Last Thursday's edition of QI was interesting for the guest-appearance of US comedian/actor John Hodgman, a regular on The Daily Show and "PC" in the original "Mac Vs PC" commercials. Hodgman's a big fan of the show, and was recently filmed extolling the virtues of QI during a public appearance where rallied support for a campaign to get BBC America to broadcast it (article). Clearly someone at QI noticed Hodgman's support and he was here rewarded with an appearance on the gameshow itself. I'm sure he enjoyed himself, but it made for an awkward half-hour...
Put simply, Hodgman was one of QI's worst guests - although not as bad as scruffy Scotsman Phil Kaye. It didn't help that his presence (not just as a rare guest from overseas) was highlighted by the unfair decision to stick him in the middle of teammates Sandi Toksvig and Sean Lock for the show's first ever three-person team. It felt very much like Hodgman had been crowbarred into the episode, and the show thus felt unbalanced. It also brought too much attention to Hodgman, who was suddenly given a weight of expectation - after all, why else would they upset the delicate balance of QI if he wasn't going to be comedy gold?
Of larger concern was the fact that QI's brand of comedy generally relies on wit and a certain level of surrealism. Sean Lock and Bill Bailey have that corner of the market sewn up between them. Americans in general don't seem to have the madcap comedy gene in their makeup. I'm struggling to think of any US comedians who have similar acts to Monty Python, Eddie Izzard, Vic Reeves, or Harry Hill. So, Hodgman was instantly lost during most of the rounds, while everyone else swam around talking bizarre nonsense.
Maybe Hodgman would be able to find his footing if he came back for future editions, as I'm sure it was very nerve-wracking to suddenly find yourself in the show you dearly love and have publicly championed. It's also worth mentioning that the comedy panel show subgenre is practically unknown in America, so he came in a little unskilled. At times, Hodgman just settled for answering questions in a straight-forward manner (which helped him win the show), in-between forcing out a few half-hearted attempts to be offbeat and funny. Still, at least he actually DID get involved. There are far worse examples of British comedians guesting on panel shows and saying literally four sentences. Which is even worse when you stop to remember these shows can take hours to film and they edit it down to a half-hour of highlights.Dan Owen, news:lite, 6th December 2009
John Hodgman's public lambasting of the BBC for not bringing QI to America didn't explain the network's reason for their decision, other than Dumb Ol' America is so dumb (how dumb are we?) that when we go to a sperm bank, we ask the teller for a BLANK.
Thankfully, Hodgman isn't the only man coming to the U.S.A.'s defense. John Lloyd, the show's executive producer, feels the same way so much so that he was willing to interrupt his vacation in Turkey to chat with me about it.Danny Gallagher, TV Squad, 11th August 2009