Richard Osman: Everyone wants to take me down in pub quizzes

The Pointless co-host returns to trivia tonight for the second series of Two Tribes – but general knowledge is harder than it looks, as Huw Fullerton discovers

Richard Osman is a big target – both physically and socially. In fact, the Pointless co-host says that he can barely head down the Three Arches without becoming someone’s general knowledge prey.

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“It’s like being a big guy in the pub and everyone wants to fight you,” the producer and presenter tells RadioTimes.com. “If you go to a pub quiz, everyone wants to beat you.”

“And you know they easily do – every town’s got their super-intelligent pub quiz – and you go to one of those and they delight in you coming fourth.”

It’s hardly surprising. When you’ve shattered as many general knowledge-themed dreams on Pointless as Osman (with Alexander Armstrong, above) who wouldn’t want a pop at you? And now Osman’s at it again for the second series of his other BBC2 quiz series Two Tribes.

The crux of the game for those who missed the first series is that contestants fill out hundreds of yes/no questions (e.g. have you seen a boy band concert?), then are split into teams depending on their answer for each round.

It gets a little more complicated as it goes along (there’s a round that involves grouping information which is quite like Pointless, as well as things like fastest-finger elimination), but basically you’re hoping your shared love of staying in on Fridays will lead your team to victory. So it’s part census, part quiz.

Of course in such auspicious quizzing company, this Pointless devotee was anxious to try out his own trivia skills, and luckily I got the chance in a un-filmed journalist special of the series. Well, kind of unluckily, as it turns out.

Myself (far right) and the other journalists/contestants

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always considered myself a trivia demon. Actors’ names? Step right up. University Challenge? Sometimes get some that the students don’t (boom). Specialist subject on Mastermind? Please – as any fule kno, that one’s all about how you handle the general knowledge round.

So I was pretty confident as I took to the stage. I shouldn’t have been. I was most definitely not the fastest finger first and my back-and-forth banter with Richard was decidedly sub-par (Richard: “What kind of music do you like Huw?” My brain: “OH GOD WHAT IS MUSIC”). I was knocked out having answered only one question. Maybe I should have gone for Only Connect first – I don’t think they’re really expected to talk much, or be good at it.

Still, I’m not the only one to feel awkward on the show – even the host finds it tricky without his partner in crime.

“It’s a weird transition,” Osman says. “I didn’t seek [presenting] out and I am quite shy so I do find it quite difficult. I find presenting by myself really difficult and I find being in front of a live audience really difficult. I find that quite awkward.

The face of failure (far right)

“So Pointless I love because I feel like I’m Xander [Armstrong]’s sidekick and he can be the host and I can be the beautiful wife trailing behind him.”

“It’s weird not having Xander there, I do miss him. I’m looking forward to going back and recording more Pointless, and get him back.”

He’ll have to get used to it, though – with 60 episodes of Two Tribes this series, Richard has a lot of time to spend alone at the helm, dealing with contestants who can barely speak on TV, let alone successfully answer questions – like me.

Oh well – at least I got to feel short for the first time in my life.

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Two Tribes returns to BBC2 tonight (Monday 16th February) at 6.00pm