Modern pursuit where triviality is the name of the game at board

David Lister meets the man who sets the questions for a cult quiz
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What did Mrs Susan Day of Hertfordshire call her baby after a vicar told her that Sunny Day would sound silly?

The answer is she is christened him Zipperdedoodah.

True, trivial and memorable - which qualifies it for inclusion in the 1996 edition of Trivial Pursuit. The edition also includes 1,500 other new questions based on news events of the last 12 months.

And some of the celebrities who inspired the new questions by being memorably trivial were at a launch party for the new edition at the London Palladium yesterday.

There was 80-year-old Norman Wisdom who became big in Albania. There was Rick Mayall, commemorated for the night he must have wished he was in Albania, when he got so fed up with the Stephen Fry controversy that after one performance of the show from which his partner had disappeared, he fired a toy gun in Covent Garden and got arrested.

He said yesterday he did not mind this incident being recorded for posterity in Trivial Pursuit. "It was only a joke that backfired. I was just trying to be funny and it didn't work and I said sorry.

"The police were right to arrest me. I could have been a madman with a real gun, though in fact I was just a madman with a toy gun."

He added that he had still not heard from Stephen Fry who walked out of the play Cellmates in February.

Mayall said he had read that the BBC might be making a film about the whole story, and he would consider playing himself. If not, he wanted Mel Gibson or Mel Brooks or anyone else called Mel to play him.

Other deeply trivial figures at the launch included Neil Rilet, who was banned from swinging a dead chicken at Manchester City games every time his team scored a goal - something that would not be a problem this season with City's lack of goals.

There was also Jonathan Hartman, who pledged to donate his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company after his death so that he could play Yorick in Hamlet.

The man who actually spends every day of his life seeking out such sociological insights as the fact that Marmite is now used as a hair restorer in northern England, is 51-year-old Brian Highley, a former schoolteacher from Devon.

Mr Highley, who has also been a local newspaper editor, pop promoter and scriptwriter for Spitting Image, sought out the inventors of Trivial Pursuit when they were on holiday in Devon and offered his services.

He has been writing the British questions for the last 11 years, and with his 11-year-old son Arron and nine-year-old daughter Alicia also writes the junior version of the game.

"I read every paper every day," he said. "I have to think 'is this something people can remember in five years' time?'. And has it got humour in it? I don't try to catch people out because when they are playing the game after dinner or a drink with friends they don't want to be made to look stupid."

His most recent question comes from the OJ Simpson trial. "From the trivial point of view, it was a gift. I read that the judge's wife was the inspiration for Cagney of Cagney and Lacey.

"Forget the rest of the trial. That was the one for me."

Trivial Pursuit has not recaptured the phenomenal appeal it had after its launch in the mid-Eighties when it sold 1 million a year for its first two years.

But, by launching an annual update of questions four years ago, the makers have renewed its appeal and it now sells 150,000 a year with 70 per cent of sales around Christmas.

The Queen apparently still plays it, and the majority of sales are to ABC1s, according to research by Parker Games, the distributors.

It remains a staple at dedicated board games clubs, and for families on Christmas Day.

Answers: 1. Fruit squash; 2. Belly dancers; 3. The Eiffel Tower; 4. The Princess of Wales; 5. Passionate kissing; 6. Allan Border