The new 8-part series proves that if comics are allowed to make up their own quiz show, they are sure to have the last laugh.
By
Virat Nehru

11 Apr 2022 - 11:24 AM  UPDATED 12 Apr 2022 - 2:51 PM

Celebrity guest panel shows are a guilty pleasure for me. Part of the reason why they’re so addictive is their re-watch value. It doesn’t matter if an episode is new or an encore screening, if while browsing I chance upon a panel quiz show, I’ll invariably stick around to watch it.

The sheer variety of these shows means there’s something for everyone. If you want intellectual rigour, there’s QI. If you’re after something that’s closer to a game show than an outright quiz, there’s the highly addictive and entertaining Taskmaster (streaming at SBS On Demand). Somewhere in between, part quiz show, part game show and part parody, there’s 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (also available at SBS On Demand). (I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from the sudden, tragic loss of Sean Lock who was an integral part of that show and one of the funniest people on the planet.)

With comics frequently headlining various panel shows as celebrity guests, the ‘comic’ panel show has practically become a sub-genre of this format. So, what can a new show that’s part of this sub-genre add to the format? Do you really need another comic-led panel show in your watchlist when there are already many other shows of a similar variety out there? The answer is a big, resounding YES! Especially, if that show is Question Team.

Every round will surprise you

The format is deceptively simple, yet ingenious. It’s one of those ‘why didn’t anyone of think of this before?’ ideas. Instead of there being a set format of questions that the guest comics have to answer, the questions are prepared by the comics themselves. The guests take turns to lead a quiz round that they’ve prepared questions for, based on their own interests and personalities. Or, as host Richard Ayoade puts it:

“They’ve each prepared a quiz round on a topic of their choosing, that is most likely repurposed material that they know kind of works but which they don’t need anymore.”

None of the participants know what questions the others have prepared. And although he’s the host, Ayoade also competes with other guests as a participant and isn’t just an observer. The first episode features Bob Mortimer, Kerry Godliman and Thanyia Moore. Their respective areas of interest are as varied as they come: DIY, camping and pop music respectively. 

But it’s not just the variety of topics the comics pick that makes the show interesting. The way they conduct their respective quiz rounds is also not what you’d usually expect. Take Bob Mortimer, for example. He conducts his DIY quiz segment in a Geordie accent. Long-time fans of Mortimer will love his references to the surrealist comedy Shooting Stars that Mortimer was part of. His segment parodies the game show The Price is Right, with a dash of physical comedy and pantomime thrown in for good measure. And once you get the self-aware pulse of Mortimer’s act – he’s taking the mickey out of a game show while being on a game show himself – you realise what Question Team is truly about. It’s not about the questions. The show’s magic lies in the inventive and interactive ways the comics present their segments, often testing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Another highlight of the first episode is ‘mystery guest’ Rob Carter, who appears as his delusional novelist alter-ego Christopher Bliss. Staying entirely in character, Carter steals the show in his brief appearance and proves that character comedy is well and truly alive in the process.

Other guests include English comedian James Acaster, who frequently appears on Taskmaster, Rosie Jones, who SBS viewers might know from her travel show Trip Hazard: My Great British Adventure now streaming at SBS On Demand and American actor and stand-up, Kemah Bob.

The awkward but undeniable charm of Richard Ayoade

Of course, Question Team would not work as well as it does without Richard Ayoade as the host. Writers Matthew Crosby and Matt Hulme had the tough task of ensuring that the show walks the tightrope of self-awareness, without falling into the pit of smugness. And who better to strike this delicate balance than Ayoade? He captured the public’s imagination with his iconic portrayal of the socially awkward nerd in the comedy hit The IT Crowd. However, since then, he has significantly expanded his repertoire, becoming a director, a writer and venturing into dramatic roles. 

On Question Team, Ayoade uses his deadpan demeanour infused with social awkwardness to deliberately subvert the conventions of a quiz show host. Because he doubles up as a participant, the distinction between the host and the guests is blurred even further. I do not know anyone else who could deliver such hilariously absurd lines with a straight face to the camera better than Ayoade:

“My solitary rule is, every question needs a proper answer. For without A, there can be no Q&.”

I’m excited to find out what fun Ayoade and his gang of guest misfits get to as the weeks progress. With the show relying on the particular interests and peculiarities of its guests to take it into unexpected waters, the comics here most definitely get to have the last laugh. 

Question Team premiered on Monday 11 April at 8.30pm AEST on SBS VICELAND. Episodes air weekly, and stream at SBS On Demand after they go to air.  Start with episode 1:

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