Surely the whole point of a quiz is its essential uselessness

Complaints have been made to the BBC that Barry Simmons shouldn’t be allowed to enter another quiz show because he is a ‘professional’

Share
Related Topics

I have never really been sure that there is such a thing as a professional quizzer.

I know people who quiz for money, but that’s hardly the same as being a professional. Anyone who’s ever won a pub quiz has been paid – even if only in beer – for knowing the answers to trivial questions. That doesn’t mean you make a living at it, unless you can live off lager and crisps, which most of us cannot in spite of our best efforts.

But there is money in facts, and an elite band of quizzers can earn some serious cash: Barry Simmons, for example, made £64,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. He also appears as one of the Eggheads on the eponymous BBC2 quiz show, having acquired his place there by winning the related show Are You an Egghead?.

Now he has made it to the final of Brain of Britain, having reached the semi-final a few years ago. Complaints have been made to the BBC that he shouldn’t be allowed to enter the show because he is a professional and, presumably, they view Brain of Britain as being on a par with the Olympics (like Olympic boxing that is, not like Olympic tennis). 

The BBC has stood firm, pointing out that the only people ineligible for Brain of Britain are its previous winners, and that the quiz itself is unpredictable so he might not even win. What it has not done, which a lesser organisation – or I – might have been tempted to do, is bellow: “For crying out loud, it’s just a sodding quiz.”

Do you know what you win if you win Brain of Britain? The glory of being named Brain of Britain. You don’t win a cash prize or a car or a cuddly toy, you win the title of being best at remembering which cinematographer won the Oscar in 1969 (Conrad Hall for Butch Cassidy). There are some book tokens to be won, but they are awarded to the listeners who send in questions that foil the quizzers. The whole thing couldn’t be more innocent and less capitalist if it was held in the Garden of Eden and the questions were solely focused on which is the tastiest fruit.

Surely the point of a quiz is its essential uselessness: knowing every fact about every FA Cup Final ever played doesn’t make you a great footballer. It just makes you the guy who knows a lot about football. Knowing trivia about anything is less useful – even if it’s occasionally more remunerative – than knowing the subject itself. Would you rather have the glory of being able to name every Nobel Prize winner or of winning a Nobel Prize? Tough question.

To 3D or not to 3D?

I thought my love for Stanley Tucci had reached its peak when he guest-starred in the TV show, Monk, playing a method actor playing a detective. Wrong again: he has increased my devotion by announcing, the week after the US release of 3D film Jack and the Giant Slayer in which he stars, that he hates working in 3D.

He describes the experience of wearing tight Spandex covered in ping-pong balls for 13 hours a day to get two shots as “humiliating”. It certainly isn’t much like acting, which is why some movie stars only ever appear opposite imaginary dragons and aliens: put them in a scene where they have to have emotional responses and they’re lost. Tucci acknowledges that even the Spandex-wearing will be over soon, as actors are fully replaced by digital creations. He hopes to be either rich or dead.

www.nataliehaynes.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform