The News Quiz

I think it must have been 1994 when I first appeared on this show. The Chairman at that time was veteran writer, Barry Took, who preceded Simon Hoggart, who preceded Sandi Toksvig.

It began in 1977, under the chairmanship of Barry Norman. The team captains were Alan Coren of Punch and Richard Ingrams of Private Eye. In those days it was much more of a genuine quiz and the guests were mostly journalists. Today, most panellists are comedians. The press is represented by Francis Wheen, who is a stalwart of the show, and sometimes by Hugo Rifkind of The Times and Helen Lewis of The New Statesman.

I think the other guests when I first appeared were Simon Hoggart, and Ian Hislop. Alan was on nearly all of the shows. He was one the very few Tories I’ve ever been genuinely fond of. He was the sort of Tory about whom one says, “He’s not really a Tory.”  He was the rock on which the show was built. When he started to speak, there was no interrupting. He spoke in perfect prose and was very funny. He died in 2007.

At that time, the show was still reeling from the loss of Linda Smith in 2006. She was the funniest person I’ve ever sat beside and I loved her very much. I miss her all the time.

The Chair is now Miles Jupp and we have many splendid guests, such as Mark Steel, Holly Walsh, Kerry Godliman, Zoe Lyons, Suzi Ruffell and Andy Hamilton, who, like Francis, has been doing the show much longer than I have. As yet, no one else looks set to die.

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