Last among eQIals

Why Fry wasn't first choice as QI host

Stephen Fry was not the first choice to host comedy panel show QI, its creator John Lloyd has revealed.

The upmarket quiz was originally intended as a radio series, with Lloyd himself in the chair.

And even when it was decided to make the show for TV, it was still not Fry who producers wanted as host – but Michael Palin

However the former Python decided he wanted a break following his Sahara travelogue, so he turned down the role, whcich was then given to Fry – who until then had been earmarked as a team captain.

Lloyd revealed: ‘Stephen was supposed to be leader of the cleverclogs team, with Alan Davies leader of the dunderheads, and Michael Palin as the charming, nice man in the middle. But he didn’t want to do it.’

His comments came during the recording of a new Radio 4 chat show, Chain Reaction, in which he was interviewed by old friend Clive Anderson.

The discussion covered Lloyd’s career that started in radio, where he launched The News Quiz and Quote, Unquote and later encompassed Not The Nine O’Clock News , Spitting Image and Blackadder on TV.

Among Lloyd’s other revelations were that

  • The director of the first series of Blackadder, Martin Shardlow, suffered terrible piles during shooting and ‘had to lay on a trolley and be pushed around with his agonizing bottom’
  • He once made a shortlist of three to be one of the reporters on That’s Life! – the other two on the list were Chris Searles, who got the job, and Peter Bazalgette, who went on to run Big Brother production company Endemol
  • He set Michael Portillo on the road to politics, after turning him down at audition for the Cambridge Footlights
  • He was the presenter on the pilot episode of Have I Got News For You, but looked too wooden reading the Autocue, so Angus Deayton was drafted in.
  • Keith Allen ‘locked me in a lift by jamming a radiator in the door’ in the early days of the Comedy Store because he through Lloyd, a punter there,was too middle class
  • That he once devised a sitcom calledRich Bastard with the league character based around Hithchikers Guide To The Galaxy author Douglas Adams, his one-time best friend with whom he had a falling-out,. The character ‘had lots of servants, but was so jealous of the nobody he went to university with’.

Chain Reaction will go out on Radio 4 from January 10, when Marcus Brigstocke interviews Clive Anderson The John Lloyd show recorded in London last night was the second in the series.

or free tickets to future Chain Reaction recordings, visit the BBC website.

Published: 21 Dec 2006

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