Paul Sinha interview
Ben Williams puts stand-up and professional quizzer Paul Sinha's knowledge to the test
Ah, the Great British pub quiz: a humble gathering of curious minds, lager lovers and fun-seeking gadabouts.To most, the competition is just a bit of fun. Paul Sinha, on the other hand, has turned quizzing into a profession. As one of the four ‘Chasers’ on ITV game show ‘The Chase’, the 36-year-old comedian (and former GP) is one of only 11 people in the country being paid to quiz – the other seven being the BBC’s ‘Eggheads’ crew. So, he should clean up at a standard pub quiz, right? We’re counting on him as the Luton-corn comic joins me, Time Out photographer Rob Greig, Books editor David Clack and his girlfriend Lauren McCullum for the weekly contest at the Blue Posts pub in Piccadilly.
We take our seats and the quizmaster, Andy, pauses as he approaches our table to collect our entry fees. ‘No, no, no, no, no,’ he mutters, staring at Paul, ‘there’s no way you’re allowed to enter,’ and starts firing questions at him. By pure chance, Paul defeated Andy on an episode of ‘The Chase’ recorded last week. Now Andy’s nemesis has rocked up at his pub quiz. On the show Paul goes head-to-head with the contestants to try to prevent them from walking away with any cash, providing sarcastic remarks along the way. The smell of defeat is still fresh for Andy, but he allows us to stay.
With such prestigious quizzing status, does Paul feel he has something to prove at a modest pub comp? ‘I like a pub quiz, but I never go into one expecting to win, or even to do well,’ he says. ‘I see myself as the one who can help out with questions about literature or classical music; highbrow subjects I would never be good at if I hadn’t started quizzing.’ He pulls out a chunky hardback entitled ‘Facts, Facts, Facts’, part of his revision routine. ‘But a pub quiz is about the team, not individuals,’ he adds. ‘A varied age range helps. Especially with music. It’s hard to keep up with music and celebrity culture; I’m finding that to be the toughest category on “The Chase”.’
Luckily, that isn’t the theme of the first round, which is on sport. I’m out. I have little to no sports knowledge. But Paul, with a good dollop of Rob’s help, is an unstoppable force, writing down answers before the rest of us have digested the questions. He’s a huge sports fan. In fact, the main reason Paul’s not performing at this month’s Edinburgh Fringe is because he has plenty of tickets for the Olympics. ‘I didn’t feel I could forgive myself if while the biggest sporting event in the world was going on in my home city, I was 300 miles away busting a gut in Edinburgh,’ he explains. His sporting knowledge pays off. At the end of the round, we’re in first position.
Round two is general knowledge, and once again Paul’s lightning fast. ‘What was invented by Walter Frederick Morrison?’ The Frisbee. ‘Whose novels include “Waverley” and “The Bride of Lammermoor”?’ Walter Scott. ‘Which Teletubby’s antenna is in the shape of a triangle?’ Everyone’s stumped. Finally, a question I can answer! ‘Relax, guys, I’ve got this,’ I declare and jot down my answer. ‘See? It’s about the team,’ says Paul, and I’m pleased to have made a contribution. As we get our marked sheet returned at the end of the round we are, again, one point off. It wasn’t Dipsy. My moment to shine and I messed it up. Curse you, Tinky Winky!
We drop one point in the third and final round, and one more in the picture quiz (it wasn’t Fiona Bruce, it was Enya), and end up with a total of 56/60. ‘And the winners are 50 Shades of Malcolm Hay,’ announces Andy, and a light round of applause spreads across the room. ‘I really enjoyed that,’ says Paul, ‘I had some moments of genuine joy there.’ I had noticed: his clenched fist and shouts of ‘Yeah!’ at correct answers somewhat gave it away.
As team Time Out head downstairs, I leave Paul chatting to Andy, calling a truce and sharing quizzing tips. Their heated, albeit friendly, rivalry appears to be over. Look out, London: could a world-conquering quizzer hook-up be on the cards?
‘Paul Sinha: Last Christmas’ is at the Soho Theatre, Aug 16-18.
The Blue Posts Quiz takes place at 7pm every Tue at the Blue Posts (28 Rupert St, W1D 6DJ).
Taken our quick pub quiz? Here's answers
1 F Scott Fitzgerald
2 Ursa Major