We catch up with comedian Tom Allen ahead of his new Channel 4 quiz show.
Have you always wanted to host your own quiz show?
It was a great opportunity to do the things I love best, which are chatting to members of the public and being a little bit strict. For me, television is about making people feel less alone. It’s a chance to show people trying their best and just being themselves and having a bit of a laugh along the way. I think that’s so important, and it’s been so missed in the last 12 months.
Have you found quiz shows a comfort during the pandemic?
I found myself watching a lot of things like The Chase and being very inspired. Bradley Walsh has always been very generous to me whenever I’ve met him, and I think he’s such a great example of a brilliant quiz host who manages to be human and kind and, at the same time, keeps it going in a way that sets it out as a series.
Was it fun to film?
We had such a laugh making it; really amazing crew, everybody worked so hard, and the set looks amazing. “It sort of looks a bit like a cruise ship,” I kept saying. The contestants go up some steps at the back when they leave, but it wasn’t quite clear where they had to go and, at one point, people started going the wrong way and they’d have to walk back. I love all those things, where you see the behind-the-scenes of it, and see things going just a little bit wrong.
Do you root for the contestants?
Sometimes, you’ll get people who are so lovely but are just a bit shy about buzzing in, and so other people will be overtaking them, and you go, “Oh, I just really want them to get at least some points”. Between the rounds, I’m like, “Come on you can do it”, to gee them up a little bit.
Are you excited to perform stand-up?
I’m very excited! I hope there will be a sense of real celebration in the way that we go and see live arts and go and do stuff. What I’ve always loved about stand-up is the fact that it’s an event that happens in that space, at that time, and we all laugh and celebrate and are together.
Are you nervous about being back on stage?
Somebody said to me years ago, “Nerves are just the flipside of excitement” – and I think that’s true. Sometimes we are conditioned to fear something that we’re excited about and, in truth, why not just live it and love it and just have a great time?
You released your autobiography, No Shame, last year. How important to you was it to be open and honest?
I wanted to talk about feelings and experiences I’ve had and, no matter how foolish I felt at the time, I thought, “Well, if I talk about them, then they lose their power, they lose their sting”. And I hope that anybody else who might have been through something similar would feel the same. Social media likes to portray everybody as so cool and so perfect and glamorous in every step of their lives, but in truth, everybody’s made a fool of themselves one way or another. I tried to write as specifically as possible about how things aren’t always tied up with a bow. Even things like coming out – those were big moments for me in my memory, and they did have a payoff, in a sense, but it wasn’t like, “Oh, and then everything was fine after that”.
Tom’s new game show, Tom Allen’s Quizness starts on Channel 4 this Friday, at 8pm.
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