Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Review of QI Live

When Douglas Adams visited Brisbane in 2000 (possibly 1999) I had a friend sign a copy of "Starship Titanic" - I was too busy at work to see him myself.  I have always been a little disappointed that I didn't take the hour to see him.  When Stephen Fry announced "QI Live" on Twitter I made sure I wasn't going to miss out.  It was only in Melbourne and Perth (at the time) and bugger it if I was going to Perth, so even though I didn't live in Melbourne, I got some.

As I walked into the theatre the place names of France that sound funny appeared on the screen.  I remembered them from a previous episode of the TV series.  It didn't matter, they'd just played the theme for "Pinky and the Brain" and were playing Tom Lehrer's "The Elements".  I was in a good mood and I was happy to be there.

My wife thought she saw the producer, "What John Lloyd?".  Surely not, but soon after, an usher told us to stop taking photos.  It was a little annoying because I was mainly taking photos of the theatre - I'd never been to the Queen Victoria Theatre before.  Then a prissy voice said that Mr Fry's man servant would like you all to turn off your phones - so I did.

The only bit I now remember of Stephen's opening was him telling a joke about a chicken going to a library.  It was told well, I guess, but too long for me because I'd heard it before and spent most of the joke remembering my grandmother telling me it about 20 years before.  Maybe that was what he was going for.  What was worse, it lead to the fact that a frog in California is the only species in the world to go ribbit.  Another recycled fact and I was getting a little bit annoyed.

Colin Lane was the first panelist and pretty forgettable.  He and Andrew played tennis with the "Nobody Knows" paddles which was okay the first time.  Denise Scott didn't really seem to get the format but she had some good anecdotes - such as being recognised as looking like that person on TV but that she couldn't possibly be that person.  Andrew Denton was by far and away the star - he seemingly, confused Stephen by saying that, "If nobody knows, why isn't he on the panel?"  It made the whole thing almost worth it.  Except that Stephen then went on to spend most of the evening calling him stupid.

The first question was about koalas having fingerprints that are indistinguishable from human fingerprints and that maybe they were doing all the robbing in Australia (which they said has the highest burglary rate in the world).  This fact doesn't seem to be true now although it was true in 2001 which is probably closer to when it was written.

Some of the other content that was from previous episodes included: kangaroos not farting and having 3 vaginas, when does the sun set (a video), Beatles' HELP album cover, the most popular song being the default Nokia ring tone and slavery not being illegal in the UK until recently.  This is just me guessing but Andrew Denton knew every answer.  The members of the audience shouting out certainly did.  But then so did Alan and so did I.  Well, I might not have known every question.  Alan answered over the top of the question for 100 points so I didn't hear what it was.

I might be wrong, but one of the ways the show works is that Alan doesn't know the answer to every question.  Sometimes some of the guests do (John Sessions and Rory McGrath) but the point is: Alan is the kind of guy the show is supposed to be educating - he's the audience - he's coming along with us for the ride and a laugh.  He probably did reflect some of the audience that night too though, he looked a bit bored and a bit uncomfortable.

Given the amount of recycled content I don't think they would've done this show in the UK but apparently it's okay to do this in Australia.

At the end of the show, when Stephen was awarding the points, he said either the people in the audience were smart or that they had downloaded episodes not shown in Australia from BitTorrent.  This is what made me mad.  All episodes had been shown on the ABC from series A (you can Google the series number and ABC to find them on iView like Series 4).  And some of the facts were also available in the QI books (like Animal Ignorance).  Stephen seemed to be saying that we (whoever we are - the producers of the show?) reserve the right to charge you for content that we don't think you should've seen and we're a bit surprised you have because you've really cheated yourselves out of $200 a seat.

I'm still mad.  QI has a philosophy about facts and curiosity.  Recycling facts, that are now wrong, goes against that philosophy.  The original idea for the show seems to have been going against accepting common knowledge and laziness.  The show seemed to scream, "Look it up!" or "Why do you think that?".  Recycling content was pure laziness.  Stephen and Alan knew that the content was recycled and it ruined the show or at least the idea behind the show.

In the end, it's hard to know if you should regret the things you don't do versus the things you do.

As an aside, some interesting facts (sticking with the Australian theme): all living marsupials are from South America not Australia (from Wikipedia) and echidnas and platypus can make custard (as they produce both eggs and milk).
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