Marcus du Sautoy

Marcus du Sautoy interview

You might think advanced mathematics is a rather joyless and serious subject, but one Oxford University professor is looking to the funny side.

Rachel Bayne, The Oxford Times, 26th March 2014

Dara O'Briain: School of Hard Sums (Dave) fails to understand the contract between viewer and TV: I will watch you, says viewer to telly, only if you undertake not to make me feel guilty about wasting my life and under no circumstances try to improve me.

O'Briain and his mini-me henchman, Oxford maths prof Marcus du Sautoy, know a lot about Pythagoras's theorems, multi-dimensional space and quadratic equations, but they don't realise they're destroying the very essence of TV in general and the business model of Dave, the channel devoted to further stupefying half-cut blokes who can't find anything else on. But as the credits rolled, a voice said: "Place eight queens on a chessboard in such a way that they cannot capture each other." There's no easy way to say this, but I've got the pieces on the board right now. Damn you, O'Briain!

Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian, 5th March 2014

Radio Times review

The problem-solving series returns to strike terror into the hearts of the trigonometrically challenged. This opener lures you in with some frolicking, manly banter about eight-dimensional kebabs and the fluid dynamics behind a Roberto Carlos free kick. But the problem with the format is that it's very difficult to play along at home. So there are lots of shots of things being arranged on tables and students saying "Hmm" into their marker pens, but we have little idea how any of them are doing until adjudicator Marcus du Sautoy wades in to make everyone (apart from Dara) feel a bit thick.

Comedians Kevin Bridges and the terrific Peter Serafinowicz are the guests. The latter, in particular, makes little attempt to disguise his bafflement throughout.

Gary Rose, Radio Times, 4th March 2014

Dara O'Briain returns for a third series of calculus-based comedy. Again he's joined by brain-in-a-tank Marcus du Sautoy, who immediately ingratiates himself with football-mad standup Kevin Bridges by explaining the physics behind Roberto Carlos's bafflingly bendy free kick at Le Tournoi in 1997 (something to do with the Navier-Stokes equations, apparently). Elsewhere, Bridges and the rather great Peter Serafinowicz try to solve problems around vegetables, cheese and guitars. Knotty fun.

Gwilym Mumford, The Guardian, 4th March 2014

Interview: Dara O'Briain

Dara O Briain has just finished working on a new series of School of Hard Sums in which he solves formidable mathematical problems with the help of kebabs, curries and cakes (and maths genius Marcus du Sautoy). Now he's working out a simpler equation. A couple of weeks ago, the BBC's head of television, Danny Cohen, announced a ban on all-male panels in comedy shows. The programme most regularly cited for being male-dominated is Mock the Week, the bear pit of panel shows that O'Briain has chaired for nine years.

Simon Hattenstone, Radio Times, 25th February 2014

There will be bashful murmurs of agreement when Marcus Brigstocke admits he's no longer able to help his nine-year-old son with his maths. Luckily for him and fellow comic Josh Widdicombe, maths professor Marcus du Sautoy is on hand to guide them through some tricky teasers, as they test their amateur problem-solving against finely tuned maths bod Dara O'Briain.

The challenges are surprisingly difficult, but there is a relatively comprehensible explanation of the most efficient way to wrap a present. Here's a clue: the key is in the width of the strips, and not, as Marcus quips, to take it to the fifth floor of John Lewis.

James Gill, Radio Times, 8th May 2013

I'd quite like one of the audience members in Dara O'Briain: School of Hard Sums to calculate the probability that an A-star grade in maths would one day win them a ticket for a comedy panel show. They must be fairly long odds, mustn't they, advanced mathematics not being an obvious choice as raw material for laddish banter. The idea of the programme is that O'Briain's two stand-up guests tackle a problem by guesswork, instinct and trial and error while he and the studio audience of maths nerds use their acquired knowledge.

The problems themselves range from the kind of Saturday puzzlers you find on the crosswords page of a broadsheet paper to more complicated conundrums that illuminate abstruse fields of mathematics, such as convex polygons or topology. And in between time, Marcus du Sautoy drops in arithmetical curiosities, such as how you can use chaos theory to fake a Jackson Pollock or the best logical strategy to use if you find yourself in a three-way Mexican stand-off. The comedy element, not entirely surprisingly, turns out to be a bit strained, but the maths is quite interesting. In fact, you find yourself hankering for a bit more maths and fewer gags. Calculate the odds on that too.

Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 2nd May 2013

With the aid of string, a brace of willing stool pigeon comedians and a resident boffin, Dara O'Briain: School Of Hard Sums (Dave) is a noble attempt to cross-pollinate maths and comedy.

For me, it's rather more successful at multiplying giggles than explaining the intricacies of high-flown formulae but, hey, that's just the way my algorithms groove.

Under the banner title Does Crime Add Up? (just ask the Ndrangheta), Professor Marcus du Sautoy set O'Briain and the willing duo of Mark Watson and Andrew Maxwell the task of cracking assorted conundrums, from a relatively simple trick involving lining up in coloured hats to a mindbender of a murder mystery worthy of Poirot, wherein the lads had a high old time tracking the movements of a killer through a park, using mathematical logic to nail the killer.

No idea how they did it but it looked like a right old lark.

Keith Watson, Metro, 2nd May 2013