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.

 
Leicester Festival trip

Leicester Festival trip

Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival is organising a trip for Londoners featuring a packed day of comedy. Read

New Acts Of The Year 2015

New Acts Of The Year 2015

The finalists for the NATYS contest have been announced, but the organisers warn of problems with the circuit. Read

High Hopes returns in 2015

High Hopes returns in 2015

High Hopes, the BBC Wales sitcom which ran for six series between 1999 and 2008, is to return. Read

2015 British comedy survey

2015 British comedy survey

A comedy survey has been launched, aiming to collect the thoughts of comedy fans across the UK. Details

20 festive comedy videos

20 festive comedy videos

The internet has been busy creating lots of funny festive video sketches. Here's 20 of the best from 2014. Watch

Christmas Puns

Christmas Puns

UK Pun Champion Darren Walsh has written us some festive jokes. There's a couple of drawings too. Read

BBC New Comedy Award 2014

BBC New Comedy Award 2014

Lee Ridley, a stand-up comedian with cerebral palsy, has won the BBC New Comedy Award 2014. Read

Richard Osman podcast

Richard Osman podcast

Pointless star Richard Osman joins Richard Herring for an entertaining chat. Watch or listen here: Listen

New Christmas Cracker jokes

New Christmas Cracker jokes

The winners of UKTV Gold's Christmas Cracker joke competition have been announced. Read the top 10: Read

No Pressure To Be Festive

No Pressure To Be Festive

Alistair Barrie and Nick Revell host a festive edition of the No Pressure To Be Funny political podcast. Listen

Pun Championships 2015

Pun Championships 2015

Check out some of the puns from the comedians who will take part in the UK Pun Championships 2015. Read

Christmas TV Guide 2014

Christmas TV Guide 2014

A list of 25 festive comedy specials to look out for between now and 2015. There's lots of treats ahead: Read

Christmas Gift Guide 2014

Christmas Gift Guide 2014

Shopping for gifts? We've plenty to choose from in our Christmas selection, from books to DVDs. Browse

Channel 4 pilot Space Ark

Channel 4 pilot Space Ark

Channel 4 has commissioned Space Ark, a new sci-fi sitcom pilot about a crew living on a spaceship. Read

BBC Comedy's 2015 plans

BBC Comedy's 2015 plans

Boomers and Citizen Khan will both return for another series, as the BBC outlines its plans for comedy in 2015. Read

Win Fools & Horses costumes

Win Fools & Horses costumes

We've got some official Only Fools And Horses fancy dress costumes to give away. Del Boy and Rodney. Enter

Joke Thieves interview

Joke Thieves interview

Will Mars talks about his 'bulletproof' live comedy format Joke Thieves. It's on tour and heading for TV. Read

Olivia Colman's new sitcom

Olivia Colman's new sitcom

Olivia Colman and Julian Barrett are to star in Flowers, a sitcom pilot about 'the ultimate dysfunctional family'. Read

Bob Monkhouse documentary

Bob Monkhouse documentary

UKTV Gold is to show Bob Monkhouse: The Million Joke Man, a three-part series presented by Paul O' Grady. Read

Toast Of London Series 3

Toast Of London Series 3

Channel 4 has ordered a third series of Toast Of London, its hit new comedy series starring Matt Berry. Read

Brian Pern interview

Brian Pern interview

Simon Day and Rhys Thomas, the creators of Brian Pern: A Life In Rock, talk about the second series. Read

Educating Bitchfield pilot

Educating Bitchfield pilot

Early Doors stars John Henshaw and Mark Benton are amongst the cast for the Educating Bitchfield pilot. Read

Shop Newsletter

Shop Newsletter

We've relaunched our Shop Newsletter. Why not have a read through to see what catches your eye? Read

British comedy art

British comedy art

Check out some unique artworks inspired by classic British comedy shows like Blackadder and The Young Ones. View

Simon Evans interview

Simon Evans interview

Simon Evans has just made his first stand-up DVD. He chats with Si Hawkins about all things comedy. Read

Drunk History series

Drunk History series

Comedy Central orders a series in which comedians get very drunk and attempt to tell historical tales. Read

Almost Royal gets Series 2

Almost Royal gets Series 2

Almost Royal the prank show involving two actors pretending to be royalty, is to return for a 2nd series. Read

Winston Churchill facts

Winston Churchill facts

Happy 140th birthday to Winston Churchill. Here's some funny videos which reveal 10 'facts' about him. View

New Arthur Mathews sitcom

New Arthur Mathews sitcom

Father Ted and Toast co-writer Arthur Mathews is developing a new BBC sitcom about bailiffs. Read

Richard Gadd interview

Richard Gadd interview

A discussion with 'troubled comedian' Richard Gadd about topics such as mining one's life for material. Read

Julian Clary's kids books

Julian Clary's kids books

Julian Clary has signed a two book deal with a publishing company to write children's novels. Read

Phoenix Nights to return

Phoenix Nights to return

Peter Kay's much loved sitcom Phoenix Nights will return as a live stage show in January. Read

My Mad Fat Diary S3

My Mad Fat Diary S3

The comedy drama about a 16-year-old with weight and mental health problems is to return. Read

British Comedy Awards

British Comedy Awards

Who do you think will win at the British Comedy Awards? Have a guess on our interactive website. Enter

Rebecca Front podcast

Rebecca Front podcast

Rebecca Front chats to Richard Herring about some of her comedy acting roles in this episode of RHLSTP. Listen

Virtually Famous returns

Virtually Famous returns

E4 has commissioned 2 new series of panel show Virtually Famous, focusing on internet celebrities. Read

BBC Xmas offerings

BBC Xmas offerings

The BBC has announced its Christmas comedy offerings. Amongst the shows is the end of hit sitcom Miranda. Read

British Comedy Awards K&Q

British Comedy Awards K&Q

Voting for the British Comedy Awards 2014 King or Queen category has launched. Pick from 6: Read

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

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