Sunday, 30 December 2007

Biography 12: Alan Davies

At long last, our journey through the most frequent QI panellists brings us to Stephen Fry’s favourite little stud-muffin, the eponymous, ubiquitous, indescribable Alan Davies.

Alan was born on 6th March 1966 in Chingford, England. His childhood years were spent in Chingford and Loughton where Alan was raised by his father after his mother passed away when he was only 6. Alan graduated from the University of Kent in 1988. It was at Kent that he became an active campaigner for animal rights, and a passionate vegetarian (although he is now a pescetarian).

Alan began performing stand up comedy in 1988 only five months after leaving university, with a three month trip across Canada performing at various Fringe Festivals and Comedy Clubs. The stress of performing to Canadians prepared him for his return to England, and he secured a TV spot within six months. In 1991, he was named Time Out's Best Young Comic. He soon appeared on Tonight with Jonathan Ross in 1992 and continued touring and performing in the UK and Canada, winning the Edinburgh Festival Critics Award for Comedy in 1994. Alan’s most successful stand up tour was his show Urban Trauma which completed a sell-out season at the Duchess Theatre in 1998.

Alan has most recently moved into serious drama. In 2004, he starred as Henry Farmer, a maverick barrister, in the ITV Sunday night drama The Brief, although he quit after the second series. His theatre debut was in Morris Panych's Auntie & Me. The production was a sell-out success at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival and transferred to the West End in 2003. Alan returned to the stage in 2005, this time alongside Bill Bailey as Felix in The Odd Couple, again at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Alan Davies is perhaps best known, not for QI but for his portrayal of Jonathan Creek, a trick-deviser for a stage magician with a side interest in solving crimes. The series ran from 1996 until 2003 picking up a BAFTA for Best Drama. The series earned Alan a large following of loyal fans and it has been exported to several countries.

2007 will probably be noted as a particularly turbulent year for Alan. In January he got married to Kate Maskell. It was a relatively low-key event although his good friend Bill Bailey was chosen as his best man at the wedding. However, in December a strange event outside the Groucho Club in London involving a homeless person made the national papers. Alan, having come out of the club claimed to have been insulted by the man and then bit his ear. It probably won’t be remembered as one of Alan’s finest moments.

QI wouldn’t be the show it is without its permanent panellist. Alan was originally intended to be the captain of the “dunderheads” on the show. The idea of a team panel show fell by the way-side before the filming of the pilot as Michael Palin failed to take the role as the host and therefore Stephen Fry took this job. However, Alan remained as the permanent member of the show, having missed only one recording in the D series to attend the Champions League Final. Alan is a huge fan of Arsenal but unfortunately they lost. Alan is the only guest who refuses the offer of seeing the questions one hour in advance (guests are given this opportunity to be able to think of some jokes) which makes his consistent performance even more remarkable. He certainly deserves his three wins in the E series.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Review - Strictly Come Duncing

Click here to purchase Strictly Come Duncing from Amazon.

Strictly Come Duncing is everything that its creators could hope for. It is entertaining but most importantly, it is interesting.

Having come two years since the last DVD a lot of lessons have been learnt. The previous QI game was complicated to play and left many players confused and frustrated. Strictly Come Duncing relies upon simplicity and straight forward interestingness to achieve a very entertaining result.

There are three striking changes in this game. Firstly there are the "Duncehalls", 9 different themes such as Ballroom and Latin (as Stephen makes clear in his introduction the names have no relevance upon the questions in the rounds) in which there are four 10 question rounds. In each round the player competes to answer the most questions correctly. Secondly, there is the option of a two-player quiz. And finally there is Alan Davies, with whom one competes in single-player. Alan did not feature in the first game.

These differences play to the strengths of this format. In the past game one could expect to spend an hour or two answering 50 questions where there could be some horribly frustrating 'dead ends'. The 10 question rounds in duncing can be sped through in quarter of an hour. This game is a very social activity, much like a modern board game. Even when playing by oneself Alan Davies (who was filmed answering the questions himself with no assistance) proves to be a fairly formidable opponent!

Duncing also exhibits some other good features. The questions and informative answers given by Stephen Fry are filmed as a single take for each round. There are no repetitive put-downs from Stephen for wrong answers. There's also a video of Alan as he intently watches Stephen. The credits are accompanied by out-takes, including Stephen's humiliation as he asks a question to which one of the answers is Twinings.

With 36 ten-question-rounds in total this DVD will certainly have the capacity to come out of the box more than a three or four times. Indeed like all of QI's best creations of late, it is best suited to dipping in and out of on a regular basis. Enlightenment should, after all be part of a stable diet. Say no to binge enlightenment!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Christmas Quiz

If Christmas isn't already stressful enough, you can now enjoy this multiple choice exam. You might learn something (and isn't that what Christmas is all about).

Click Here.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 45

This week the QI column says the little L word. Click here for lots of love.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 44

The QI column has reached its 12th letter in its 44th edition. For lots of Ls click here.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 43

This week's QI column is dedicated to the number four. Click here to read more than four interesting factoids.

*Apologies for the delay in the writing of episode reviews. Commitments have delayed them, however, Christmas isn't far around the corner so they should be available soon.