Alan Davies on playing the QI fool

"I don’t remember any of it! It just goes in one ear and out the other"

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You’re bright, articulate, funny. How does it feel to be the QI dunce?

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The producer John Lloyd called me and said, “We think we will just go with you as the only regular.” I was a bit uncertain because most quiz shows have two team captains… it only dawned on me after a couple of years that I was the dunce in the class! A willing dunce. And that was John’s masterstroke!

Stephen is a very knowledgeable man — how do you compete?

My quest is for humour… Stephen is an accumulator of knowledge, and always has been, since he was young… you’ll never him say, “Oh, it’s on the tip of my tongue!” He can always remember things. I can never remember all of it! It’s like it’s a ten-piece jigsaw and I can remember three of the pieces; it’s enough to go on but not enough to be complete.

Do you see the questions beforehand?

I haven’t been on Mock the Week, but I know that they prepare material and prepare jokes, Buzzcocks have guests on who are comedians, so they can give them a few lines or a few thoughts, on HIGNFY I think you get to see the caption competition or the bits of video to give you a chance to think ahead. On QI, you get the questions, but they’re incomprehensible!

How much of it do you absorb?

I don’t remember any of it! It just goes in one ear and out the other.

Do you look back on school and wish you’d done things differently?

Not really — I got derailed. I was bright at primary school but I got put into an all-boys public school a year early. I was the youngest in the class. It was my father’s school, Bancroft’s [in Essex], and I hated it. I found it suffocating and I just couldn’t cope. It’s a cliché, but school is wasted on the young.

Do you wish you could do more serious stuff?

Not really. The best opportunity I had was my role in Whites, the BBC2 sitcom, which was brilliantly written and I loved playing it, and I really felt that this was something that I could really be proud of, and it got canned! Not only did it get canned, it’s never been repeated — it’s just dead. When that happened I went back to doing stand-up. I realised I can act, I’m not bad at it, but I’m much better at doing stand-up. It’s my thing; I’m really good at that.

QI returns on Sunday at 10:00pm on BBC2


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