The News Quiz - In The Press

The News Quiz (Radio 4, Friday), Britain's longest-running series in this genre, is also the lead offender in terms of bad topical comedy. Worn smooth by nearly 40 years of regular airtime, it is now as cosy and predictable as pie and mash; to my knowledge it hasn't caused a sharp intake of breath since 2011, when the host, Sandi Toksvig, made a pun about a four-letter-word.

Listening to the current - 86th - series, I've become convinced that if technicians programmed a computer with a wide-ranging set of News Quiz input-output rules ("Middle East peace talks = joke about Tony Blair"; "Education cuts = ironic reference to Eton," etc) and fed it the week's current affairs, they could accurately predict the show's scripts.

The only curveball in this week's edition was that regular panellist Jeremy Hardy had been asked to chair, as Toksvig was off sick. This seemingly humourless move had been singled out as a rich source of in-joke material by the writers. "I am the host this week because Sandi has been suspended for biting the producer's knees when her pre-show herring was not chilled to the correct temperature," Hardy began (Toksvig is 4ft 11in and from Denmark). He later returned to the theme during a limp segment about genealogy: "everyone on this panel will have a little bit of Scandinavian in them; could everybody just make sure they haven't sat on Sandi?" Unsmiling, I added "ST absence = joke about smallness + Scandinavia" to the list.

Pete Naughton, The Daily Telegraph, 25th March 2015

Guardian journalist Simon Hoggart has died aged 67 from pancreatic cancer, the newspaper has confirmed. Hoggart was also known for presenting Radio 4's The News Quiz for 10 years up until 2006.

BBC News, 6th January 2014

Susan Calman has called for the end of "name-calling, swearing and death threats" marring the independence debate after her satirical contribution to a radio show triggered an onslaught of online abuse.

Written by Tom Peterkin. The Scotsman, 1st May 2013

I've been told that someone has written a blog which is pretty abusive towards me after my performance on The News Quiz.

Written by Susan Calman. 30th April 2013

The News Quiz (Radio 4, 6.30pm) returns. I know there are people who will leap with joy at this news. Once I would have been among them. No longer. Even though producer Sam Bryant has brought back journalists (tonight Daniel Finkelstein of The Times) to pit wits against comedians Roisin Conaty, Phill Jupitus and Jeremy Hardy, the programme has grown so much coarser with the years that even Sandi Toksvig seems challenged when trying to enliven the murky script.

Gillian Reynolds, The Daily Telegraph, 5th April 2013

Comedian, playwright, novelist, TV personality: Sandi Toksvig is a one-woman cottage industry.

Written by Emine Saner. The Observer, 26th August 2012

Transatlantic take on topical quiz show marks first time a BBC Radio 4 comedy programme has been remade in the States.

Written by Ben Dowell. The Guardian, 12th March 2012

Writers defend 'additional material' slot.

Chortle, 11th March 2012

The BBC has been accused of exploitation and hypocrisy, after asking comedy writers to work on Radio 4's flagship topical show The News Quiz for free.

Written by Jay Richardson. Chortle, 8th March 2012

The News Quiz (Radio 4, Friday) returned for a 75th series last week, its host Sandi Toksvig and contestants Dominic Lawson, Jeremy Hardy, Andy Hamilton and Fred MacAulay keen to get at what must be one of the richest current affairs harvests in living memory. As ever, Hamilton had the best lines, noting that the name of Libyan diplomat Moussa Koussa "sounds like an ABBA track" and comparing the all-party select committee responsible for grilling Rupert and James Murdoch to "a panel comprised of Sherlock Holmes, Perry Mason, Dale Winton, Jim Bowen and Sooty". (Listeners were left to guess which MP most closely resembles a small glove-puppet bear.)

The format may now be as well worn and familiar as an old cardigan, but it's no less welcome for that.

Pete Naughton, The Daily Telegraph, 13th September 2011

I love the Danes. If they want to ban Marmite, that's fine by me. Yes of course it's tasty, in small doses, but isn't there something inherently WRONG about something of which A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY? If it's so great, why would you have to SPREAD THINLY? What other foodstuff takes as its USP the fact that LOTS OF PEOPLE HATE IT? Face it, if Marmite was a person, it would be a pervert. Now they've banned Marmite, can we ban Sandi Toksvig?

Written by Julie Burchill. The Independent, 9th June 2011

The BBC was at the centre of a new decency row last night after ruling that the most offensive word in English is acceptable for broadcast.

Written by Chris Hastings & Steve Farrell. The Mail on Sunday, 5th June 2011

I wasn't planning to review this show but things changed for reasons you will soon discover.

The long running satirical panel game, currently hosted by Sandi Toksvig, has been running since 1977, and last week saw the start of its 74th series. This week's guests included regular performers Jeremy Hardy and Susan Calman, semi-regular Will Smith, and journalist Matthew Parris.

There were some topics that you would expect to be covered, such as the royal wedding, super injunctions and Libya, but then it came to the subject of tuition fees, and how most universities are raising them to extortionate rates.

Among those are my old university, Teesside University in Middlesbrough, which this week announced it was planning to put up its fees of £8,500. As you would expect, they took the mickey out of the region. Parris said that what was actually going on was that they were actually selling the whole university for £8,500.

Smith said that £8,500 tuition fees were a status thing, but argued that if this was the reason that they should just change the name to "Oxbridge University of the North" or "Hogwarts".

It cost the university £20,000 to change its logo and the name of the establishment to "Teesside University" from "University of Teesside", so £8,500 is nothing, really. Toksvig at the end claimed that if anyone was offended, the £8,500 includes, "a whole row of terrace houses."

To be honest with you, I was shocked when I heard them talking about Teesside in such a fashion, because I am amazed that anyone on BBC Radio 4 has even heard of Teesside.

I didn't mind The News Quiz mocking my old university, though. I'm just glad it got the publicity, even if it was not the most glowing publicity. To be honest, when I heard that the fees were going up, I was on Twitter arguing the raise was impossible; because no-one in Teesside has £8,500. (It's true - I'm currently writing this on a Windows 98 in a skip near a Starbucks, leeching onto the Wi-Fi).

The News Quiz show is still entertaining after so many years, and because it is on at 6.30pm, it mocks the news two-and-a-half hours before Have I Got News for You does. Well worth a listen.

Ian Wolf, Giggle Beats, 26th April 2011

Last in this series. Thank goodness. Next week Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis return with The Now Show, which may have its off moments but still hits more marks than it misses and, to me, seems to leave its older stablemate sounding tired and desperate. Marks of this are the ever deepening shades of blue written into chairman Sandy Toksvig's script, which induces the other comedians on the show to venture ever further into crudeness. It's not that I'm shocked. It's just that it's all so predictable. Maybe it's time to give it a rest. Or bring in a new writer.

Gillian Reynolds, The Daily Telegraph, 24th February 2011

Examining the merits of the online street crime map, which launched in England and Wales earlier this week... and then promptly crashed.

Written by Jaine Sykes. BBC Comedy Blog, 4th February 2011

This week's News Quiz lineup features Jeremy Hardy, Sue Perkins, Paul Sinha and Carrie Quinlan alongside presenter Sandi Toksvig. Tonight, the panel tackles Sky Sports' own goal, and asks, 'Are men the problem in football?'

Written by Jaine Sykes. BBC Comedy Blog, 28th January 2011

It's Friday, so here's a little treat from tonight's News Quiz, featuring Sue Perkins, Mark Steel, Jeremy Hardy and Hugo Rifkind.

Written by Jaine Sykes. BBC Comedy Blog, 21st January 2011

Here's an advance dose of tonight's News Quiz, featuring Susan Calman, Jeremy Hardy, Henning Wehn and Sue Perkins. After Justice Secretary Ken Clarke announced the closure of three "outdated and expensive" prisons, Sandi Toksvig asks German stand-up Henning Wehn for an analysis.

Written by Jon Aird. BBC Comedy Blog, 14th January 2011

And so, the last News Quiz of the series is in the bag, with the usual funnies from our esteemed panel of Andy Hamilton, Miles Jupp, Phill Jupitus and Jeremy Hardy.

Written by Jon Aird. BBC Comedy Blog, 12th November 2010

As Broadcasting House is currently closed for the final phase of refurbishment, The News Quiz team decamped to London's fashionable Drill Hall for this week's recording.

Written by David Thair. BBC Comedy Blog, 5th November 2010

It's a double bill of local newspaper advertising boards from the cuttings folder...

BBC Comedy Blog, 29th October 2010

Continuing our 'Behind the Scenes of The News Quiz' theme, here's what is going on literally now in the edit suite...

BBC Comedy Blog, 22nd October 2010

Here's News Quiz producer Sam Bryant reading the papers in preparation for this week's writers meeting (see last week's blog). Exciting, huh?

Written by David Thair. BBC Comedy Blog, 15th October 2010

This week's News Quiz lineup consists of Andy Hamilton, Miles Jupp, Sue Perkins and Jeremy Hardy. But as we had a picture of most of them last week, instead here's Sandi with one of our excellent script writers - Simon Littlefield.

Written by David Thair. BBC Comedy Blog, 8th October 2010

Tonight's News Quiz on Radio 4 sees the esteemed panel of Francis Wheen and Jeremy Hardy slogging it out against Sue Perkins and Andy Hamilton to win points from Sandi Toksvig by answering questions about topical events. Who will win? We literally don't know*. (*We literally do. The show was recorded on Thursday night. We're just not telling.)

Written by David Thair. BBC Comedy Blog, 1st October 2010

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