The Humble Quest for Universal Genius - The Perfect Contestant

Mark Allen
Mark Allen
December 2012

The Humble Quest for Universal Genius. Image shows from L to R: Mark Allen, Eli Silverman. 'The Humble Quest for Universal Genius' is a live comedy format where contestants are put through their paces across a series of rounds to see if they have what it takes to be considered a true genius.

The 50th show is coming up, so we asked creator Mark Allen (pictured with 'glamorous' assistant Eli Silverman) to create the ideal contestant for us.

If we were to create a hybrid genius, based on the best contestants at each round over the previous 49 shows, here's how it would break down...

Languages

The Humble Quest for Universal Genius. Mike Wozniak. The aim: I have a Bulgarian phrasebook, which claims to be translating popular English slang words and phrases. However most of the phrases within the book are utter nonsense, such as "Basket scrambler", "Gammon queer" and "Dicked in the nob". The contestants are given examples from the book as asked to explain what they mean.

Honourable mentions: Richard Herring, whose definition of "Gull-groper" is sadly not fit for publication; and Nick Helm, for his definition of "Suck the Monkey" as an exclamation to be used when things go horribly wrong.

The winner: Mike Wozniak, for his glorious definition for the phrase "Old man milk". According to Wozniak, it is used in Portsmouth to describe something that's very difficult to procure, but which - once procured - is totally undesirable.

Etiquette

Paul Foot. The aim: Based on the Debrett's Guide to Modern Etiquette, the contestants are asked to respond in the correct manner to various questions on how to behave in polite society.

Notable mentions: Rufus Hound and Isy Suttie, who decided to forgo the round in favour of having a banana eating competition. Hound won as Suttie ended up regurgitating a mashed-up ball of banana back into her hand (Video).

The winner: Paul Foot, who - unsurprisingly for a man of such sophistication - knew that the correct way to eat peas in polite society is to squash them onto the back of your down-turned fork. Superlative manners from Foot.

Poetry

Marcel Lucont. Alexis Dubus. The aim: To compose a poem in five minutes based on a suggestion from the audience.

Honourable mentions: Dan Antopolski, who came up with an impressive number of rhymes for the word cucumber; and Tom Parry from Pappy's for his seven-minute long epic poem about Rod Stewart and Moira Stewart.

The winner: Marcel Lucont, whose magnificent poem on mice contained the unforgettable line "If you eat my Roquefort, I'll give you what for".

Science

Josie Long. Image credit: Idil Sukan, Draw HQ.The aim: The contestants are presented with graphs and charts which have had the labels removed. They simply have to use their best science to explain what the graphs are illustrating.

Honourable mentions: Andrew Maxwell, who gave an impassioned lecture on the rise and fall of gold prices, which ended in a rousing rendition of a Spandau Ballet hit; and Humphrey Ker, who revealed that a bar chart was actually a pictorial representation of Pac Man and his battle with depression.

The winner: Josie Long predictably showed a flare for this, explaining a bar chart which illustrated the scientific breakdown of types of women that Russell Brand has slept with.

Hunting

Lloyd Langford. The aim: My "glamorous" assistant Eli Silverman is forced to wear a velcro dartboard and run around the stage in the guise of various animals, as the two contestants hide in the audience and fire nerf guns at him.

Honourable mentions: Terry Saunders and Kent Valentine, who teamed up to haul Eli down and shoot him at point-blank range. Also Thom Tuck who, when faced with a final shot to win the game, chose to shoot at the floor so the "deer" he was hunting could go free.

The winner: Lloyd Langford who surprisingly possesses an unparalleled killer instinct. Not only is he the only contestant to score a bullseye, but he is also the first to hit his prey in each of the three rounds - a feat he has accomplished both times he has competed in the show. Sensational stuff from the Welshman.

Art

The Humble Quest for Universal Genius. Image shows from L to R: Tom Bell, Mark Allen. The aim: During the interval of each show, the contestants are asked to create a sculpture entirely out of plasticine and to then explain the symbolism behind the piece.

Honourable mentions: Holly Walsh, for her scarily accurate depiction of Eli; and Joey Page for his intricate work "Fisherman's Luck".

The winner: Tom Bell, whose astonishing creation "Shame" featured a half naked man and woman who were hiding their faces in shame. Not because they were naked, but because they were ashamed of Britain - represented by them being stood by a union jack as a native British red squirrel was being brutally sodomised by an American grey squirrel (Video).

Literature

Mark Watson. The aim: The contestants are given extracts from genuine, but little-known literary abominations and they are asked to continue the story where the extract left off.

Honourable mentions: Robin Ince - himself no stranger to books - had the audience on the edge of their seats as he transformed Catherine Cookson's seemingly tepid novel The Nice Bloke into a bawdy romp. Henning Wehn also excelled as he introduced some trademark Teutonic bluntness into the Inspector Morse book The Wench is Dead.

The winner: Mark Watson, who - as an actual real-life novelist - would have been disappointed had he not taken this accolade. His story of platonic love between a woman and a wolf (separate beds) was an unexpected plot twist in The Bomb That Could Lipread, but it was nevertheless enormously well-received by a late night Edinburgh audience.

Mathematics

Sara Pascoe. Image credit: Idil Sukan, Draw HQ.The aim: The contestants are given a mathematical formula without being told what it means. They then have to explain to the audience what each of the letters in the equation stands for and what the formula is used to calculate.

Honourable mentions: Josh Widdicombe, whose mathematical formula for the causes of divorce was a stark warning to all married couples; and Romesh Ranganathan, who as a former maths teacher was very convincing in his explanation of the formula for how to be ejected from a nightclub.

The winner: Sara Pascoe, who brought the house down at Latitude Festival as she talked us through the equation for how you know if someone is cheating on you.

Inventing

Phil Nichol. The aim: Contestants are asked to solve a common problem by coming up with an invention based on a given set of household items.

Honourable mentions: Simon Evans who accidentally flung an apple on a chopstick into the audience whilst demonstrating a new Olympic opening ceremony; and Marek Larwood, whose trial-run of his new system of voting disastrously led to the BNP being elected to run the country.

The winner: Phil Nichol, whose solution to the Greek Debt Crisis involved enthusiastically drawing a moustache and monobrow on glamorous assistant Eli, before suddenly realising that the marker pen was permanent.

Actual Knowledge

Paul Sinha. The aim: A quick-fire round where contestants have to prove their grasp of actual knowledge.

Honourable mentions: Angela Barnes scored very highly on this - perhaps aided by her previous stint as a professional know-all for the AQA text service. James Sherwood also displayed an impressive knowledge of some obscure subjects.

The winner: Paul Sinha. No contest at all here, as he was the 21st highest-ranked quizzer in the world at the time he competed and has subsequently gone on to become a resident clever clogs on ITV's The Chase. I like to think that his victory in the actual knowledge round on The Humble Quest for Universal Genius spurred him onto greater things.


To find out more about THQFUG visit www.universalgenius.co.uk and follow @THQFUG. The 50th show special is on Thursday 20th December 2012 at The Leicester Square Theatre in London, with guests Tony Law and Steve Hall.

 
So On & So Forth series

So On & So Forth series

The comedy troupe So On And So Forth have been given their own BBC Radio 4 sketch show series. Read

Lee Evans quits comedy

Lee Evans quits comedy

Lee Evans, one of the UK's best known stand-ups, has unexpectedly announced he is to retire from comedy. Read

Jason Manford interview

Jason Manford interview

Jason Manford explains why his new DVD is making people soil themselves, and he talks about his club chain. Read

Win Variety Soup tickets

Win Variety Soup tickets

Win tickets to see Variety Soup in London. It's the fantastic hit show from the Slightly Fat Features ensemble. Enter

What is a joke? - Part 2

What is a joke? - Part 2

Dave Cohen prepares Big Comedy Conference delegates with an attempt to explain EVERY type of joke. Read

Sarah Millican podcast

Sarah Millican podcast

Sarah Millican chats to Richard Herring in the latest episode of his podcast series. It's a funny chat. Listen

Paddy McGuinness sitcom

Paddy McGuinness sitcom

Paddy McGuinness is to return to comedy acting with a role in ITV's new midwife sitcom, The Delivery Man. Read

Where are the older comics?

Where are the older comics?

Comedy sketch duo Flip and Maggie ask 'Where are the people, particularly women, of our age in comedy?' Read

I Live With Models series

I Live With Models series

Comedy Central has confirmed the commission of a new studio sitcom. It's called I Live With Models. Read

Taking Liberties comedies

Taking Liberties comedies

The BBC has ordered comedies for its Magna Carta season, including a new Horrible Histories episode. Read

Laughing Horse finalists

Laughing Horse finalists

The 15 finalists involved in the Laughing Horse New Act of the Year 2014 competition are listed here: Read

What is a joke?

What is a joke?

An article in which Dave Cohen looks at the structure of a joke, and explains how Aristotle got there first. Read

Eddie Izzard autobiography

Eddie Izzard autobiography

Eddie Izzard is to write his memoirs. He has signed a book deal with a US publishing company. Read

Gold to make more sitcoms

Gold to make more sitcoms

UKTV Gold has announced it is increasing its investment in new shows to develop five new sitcoms. Read

John Cleese leads icon list

John Cleese leads icon list

John Cleese has been named as the most influential British comedy icon in a poll of the public. Read

Charlie Brooker wipes again

Charlie Brooker wipes again

BBC Two has ordered another series of Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe, and a round-up of 2014. Read

People Just Do Nothing 2

People Just Do Nothing 2

People Just Do Nothing, the BBC Three sitcom set around a pirate radio station, has been given a 2nd series. Read

Stand-up newcomers report

Stand-up newcomers report

Nine of the brave souls who performed stand-up for the first time as part of a charity gig report back. Read

Sara Pascoe podcast

Sara Pascoe podcast

Stand-up Sara Pascoe is this week's guest on Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast. Listen

Julia Davis commissioned

Julia Davis commissioned

Julia Davis's latest sitcom project, Morning Has Broken, has been given a full series by Channel 4. Read

Dapper Laughs won't return

Dapper Laughs won't return

ITV has confirmed that it will not order a second series of comedy-dating show Dapper Laughs: On The Pull. Read

Joseph Morpurgo interview

Joseph Morpurgo interview

An interview with Joseph Morpurgo, a comic actor whose solo work is pretty audacious in ambition. Read

Woody is now filming

Woody is now filming

Bradley Walsh and Kayvan Novak are now filming Woody, a new BBC sitcom set on a Spanish island. Read

British Comedy Awards 2014

British Comedy Awards 2014

The nominees for the British Comedy Awards 2014 have been revealed. See the shortlist for all 16 categories. Read

Babylon interviews

Babylon interviews

The stars of Babylon, Channel 4's police-based comedy drama, talk about how they prepared for the show. Read

Puppy Love interview

Puppy Love interview

The creators of new sitcom Puppy Love introduce the show, and talk about working with canine stars. Read

Churchill's true voice

Churchill's true voice

An interview with Toby DeWinter, the historian who discovered Churchill was a foul mouthed Northerner. Read

Good Cop Bad Cop interview

Good Cop Bad Cop interview

Adam Jarrell and Andrew Fettes from the comic play Good Cop Bad Cop talk about their production. Read

Fresh Meat - Series 4

Fresh Meat - Series 4

Fresh Meat writers Bain & Armstrong have confirmed that they are working on a fourth series: Read

Ivo Graham interview

Ivo Graham interview

Up-and-coming stand-up comedian Ivo Graham answers our combative questions with patience and wit. Read

Detectorists Series 2

Detectorists Series 2

Mackenzie Crook's Detectorists will return to BBC Four for a second series in 2015. Read

Blue fooled in prank show

Blue fooled in prank show

Boy band Blue are the fools of a new prank series, one in which they attempt to run a bar in Ibiza. Read

Steve Coogan podcast

Steve Coogan podcast

For the 50th episode of his podcast series, Richard Herring interviews the one and only Steve Coogan! Listen

McIntyre to host Royal show

McIntyre to host Royal show

Michael McIntyre will present the Royal Variety Performance this year. Acts will include Sarah Millican. Read

Mark Thomas interview

Mark Thomas interview

An epic chat with Mark Thomas about arms sales, corporate spying, conspiracy theories, ISIS and more. Read

Twop Twips analysed

Twop Twips analysed

The best advice from the Twitter feed @TwopTwips has been put into a book. Here's some highlights: Read

Craig Campbell: living hell

Craig Campbell: living hell

Stand-up Craig Campbell has got early onset osteoarthritis. He has a bit of a rant about it in this blog: Read

All knitted Nudinits!

All knitted Nudinits!

Check out Nudinits, a 22 minute stop frame animated film in which every scene has been knitted by hand. Read

Benji Waterstones wins comp

Benji Waterstones wins comp

Stand-up Benji Waterstones has emerged as the winner of the Frog and Bucket's Beat the Frog contest. Read

Enter the Pun Championships

Enter the Pun Championships

Are you a comedian full of puns? If so, here's how to enter to become the 2015 UK Pun Champion. Read

Noel Fielding interview

Noel Fielding interview

Noel Fielding talks about his live comedy tour, and the reception to his TV sketch show Luxury Comedy. Read

Alan Carr: 2015 tour

Alan Carr: 2015 tour

Alan Carr has announced Yap, Yap, Yap!, a massive tour of the UK and Ireland starting in February 2015. Read