Ask a silly question and get a silly question for an answer

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The Independent Online
WELCOME to 'Odds and Sods', the popular new feature in which you put questions to us and we answer them with other questions or use similar evasive tactics. OK?

The 'Notes and Queries' feature in the Guardian - on which this new feature of yours is so obviously based, may I say? - well, I just wanted to know if 'Notes and Queries' is the only newspaper feature that has ever been turned into a successful TV programme?

No. It is simply the only newspaper feature that has been turned into a TV programme featuring Clive Anderson, which, of course, is not necessarily the same thing. In a sense, all television programmes have started life as newspaper items. Take the Guardian's 'Notes and Queries', for instance. This was actually based on the Times correspondence column, which was full of letters from people asking questions that never got answered, questions like 'May I just add some remarks to your generous obituary of Lord Twerton?' or 'Am I the only person who has been hearing the cuckoo regularly since Christmas?' Since the Times never answers the questions raised in the letters it prints - nor does any other paper, come to that - the Guardian had the bright idea of getting other readers to answer them.

Why is that a bright idea?

Because, unlike journalists, the readers do not think of asking to be paid for their contributions.

You say that all TV programmes start out as newspaper items . . .

And they all end up as newspaper cuttings, too . . .

But surely this does not apply to big documentary series such as histories of the First World War?

Certainly it does. The First World War started life as a small personal ad in the Daily Telegraph in June 1910, reading: 'Kaiser of large German-speaking country, which wishes to remain anonymous, anxious to contact the heads of other nations, with view starting European War. Only serious applicants need get in touch.'

And the rest is history?

Well, the rest is television.

Who first said 'The rest is history'?

Who cares?

Has there ever been a programme based on questions about Clive Anderson?

Yes. There was a pilot TV programme called Questions about Clive Anderson.

What sort of questions did it ask?

Oh, questions like: 'Why, when Clive Anderson asks the audience to shout out improvising subjects for the contestants on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and you can hear someone shout 'Birthdays]' does Clive Anderson say, 'OK, that's a good subject, climbing the Matterhorn by sedan chair' - which you haven't heard anyone shout?

I see.

But the most common question asked about him was: 'When Clive Anderson was a practising barrister, did he behave the same way in court - ie, jiggle up and down nervously all the time, and say, 'Yes, right, OK, very well, OK, then' whenever witnesses were trying to answer him, and make off-colour insinuations when the trial was getting slow, and is that why he is now on TV and not being a barrister?'

What was the answer to that?

'Indubitably.'

What happened to this programme?

It has gone to the land where all TV pilots go when they are not taken up by the network.

Where is the land where all TV pilots go when they are not taken up by the network?

It's called day-time television. Actually, as a matter of fact, a lot of unknown pilots are currently being reused in a new series appearing shortly called The Worst Is Yet To Come, which features nothing but pilots that never made it. Not so much TV Hell as TV Limbo.

Will it be introduced by Clive Anderson?

Almost indubitably.

Thinking of presenters called Clive on TV, such as Clive James and Clive Anderson, can you tell me if there is anything about the name Clive that causes the hair to fall out?

No.

Do you mean no, there isn't, or no, you can't tell me?

No, there isn't. The little-known third Charlton brother, Clive Charlton, has a magnificent head of hair, unlike his two brothers.

Is that so?

I've no idea. Haven't you any intelligent questions to ask me?

No.

Then that's it for this time, then.

'Odds and Sods' will be back again soon. If you have got any silly questions you don't want, they will always find a good home here.

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