8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is first and foremost a television game show. But unlike Wheel of Fortune or Family Feud, much of the show’s running time is devoted to side-splitting comedy. So much so, that it’s not out of the ordinary for the witty banter between host Jimmy Carr and his panelists – almost all of whom are professional comedians – to take up almost half the show before the game actually begins.
Considering it’s been running for 17 seasons, and that almost every living British comedian has made a guest appearance, you can only imagine the sheer volume of quality jokes that have been exchanged. But we've whittled it down to seven...
Lee Mack tells an intentionally woeful joke
Lee Mack is known for his unrehearsed quick wit, so when he comes to an episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown with a pre-prepared bit, he uses the opportunity to tell a so-bad-it’s-funny joke. A bit of context: each episode, Jimmy Carr asks the guests to bring along a mascot, which is basically a prepared gag in the form of a show-and-tell object.
In this case, Mack brings along an old pencil.
“This is Shakespeare’s actually chewed pencil. And it’s so chewed, I can’t tell whether it’s 2B, or not 2B.”
He then acknowledges the horribleness of his pun by reminding everyone, “I don’t have to be here!” despite having “tax bills that haven’t been paid for 10 years!”.
Natalie Cassidy brings the house down(stairs)
During an all-female episode of Cats Does Countdown, guest host Katherine Ryan asks resident lexicographer Susie Dent, “What word should every woman have in their vocabulary?”.
Dent goes on to argue that certain words only used to describe women should be reclaimed – such as frumpy, airhead and hysterical, before comedian Natalie Cassidy interjects with the most bizarrely hilarious addition:
“Hung like a donut.”
Cue an eruption of laughter from every single person in the studio.
Richard Ayoade nails white male privilege in a single anecdote
In this episode, Ayoade’s mascot is a copy of the controversial comedy White Chicks (2004). He goes on to explain the film:
“It is a wonderful thing. Two FBI people – men, they’re men – they go undercover posing as two socialites, white socialites. (Um, I don’t know that you need to say ‘white’ in front of ‘socialites’, actually.)
“But they go undercover as white women, socialites, as I say, in order to prevent them being kidnapped, and what it does is that it really allows a marvellous opportunity to see things from a woman’s point of view. And if you see White Chicks [turns to female panellist], I think you’ll really understand what it is to be a woman.”
A simultaneous swipe at man-splaining and a bad movie, all in two sentences and a look.
Roisin Conaty gives a “knowing” self-assessment
Roisin Conaty is known as perhaps the worst player on Cats Does Countdown, but it’s plainly obvious that her failure to make much of an impact on any of the show’s games is part of her faux-imbecilic style of comedy. In this introduction segment of particular episode, Jimmy Carr asks Conaty what she thinks will be her particular strengths on that evening’s show.
“I would say my strengths will be, ah, my dexterity at mathematics and linguistical skills. My weaknesses are: I’m a liar.”
David Mitchell offers sex education
Carr asks articulate guest David Mitchell if he has any tips on how to widen one’s vocabulary.
“As a teenager, I was confused that there were lots of different words for sex, and I thought that each of the words for sex meant something distinct, you know. I thought there were many more different kinds of sex things that I was going to have to get my head around before I became an adult.
“But then I realised that most of them referred to the same sort of basic penis penetration stuff… and that’s how I came to understand the richness of the English language.”
Sean Lock sums up Cats Does Countdown in brutal fashion
Regular team captain Sean Lock is a reliable source of both one-liners and drawn-out, seemingly unfunny skits with surprisingly riotous punchlines. Here, Jimmy assesses Lock’s state of mind going into the episode, and the latter offers up the following jab not only at Jimmy, but the entire show.
Carr: “Sean, are you feeling confident this evening?”
Lock: “Well, there’s no point in that, is there? I’ve realised that the only thing this show tests is my patience.”
Joe Wilkinson brings bad poetry down to a new low
Joe Wilkinson is the kind of comedian that looks as if he’s walked in off the street and had a quick shower prior to filming. In this particular episode, Jimmy Carr asks each of the panelists to recite a prepared poem, and Joe’s just happens to be perhaps the worst, yet most hilarious poem of all time.
“My poem’s about something very important to me, um, it’s about how come it’s okay to name your willy, but it’s not okay to name the fellow’s willy next to you at the urinals.
“So, my poem’s called ‘Hanging About in a Train Station Toilet, Naming People’s Penises.
“Hello Commuter, on your way to work,
I’m going to call yours Captain Bird’s Eye,
Because it looks like it’s wearing a polo neck and winking at me.
You’re welcome, I just named your penis.
“Hello Train Driver, who’s just nipped in for a piss,
I’m going to call yours Mrs. Fernsby,
My old geography teacher,
Because you’re small and wrinkly
And have a birthmark down the side of your shaft.
You’re welcome, I just named your penis.
“Hello Police Officer, who’s just been sent to the toilets
Because they’ve had reports of someone naming people’s penises.
You can’t arrest me for naming strangers’ cocks.
Oh, you can? I didn’t know that.
Oh great, now I’m electronically tagged again.”
Watch 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown on Tuesdays at 8:30pm on SBS VICELAND. After they air, episodes will be available to stream at SBS On Demand...
We've got big name guests this week: Fiona talks to controversial director Lars Von Trier about his penchant for putting his foot in his mouth, and what, if anything, he's learned from getting kicked out of the Cannes Film Festival all those years ago. Nick talks to director Bing Liu about his landmark Oscar-nominated documentary, Minding The Gap, which chronicles a friendship between three skaters in the U.S. - and whether there's any hard feelings about losing out to Free Solo.