‘Question Team’ brings a new twist to comedy quiz

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Celebrity shows are a guilty pleasure to me. Part of the reason they’re so addicting is their re-watching value. It doesn’t matter if an episode is new or an encore screening, if while browsing I stumble upon a quiz show, I will invariably stick around to watch it.

The wide variety of these shows means there is something for everyone. If you want intellectual rigor, there is IQ. If you’re looking for something more like a game show than an outright quiz, there’s the highly addictive and entertaining Tyrant (streaming on SBS On Demand). Somewhere in between, part quiz, part game show and part parody, there is 8 out of 10 cats do a countdown (also available on SBS On Demand). (I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from the sudden and tragic loss of Sean Lock, who was such an integral part of this show and one of the funniest people on the planet.)

With comics often headlining various panels as celebrity guests, the “comic” panel has virtually become a subgenre of this format. So what can a new show in this subgenre add to the format? Do you really do you need another comic book-led group show on your watchlist when there are already plenty of other shows of a similar variety? The answer is a resounding YES! Especially, if this show is Question Team.

Every turn will surprise you

The format is deceptively simple, but ingenious. It’s one of those “why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?” ideas. Instead of having a fixed format of questions for guest comedians to answer, the questions are prepared by the comedians themselves. Guests take turns leading a quiz for which they have prepared questions, based on their own interests and personalities. Or, as host Richard Ayoade puts it:

“They’ve each put together a quiz on a topic of their choosing, which is most likely repurposed material they know but no longer need.”

None of the participants knows what questions the others have prepared. And although he is the host, Ayoade also competes with other guests as a participant and is not just an observer. The first episode stars Bob Mortimer, Kerry Godliman and Thanyia Moore. Their respective interests are as varied as they come: DIY, camping and pop music respectively.

But it’s not just the variety of subjects chosen by the comics that makes the series interesting. The way they conduct their respective quiz rounds is also do not what you usually expect. Take Bob Mortimer, for example. He runs his DIY quiz segment with a Geordie accent. Longtime Mortimer fans will love his surreal comedy references Shooting Stars of which Mortimer was a part. His segment parodies the game show The price is right, with a dash of physical comedy and pantomime thrown in for good measure. And once you get the conscious pulse of Mortimer’s act – he pulls the mickey out of a game show while being on a game show himself – you realize what Question Team is really on. These are not questions. The magic of the show is in the inventive and interactive way the comics present their segments, often testing the limits of what’s possible.

Another highlight of the first episode is “mystery guest” Rob Carter, who appears as his wacky novelist alter ego Christopher Bliss. Staying entirely in character, Carter steals the show in her brief appearance and proves that character comedy is alive and well in the process.

Other guests include English comedian James Acaster, who frequently appears on TyrantRosie Jones, who SBS viewers might know from her travel show Trip Hazard: My Great Brit Adventure now streaming on SBS On Demand and American actor and stand-up, Kemah Bob.

The clumsy but undeniable charm of Richard Ayoade

Sure, Question Team wouldn’t work as well without Richard Ayoade as the host. Writers Matthew Crosby and Matt Hulme have had the daunting task of ensuring that the series walks the tightrope of self-awareness, without falling into the abyss of complacency. And who better to find this delicate balance than Ayoade? He captured the public imagination with his iconic portrayal of the socially awkward nerd in the hit comedy The computer crowd. However, he has since expanded his repertoire considerably, becoming a director, writer and venturing into dramatic roles.

On Question Team, Ayoade uses his deadpan attitude steeped in social awkwardness to deliberately subvert the conventions of a quizmaster. Because he duplicates himself as a participant, the distinction between host and guests is even more blurred. I don’t know anyone else who could deliver such hilarious, nonsensical lines with a straight face on camera better than Ayoade:

“My only rule is that every question needs a proper answer. Because without A, there can be no Q&.

I’m thrilled to find out how much fun Ayoade and his gang of misfit guests are having over the weeks. With the show relying on the particular interests and idiosyncrasies of its guests to take it into unexpected waters, the comics here are sure to have the final say.

Question Team premieres Monday, April 11 at 8:30 p.m. AEST on SBS VICELAND. Episodes air weekly and stream on SBS On Demand after they air. Start with episode 1:

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