Dumb, dumber, dumbest: film fan is worst ever on 'Mastermind'

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The Independent Online

For quiz obsessive Simon Curtis, the title of the film Dumb and Dumber, the one starring Jim Carrey, has taken on a whole new meaning. It is the label he has been saddled with after a record-breaking appearance on the television show Mastermind.

That is because Mr Curtis - specialist subject: The films of Jim Carrey - notched up the worst specialist score in the programme's 34-year history, getting just one question correct out of a possible 25. Mr Curtis made a poor start, passing on his first three questions and getting his fourth wrong.

In total, he passed on 12 questions and gave incorrect answers to four - his only success coming in question seven when he correctly said the film for which Carrey signed a record £20m contract was The Cable Guy. Mr Curtis redeemed himself in the general-knowledge round of the semi-final programme, ending up with a final score of eight, just one point above the lowest total on the show, a seven recorded by Colin Kidd in 1995.

Mr Curtis said last night that his performance was probably more due to a lack of preparation, rather than what Mastermind experts call the "pass spiral", where contestants lose concentration after passing on a question to which they know the answer.

A probation service administrative worker from Castleford in West Yorkshire, Mr Curtis, 42, won his first-round heat, when his specialist subject was on the rock group The Jam. He said: "I'm afraid the words 'Dumb and Dumber' have been bandied around quite a lot today. I didn't really expect to win the first round, so I plucked the subject out of thin air."

All but two of the questions, were about plotlines in the films, rather than more general facts about the productions themselves, with which Mr Curtis was more familiar.

Adding, "I'm fed up with all this, but I've started talking to you, so I'll finish", Mr Curtis also pointed out that Jim Carrey was his second choice specialist subject, the first having been vetoed.

There has been sympathy for Mr Curtis, however. John Humphrys, the quizmaster, said: "His mind just went blank. You get people who are immensely knowledgeable and then it won't come. If someone starts well, they'll finish well."

Dr Ken Emond, the editor of the Mastermind Club newsletter and a semi-final contestant himself in 1992, said: "Anybody can freeze in the spotlight. It is the pressure of the moment."

Mastermind began in 1972 as late-night cerebral entertainment although it soon became popular due to its simple-but-gruelling format and made a star of its presenter Magnus Magnusson. Scrapped by the BBC in 1997, it was successfully revived in 2003. The highest score is 41.

Mr Curtis remained sanguine about his brush with fame. Although broadcast on Monday, the programme was recorded in April. "You never know," he said, "the fuss might help me get a place on The Weakest Link."