OnTheBox Interviews Rory Bremner

“The beauty of the show is its simplicity,â€? explains Rory Bremner, impressionist and now the host of Channel 4’s new quiz show, The Clock. “It’s basically pass the parcel, but with questions.â€?

Using a similar format to The Weakest Link, the twist of the show is that neither Rory nor the contestants know how long the round is going last, making time the key factor.

“What’s interesting,â€? Rory says, “is that you get people who have gotten nineteen out of twenty on the general knowledge test beforehand, and they’ve been gonged out in the first round. So it’s that element of randomness that makes it so much fun.â€?

Nevertheless, Rory insists that shooting the series was anything but. Filmed in what Rory keeps accidentally referring to as a shed, he jokes that “The Shedâ€? was, in fact, one of the programme’s early working titles.

“We were in a shed outside Loch Lomond—an old whisky warehouse,â€? he explains. “It had a great atmosphere to it, but they just couldn’t heat it, so I pretty much had a cold all through shooting. The soundman must have hated me. They had two weeks of me going: ‘[blows nose] Er, I’m so sorry.‘â€?

So has his experience hosting the show given him a newfound respect for other TV quizmasters?

Rory laughs. “Part of me thought that it would have been done in a day and it would be no problem. But I don’t think there have been days where I’ve had to concentrate so intensely and at times your mind starts to get a bit addled.â€?

I ask Rory what kind of host he is and before I get an answer I’m treated to a few impressions. He does Des Lynam, Bruce Forsyth and Bob Monkhouse (his favourite), but then confesses that he’s not much of an Ann Robinson.

“No, I don’t do mean very well,â€? he says. “I think I was very sympathetic and after a while you realise that these contestants are very competitive

and they know how these things are, so in the later programmes I started to have a lot more fun with it.�

Rory refers to many of The Clock’s contestants as quizzers: an odd breed of person, he explains, who turns quizzing into an obsession.

“They all really knew their stuff, apart from one man who just didn’t know anything,â€? he tells me. “I’d ask him something like: ‘What year did England win the world cup,’ and he’d say: ‘Oh, here we go! Here we go!’

“It turned out that he was in counter terrorism, and so I said to him afterwards: ‘But you’re in counter terrorism,’ and he went: ‘No one knows anything in counter terrorism!’â€?

Finally, with the mention of Rory’s comedy, the conversation turns to the subject of satire, which Rory says is currently undergoing a strange transformation.

“The politicians are busy satirising themselves now,â€? he says. “What was it David Cameron said again? ‘Ed Miliband’s done more impressions than Rory.’ I just thought, ‘Well, who wrote that one?’ It’s funny that somebody will have been sat in Downing Street thinking up jokes for David Cameron to use for Prime Minister’s questions.

“I’m actually doing six programmes for Radio 4 in the autumn, one of which will be about how democracy works, because I think that now everyone’s a satirist. The default position of the general public is total apathy, because they’ve had enough.â€?

Face The Clock: starts on Channel 4, Mon 07 Jan, 3.30PM