Five minutes with… comedian and TV presenter Tom Allen
Comedian Tom Allen has landed himself his very own quiz show on Channel 4. Georgia Humphreys finds out what viewers can expect.
In the last few years, charming stand-up star Tom Allen has become a firm fixture on our TV screens.
He’s a regular panellist on comedy shows such as Mock The Week, co-host of Bake Off: The Professionals, and a hilarious contributor on The Great British Bake Off’s companion show, An Extra Slice.
And now, thanks to Tom Allen’s Quizness, he’s ticking off another big career milestone.
As the Bromley-born funnyman quips: “It’s a huge moment in any gay man’s life, his first quiz show!”
There’s £25,000 up for grabs in each episode of the five-part series, which will air on Friday nights on Channel 4. But there’s a twist – the more answers the quizzers know, the dafter they must look to prove it.
Rounds include ‘Subbly Jubbly’, where the quizzers must substitute nonsense words into the correct answers, and a brain-scrambling multiple-choice round; to score points, they must answer a different question to the one that they’ve actually been asked.
Yes – it’s a brilliantly silly watch, but the questions are pretty challenging, too.
Here, Allen, 37, tells us more.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO HOST YOUR OWN QUIZ SHOW?
It was a great opportunity to do the things I love best, which are chatting to members of the public and being a little bit strict.
For me, television is about making people feel less alone. It’s a chance to show people trying their best and just being themselves and having a bit of a laugh along the way. I think that’s so important, and it’s been so missed in the last 12 months.
THERE’S DEFINITELY SOMETHING COMFORTING ABOUT WATCHING QUIZ SHOWS. HAVE YOU FOUND THAT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
I found myself watching a lot of things like The Chase and being very inspired. Bradley Walsh has always been very generous to me whenever I’ve met him, and I think he’s such a great example of a brilliant quiz host who manages to be human and kind and, at the same time, keeps it going in a way that sets it out as a series.
YOU ONLY FILMED TOM ALLEN’S QUIZNESS A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO. WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE FOR YOU?
We had such a laugh making it; really amazing crew, everybody worked so hard, and the set looks amazing. ‘It sort of looks a bit like a cruise ship,’ I kept saying.
The contestants go up some steps at the back when they leave, but it wasn’t quite clear where they had to go and, at one point, people started going the wrong way and they’d have to walk back. I love all those things, where you see the behind-the-scenes of it, and see things going just a little bit wrong.
It’s all about human beings just being human beings; sometimes we’re not perfect, and that’s part of the delight.
TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THE QUIZZERS…
Sometimes, you’ll get people who are so lovely but are just a bit shy about buzzing in, and so other people will be overtaking them, and you go, ‘Oh, I just really want them to get at least some points’. Between the rounds, I’m like, ‘Come on you can do it’, gee them up a little bit.
You want people at home to feel like they’re watching something nice. I’ve never been a fan of things where people are made to feel a bit foolish or made to feel a bit silly. I like it when people seem to be having a nice time altogether; that’s always my approach.
YOU RELEASED YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY, NO SHAME, LAST YEAR. YOU’RE WONDERFULLY OPEN AND HONEST IN IT…
I wanted to talk about feelings and experiences I’ve had and, no matter how foolish I felt at the time, I thought, ‘Well, if I talk about them, then they lose their power, they lose their sting’. And I hope that anybody else who might have been through something similar would feel the same.
Social media likes to portray everybody as so cool and so perfect and glamorous in every step of their lives, but in truth, everybody’s fallen over and everybody’s made a fool of themselves one way or another.
I tried to write as specifically as possible about how things aren’t always tied up with a bow. Even things like coming out – those were big moments for me in my memory, and they did have a payoff, in a sense, but it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, and then everything was fine after that’.
Sometimes, we get told stories where everything is quite linear, and everything gets sorted out at the end – and when we don’t live up to that in our real lives, we feel like we’re not doing life right. And I think it’s very important to not let people feel like that.
WITH LOCKDOWN EASING, ARE YOU EXCITED TO PERFORM STAND-UP AGAIN?
I’m very excited! I hope there will be a sense of real celebration in the way that we go and see live arts and go and do stuff. What I’ve always loved about stand-up is the fact that it’s an event that happens in that space, at that time, and we all laugh and celebrate and are together. I suspect that those shows will be all the more exciting for everybody involved.
DO YOU THINK YOU’LL FEEL QUITE NERVOUS TO BE BACK ON STAGE?
Somebody said to me years ago, ‘Nerves are just the flipside of excitement’ – and I think that’s true. Sometimes we are conditioned to fear something that we’re excited about and in truth, why not just live it and love it and just have a great time?
Tom Allen’s Quizness starts on Channel 4 on Friday, May 14.
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