Noel: “42!”
Rhod: “FOUR!”

Once again, this ID Parade has a former X Factor contestant, and Phill’s team needs to guess by voice.

#4 actually does a really good, soulful rendition of the line, even if it’s obviously not her.
Phill: “[Louis’] not actually on the X-Factor right now, sweetheart…this is the WRONG SHOW for that shit!”

Noel, as Louis deliberates: “Has this just turned into a game where Louis’ trying to remember someone he knew in the past?”

Okay, even in its final moments, and even in a pretty okay show, Buzzcocks is able to get one more belly-laugh out of me. For Noel’s ID Parade, Rhod brings out a parade of Snowmen, for the, well, The Snowman animated movie. They’re all snowman mascots, except for #5.
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Audience: “..aaawwww…”
Rhod: “Or #5…..DEATH!!!”

Then, as the real Snowman is revealed, Rhod asks him to have a ‘walk in the air’ around the studio with Noel, and they do that for a bit…until Noel ditches him for one of the fake snowmen, as Rhod screams “NO! NO!” from the sidelines.

The snowman motions to Rhod that there’s a white vinyl of the Snowman coming out soon.
Rhod: ‘When’s it coming out?”
Glen, deadpan: “…Christmas…”

Lloyd, as the Snowman joins his panel, and hugs him: “This looks like a Grindr date that’s gone badly wrong…”

Overall: Not the heftiest, but a smooth, fun, inoffensive end to a generally pretty good season. There wasn’t really a standout panelists, though everyone had moments to shine. Glen’s aloofness suited him, and he seemed like he had a nice time. Louis’ always happy to be on. Lloyd had some nice lines, and Melissa was a really cool personality to have on. There were some good moments, though not too much to lift us over ‘passable’, but enough to end the season, and the show run, on something of a high note.

Best Regular: Noel
Best Guest: Louis
Best Runner: Noel missing the score

SERIES 28 SUPERLATIVES!
Best Episode: Episode 4, quite possibly the crowning achievement of the post Amstell-Buzzcocks era. James Acaster had a career performance, there was talk of deep-beavering, HarMar Superstar’s belly, and Rhod’s botched bongo playing, which is probably the hardest I’ve laughed at Buzzcocks in years.
2nd Best Episode: Episode 3, the John Cooper Clarke show, where the punk poet gave this weird amount of energy to a show that clearly didn’t need it, thanks to Amelia Lily’s baby noises and Sara Pascoe’s wonderfully adorable ID Parade performance.
3rd Best Episode: Episode 8. I nearly went with Episode 2, the Seann Walsh and Stacey Solomon show, but Episode 8 is probably the most feel-good show they’ve had that didn’t include Bob Mortimer. Paloma was even more adorable than usual, Loyd Grossman was an odd but game presence, Charlie Simpson kept going after lemon drizzle cake, and there was a great moment with a live rabbit AND with Rhod’s dog Rosie.
Worst Episode: Episode 10. Everything that worked in the first few episodes fell apart, with Rhod’s hosting becoming too lax and strict, and the panel not getting enough time to shine.
Best Regular: Noel Fielding, for taking one last chance to push his bizarre humor to high gear, and win with personality.
Best Comedian Panelist: James Acaster, Episode 4. There’s a ton of competition, but I don’t think anybody had a night like James did. He kept the entire show moving by his command, and was responsible for some of the funniest moments of a truly hysterical show (plus, his weakness is George Harrison music!) Honorable Mentions go to Seann Walsh, Sara Pascoe, Paul Foot, Joe Lycett, Aisling Bea, Sarah Millican, Katherine Ryan, Rob Beckett, Romesh Ranganathan and Bobby Mair.
Best Musician Panelist: Michael Ball, Episode 7. Tougher competition because while there were a ton of nice ones, nobody had a flat-out dominant show like Ana in S27 or Mark Hoppus in S26. Michael Ball is an exception, as he had even more fun than he did on his previous two performances, read some Adult Lit while Phill licked his ear, and correcting people on Streisand lyrics. Nearly went with Nicole Scherzinger, Lethal Bizzle, Charli XCX, Charlie Simpson, Glen Matlock, Professor Green, Matty Healy, Van McCann. Also would have gone with John Cooper Clarke here, but he blurred the line too much between comic and musician that it didn’t make sense.
Biggest Dartboard: Stacey Solomon, Episode 2. As per usual.
Most Confused Panelist: Stacey Solomon, Episode 2. Again, as per usual.
Best Sport: Louis Walsh, Episode 12, by taking all the Westlife slams and X-Factor jokes in stride, and just having a good time.
Best Runner: Rhod’s Invisible Bongos, starting in Episode 2 and popping up in a few more episodes. This one was the gift that kept on giving, leading to that insanely funny moment in Episode 4.

So, that was Never Mind the Buzzcocks. There were highs (Mark Lamarr’s era, the Donny Tourette show, Frankie Boyle), and lows (Series 17, Series 22, Tim Westwood), but I’m still glad I watched through this entire series, and I’ve learned a ton more about British music, British comedy, and toblerone bars.

Next…I’m gonna at least try to finish this series of QI, but I have another Watchdown planned. It’s slightly less expansive than Buzzcocks, but like QI this show is still going, and like Buzzcocks I have different hosts and regulars to combat and clash. Also, unlike QI AND Buzzcocks, I’m not gonna be watching this down for the first time. This is a show I’ve watched for years, and I’ve briefly skimmed through, and I’m deciding that it’s time I do a proper, full rewatch. I may polarize some of the fans who only read the blog for Buzzcocks write-ups…but I’m secretly hoping said Buzzcocks fans also enjoy some short-form improvisational comedy…

Nevermind Watchdown: S28E11, or Have Some Respect for the Host, STEVE!

Tonight, we have the PENULTIMATE BUZZCOCKS. The second-to-last episode ever. And hopefully this one will be a good one, as after a rousing start to the series, things have gotten off the rails a bit. We need to finish strong, not weakly.

None of tonight’s panelists have been on before, but I have heard of one of them, and that’s Steve Aoki, EDM heavy-hitter. Rumer is a 70s-aping pop singer, Yasmine Akram’s a comedian and actress that’s made out with Benedict Cumberbatch onscreen, and Bobby Mair’s our ‘requisite comedian’ for the night.

Rhod reads in Bobby’s intro that he’s Justin Bieber’s third cousin. “IS THIS TRRRUE?”
Bobby: “Yeah…I wouldn’t lie to you just to get on the show…”

Rhod indirectly says that Bobby’s not gonna meet Obama anytime soon.
Bobby: ‘What are you talking about? I have a trustworthy face! When you look at my face, you think…’babysitter’…”
Noel: “No, when I look at YOUR face, I think ‘first person to get killer in a horror film…”

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 8.53.20 PM.pngBobby: “Look at this team, though. Look at us! I feel normal for once! I mean, we look like the extras in a heroin den…”

Rhod says that Phill’s ‘Blurred Videos’ group is the most successful Danish band.
Rumer: “Is it…ABBA…but they’ve moved to Denmark…?”

The first round is kind of a dud, because we don’t get a ton of talk about the artists, or the progression of the round.

Phill and Rumer’s first intro is a mess, and Rhod basically says “Yasmine, I’ll give you a point and a biscuit if you get that one…I have the card in front of me and I can’t even recognize it.”

Rhod says that he’ll give Yasmine the point if she names literally any song.
Yasmine, trying: “Oh, it’s…David Bowie’s…favorite song…Man on the Moon.”
Rhod: “…I just gave you pretty much a free point there. All you had to do was mention a song…and you couldn’t”
Bobby: “I got this one…Candle in the Wind, Diana’s funeral version.”
Rhod: “…of course, THAT IS A SONG…you can have a point.”

Rhod mentions the name of the Earth, Wind and Fire song, and someone from the audience cheers.
Rhod: “WHAT, DID *YOU* GET IT?”
Phill: “SEE, THEY GOT IT!!”
Rhod: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve got special guests- Earth Wind and Fire are in tonight…”

Yasmine: “Ah, I only know it when the singing comes in…”
Rhod: “Yes, that is the problem with the intros round…”

Rhod reveals that Bobby got beaten up on stage once.
Bobby: “Yeeeeah, a man punched me in the face a lot…the audience just WATCHED…which made me think that maybe the gig wasn’t going as well as I thought it was…and then one of my friends came on and pulled him off…”
Phill, taking this the wrong way: “Good work!”

Steve, giving Bobby a clue for the Bob Marley intro: “What are you thinking about, when I go like that…and I’m pulling my hair like this?”
Bobby: “…having sex with you from behind?”

Bobby trying to get the Marley song seems to be a herculean effort, because he doesn’t know music. Unlike, say, Paul Foot, Bobby sifting for clues is a bit funnier because the joke isn’t exactly belabored, and he seems pretty earnest about wanting to know it.

Bobby, as the real ‘Could You Be Loved’ plays in: “I’VE NEVER HEARD THIS SONG BEFORE!”
Rhod: “I wish he was joking.”

Steve, pre Flying Lizards intro: “This is a tough one, but you might get it because you’re weird and it’s a weird band-”
Bobby: “Oh, so I’M WEIRD NOW! I don’t know music, but I have WEIRD KNOWLEDGE!”

Bobby, with the envelope covering his face: “I DON’T KNOW!”
Yasmine: “YOU DO KNOW! EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD KNOWS THIS!”
Bobby: ‘SHUT UP…Is that YASMINE?’

ID Parade happens halfway through the show. I’m hoping this show turns out to be bottom-heavy, because that Intros round picked up a TON of slack.

Phill: “Uhhh…it’s #2, but…actually, no. It’s #2.”
Rhod: “How do you know that?”
Phill: “Because that’s Linda Lewis!”
Rhod: “Okay, let’s see if you know ALL their names!”

Noel’s ID Parade gets probably one of the biggest ID Parade gets, Terry Chimes, the drummer for the Clash. Phill’s probably going nuts in his chair.

Bobby: “5 looks like a Butcher…3 looks like Steve Buscemi if things didn’t work out…”

Steve has taken the defensive for most of the show, but when Terry Chimes comes out he gets some rock and roll chills, and talks about how the Clash are one of his influences, even doing a bowing motion when the real Terry is revealed. Steve’s having a quieter show, but he’s anything but a NPC.

Even better, Phill manages to get Terry, one of his idols, to join his team for Next Lines. That’s gotta be awesome for Phill.

PLUS…Steve mentioned earlier that he enjoys ‘cake-ing’ his fans, and one of his fans is on hand as a member of the Terry Chimes ID Parade…who’s come here to be caked by Steve Aoki. That’s fantastic. If it weren’t for a dead first round, this show would be a truly great one.

As Steve is deliberating, Rhod’s standing behind him…and Noel is sloooowly trying to tip the cake onto Rhod’s face. They have to stop and laugh at the botched attempt, which got a bit of cake on Rhod’s jacket.
Steve: “I didn’t do anything! I swear!”
Bobby: “HAVE SOME RESPECT FOR THE HOST, *STEVE*…”

As Steve gets up in front of the lineup with the cake, Bobby runs up to take #2’s spot. Man, things just got ELECTRIC right at Intros.

Steve, not knowing it’s a harder cake, ends up projectile launching the cake at #3’s face, making his face even redder than it was.
Noel: “#3’s gonna have to go to hospital…”

Steve, after an insane final round: “…I can’t believe what just happened.”
Phill: “Oh, so YOU throw a gateau at a person, and suddenly the SHOW’S weird?”

Overall: Started absolutely lifeless, and slowly, surely, it became a wobbly but still electric show. It helped that Bobby Mair was injecting the show with life from moment one, but an insanely good Intros round, and an even better ID Parade, boosted the momentum. Steve had a fun show, if slightly disappointing given that he’s Steve Aoki, Yasmine had some nice moments, Rumer took a backseat, and Dr. Terry Chimes deserves a bonus shout out for helping keep the momentum going.

Best Regular: Noel
Best Guest: Bobby
Best Runner: Bobby doesn’t know any music

Nevermind Watchdown: S28E10, or We Happen to Know that it’s Multiple Choice..

Now for another Buzzcocks, this one being the third-to-last in the series, and a return appearance for Kym Marsh from Hear’Say, a debut for the wonderfully dour Romesh Ranganathan, plus appearances from Charlie and Jake from Rixton, and Van McCann, lead singer of ‘Soundcheck’ rockers Catfish and the Bottlemen. That’s a cool enough panel, I’d say.

(FYI- I’m not sure which one’s Jake and which one’s Charlie, because unlike Daphne & Celeste, and unlike Rizzle Kicks, I can’t really be bothered to tell them apart.)

Charlie, setting up a story: “We were in this very small studio, VERY SMALL-”
Noel: “How small?”
Jake: “…bout the size of this room.”
Noel: “…sure it wasn’t a cupboard?”

Rhod: “I, and this may surprise a few people, I am a massive fan of Coronation street.”
Van: “Yeah, I’m a massive corry fan m’self.”
Rhod: ‘Alright, let’s have a Corry-off.”

Rhod, to Van: “Do you agree, as a fellow Corry fan, do you agree…that Kym’s character…is a MISERABLE SHIT…”
Kym even laughs this one off.

Rhod even says that he was gonna do a montage of all the ‘Kym being miserable’ moments on Coronation Street, but they wanted too much money, so he does the entire montage himself, just yelling ‘OHHHH GOD’ and stuff in different voices.
Rhod: “OHHHH GOD, OHHHH GOD, STEEEEEVE, OHHHH GOD- And I’m only in January of this year- OHHHHH GOD…”

There’s a great little moment where Rhod mentions that Van tried to get a demo tape to Serge from Kasabian, and Van motions to Noel and goes “it’s his best mate, so gotta be careful…”

Van: “We went to a…man, what’d’you call where you buy a generator from, you know-”
Rhod: ‘A shop?”

This week brings back the Rhod-infused ‘it wasn’t me’ clip, culminating in ‘IT WASN’T BLUDDY ME, ALRIGHT??”

And, as usual, one of Rhod’s offhand accusations gets me: “Did Steppenwolf disband after they accidentally stepped on a wolf?”

Romesh admits that he looks like a photo-negative version of Phill. Man, if Nish Kumar said something like that, the comments section would crucify him.

Rhod, after a Romesh anecdote: “You know what I just remembered?…you got some options, it’s multiple choice..”
Yeah, another mistake from Rhod, but it’s done in such a characteristic way that I can’t really stay mad at him.

Rhod: “Let me just bring in the other team here. Don’t give away the answer, if you know it…”
Noel, dumbfounded: “…well then what are we supposed to do, then??Just stare at you?”
Rhod: “I just wanted you to be a part of the quiz!”
Noel: “What, do we hold up thought bubbles?”

Rhod asks his question for Noel’s team.
Noel, after a beat: “…we happen to know that it’s multiple choice…”

One thing I’ve noticed about this episode is that it’s much less structured and more out-of-sorts than the rest of the show, just sort of going off the rails at any point, and not even in a particularly fun way.

Jake, on Bono’s shoes: “Yeah, I remember hearing about this one. He fell off the stage, that gig…he went too close to the Edge…”
The audience groans. Jake playfully tells them to fuck off.
Jake: “…thank you very much, thanks for coming out…”
Rhod: “This is why we brought two of them, so one of them could leave after a joke like that…”

Rhod, as Romesh started as a misguided rapper, says that all of Phill and Rixton’s will be rap tunes,
Phill, immediately: ‘I don’t know this one at all, so you two can crack on…”
Romesh, as Phill leaves: “Are you really doing this?”
Phill: “What’s the point of having two extras if I can’t nip off?”
Noel: “Look at them two, home alone…”

As Rhod, once again this series, refuses a point for Romesh due to specificity.
Phill: “You don’t want to get on the wrong side of MC Ranga!”
Romesh: “…yeah, I will BANGA!”
Rhod: “…not sure who the victim is in that…”

Romesh: “…is it Wild Thing by Tone Loc?”
Rhod: “…it is-”
Romesh: “IF YOU GO TO THE OTHER SIDE, MATE, I WILL LOSE MY SHIT!”

Rhod, on Noel and Van’s first intro: “…it sounds like a Welsh blacksmith singing along to ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’…”

Romesh, on the Little Mix track: “That sounds a bit dark and heavy though…”
Phill: “Just now when you said the words ‘Dark and Heavy’, I thought that was the name of our cop show…”

Noel and Van’s Mamma Mia intro is so iconic that the entire panel comes in on Van’s cue. It’s a pretty nice intro, too.
Plus, Kym nails the first lyric of the song, and Phill keeps the intro going. It’s a really sweet moment.

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 10.59.26 PM.png“#3, Push-kin comes to shove-skin”
There’s a nice 10 seconds of Noel’s team laughing at this guy’s appearance.

Romesh’s stare down, and subsequent freestyle rapping, of the ID Parade gets some points for being funnier IMO than any of Paul Foot’s.

Overall: A noticeably weaker installment, awkwardly done thanks to some botched presenting from Rhod tonight. There had been some things that weren’t really problems before, but tonight his strict scoring and lax hosting impeded what could have been a fun show. The panel was nice, with Romesh having the standout night, and the other three doing merely alright. But there was just so much that didn’t work tonight, which is sad, because I don’t want this series to end on a bad skid of shows.

Best Regular: Phill
Best Guest: Romesh
Best Runner: OHHHH STEEEVE….