Culturemodo: Was QI Live Worth A Small Fortune?

Yes, tickets for the live version of perennial TV quiz favourite QI were hideously expensive. But I was more than happy to see the show in Melbourne, and not just because Stephen Fry and Alan Davies tripped down under to do it. Here are five other reasons.

The show wasn't simply an extended version of the TV format. Even before it began, trivia factoids were displayed on the screen, and random items of music with a vague connection to intelligence ("Work It Out", the theme from Pinky & The Brain) were played. Fry then took to the stage for an extended monologue discussing his previous experience of Australia, which took up nearly half the show. In its own way, this replicates the usual filming experience, where you'll invariably have a warm-up person firing up the audience before recording begins. The difference is that Fry himself is doing it.

The chance to see some Aussie legends

Fry is a geek legend, and I happily wrote up some of his comments when he visited the Sydney Opera House last year. If anything, this live appearance delivered even more bon mots, reflecting that Fry is funnier when interacting with others than when delivering a monologue (as skilled as he is at the latter).

The odd Australian has appeared on QI for TV (Barry Humphries immediately springs to mind), but this was a proper smorgasbord. Each QI performance in Australia has featured a different set of performers (mostly comedians), which is a clever trick: the QI team can use the same basic script for every show but get different reactions each time.

On Saturday night in Melbourne, we got Colin Lane, Denise Scott and Andrew Denton. Lane seemed to relish being more adult than his recent roles on TV allow, Scott is always hysterical, and Denton's appearance served as a reminder of just how funny (and how quick-witted he is). We haven't really seen him in full comedic mode since his eponymous show left Seven, since Enough Rope emphasised his empathetic side. It was a treat, and a clear challenge for Fry to maintain control once Denton took off on his various flights of fancy.

Things got a lot smuttier than on TV

On stage, you can have QI banter that's much raunchier than would ever be allowed on TV. I'm not going to repeat most of it here — you don't need to know about triple vaginas on kangaroos and the entire buffet of oral love techniques, and the gags won't sound as good out of context — but it makes for a more amusing experience, and one you know you wouldn't get outside the stage environment.

Plenty of apologies for the ticket prices

Yes, this was an expensive night out: prices ranged from $99 to $199, and I was in the $149 area. At least everyone on stage knew it. Fry apologised early on after noting that during his first trip to Australia 30 years ago to appear in a comedy revue had top ticket prices of $11: "I'm sorry about that." Colin Lane also argued as soon as he hit the stage that Alan Davies should come on immediately: "They paid 200 bucks for him!"

But let's face it, the prices didn't cripple enthusiasm for the event: every single seat was sold.

Qantas got slagged off

The show was heading to Brisbane after this performance, but since it happened just hours after Qantas chucked a hissy by grounding all its planes, it wasn't clear how Fry and Davies were going to get there. Having been impacted by that myself, I welcomed every sarcastic barb. As Fry put it: "Welcome to our very last performance in Melbourne, or possibly not depending on what Mr Joyce does with Qantas."

Some good technology discussion

Fry admitted that some of the questions used for the stage show came from episodes broadcast in the UK but not Australia, but that this strategy hadn't made allowance for enthusiasts grabbing them illegally via torrents. He also noted that while Wikipedia was a useful resource for researching the show, it was never treated as a key source. "It's not just about going to Wikipedia or Googling something; it's about double-checking and triple-checking."

One of the questions asked what the world's most popular piece of music was, and the answer turned out to be not Khe Sanh, as Denise Scott suggested, but the default Nokia ring tone. Yes, that one. After Alan Davies demonstrated it — he'd grabbed a $29 cheapie for use while in Australia — Stephen Fry commented: "That's so sweet, you still have a Nokia." He then added to the night's smut factor by describing the phone as "insertably small".

So all in all, a fun night for everyone. If you've been to one of the other Aussie QI shows, share your experience in the comments.


Comments

    Whilst the Friday night show was enjoyable, it did feel like profiteering at that price. Lots of recycled content from the show and books, and even down to typos in the pre-show quite interesting slides. The Friday night guests were also a bit disappointing. In short, it was good but not excellent - and I expected excellent from the QI team.

    i hope the show made it to BBC for all to see

    We attended the Friday night show, our special guests were Jono Coleman, Julia Morris and Stephen Curry. It was enjoyable and worth the $200 if only to see Stephen in the flesh. He's marvelous. My husband was disappointed and kept whispering every answer to me as he had seen all the shows. Suffice it to say he was a little disappointed but still relished the chance to see Stephen and laugh in his presence.

    The Friday night show in Melbourne was pretty poor. Had lots of friends go to other nights and loved it. The guests were the problem they were shoddy at best. The night was basically waiting/hoping for them to be quiet so Alan or Stephen could talk. Gutted, I love QI but as much as some episodes of QI are better than others, seemed we 'tuned in' for a shoddy one. Jonno Coleman or however you spell it was an embarrassment.

    I was disappointed.
    When you pay that much I would hope for more original material - at least make some material up for the tour, even if you end up repeating a lot of it on the same tour. But they repeated a lot of material from the show.
    I was lucky enough to see Fry last year in London and he told very similar but wonderful stories.
    I had a good night but also felt a bit exploited due to the price.

    Enjoyed Stephen Fry's introduction very much, but every question was from previous shows. For tickets of this price, that seems a major cop-out.
    Shaun Micallef stated up front, he had never seen the show and really didn't seem to know that it was more of a reasoning behind the questions than trying for direct answers (so he lost).
    Left the venue a little disappointed, which was not what you want after spending over $300 on a couple of tickets.

      So glad I wasn't the only one feeling gypped by the recycled questions. Or the quality of the guests (especially after reading the programme to see all the intelligent, funny without a script people I missed out on). Micallef was the redeeming panellist (including counting Davies, which devastates me to write), injecting comedy back into the otherwise pedestrian show. Fry's anecdotes were amusing enough, but overall I left feeling like I could have been equally entertained and saved myself several hundred in flights, accommodation and tickets staying home to watch "Hey Dad" reruns. Still, there were some good moments and amusements.

    I have a bit of a man-crush on Mr Fry.
    Perhaps better described as a geek-crush.

    My Aunt and I were so excited when we first heard 'our Stephen and team' (her words, I swear!) was coming to town, but neither of us could justify the exorbitant prices.

    Of course events like this are priced at what the market will bear, but this was well beyond what our pockets could bear.

    I hate to admit that a small part of me is rather pleased to read all these comments so disapointed in the show. Only a small part, mind you.

    (Not proud of my Schadenfreude, but man enough to admit it.)

    i probably would of paid the price if i knew Denton was going to be a guest, but luckily i didnt because i am in Sydney and sounds like other nights had some not so great guests.

    i also would of been disappointed with the recycled content having downloaded every season.

    We went on Tuesday and had a great time (agreed Micallef was meh). The typos were amusing in the pre show slides but the minor disappointment was that we paid extra for the goodies bags that included the same book in each bag BOOOOO surely they would expect people to come at least in twos.... And some chocolates... Wish we had just bought the tickets and saved the extra money.

    that's the problem with the internet. everyone has really seen all the shows. so it's going to be recycled material no matter what.

    i wanted to go to the Perth show. but i never made it. if denton was on. i would have gone. i don't think there is anyone as funny and as witty as in in oz

    I went to the Brisbane show last night and it was AWFUL!

    Jonathan Coleman, Akmal Saleh and Kitty Flanagan were terrible.

    I probably could have coped with 100% recycled questions if the panelists were witty and made interesting contributions but no such luck last night.

    Very disappointed.

    I'm glad I went to the Brisbane show last night but I can't help but feel ripped off - when other states get Andrew Denton and Sean Micallef on the panel... and we get Jonathan Coleman? I didn't pay $150 to see a fat old commercial radio hack be very very unfunny. Akmal Saleh was reasonably amusing, and I have much respect for Kitty Flanagan but she was nervous and overwhelmed. Next time - for that kind of ticket price, they should assure at least one A Grade comedian on stage at each show.

    Went to the Monday Brisbane show and left disappointed. Agree with previous comments that Jonno Coleman (Spelling??) was an embarrassment and really became annoying with each crass comment he made in the (poor) attempt at being funny. Kitty tried - and came out with one or two funny lines and Akmal held it togethor for the other 2. Allen Davies was pretty quiet. Quite interesting to see Stephen Fry in the flesh _ he was a great facilitator and I thought did a good job trying to keep it all flowing. Worth $200 I think not though. Last nights panel members just really didn't cut it.

      Your review of the night is *exactly* how my wife and I felt.

      I discovered before the show that each Aust QI performance was essentially the same script with new panel members each night to keep it fresh and spontaneous. From that point on my fear was if you're an Aust comedian being invited onto one of the most highly regarded panel shows in contemporary television, and you have only one night to "impress", you're going to overplay your hand at every opportunity.

      Unfortunately that's largely how it played out - each panelist trying to outdo the other with Coleman (cringe) being the loudest and crassest. Hence we heard far too little from Alan, and Stephen spent most of the night patching it all back together - which was an impressive accomplishment.

      My only criticism of the QI team is the poor casting they undertook in Australia. Surely we have more than one Andrew Denton?

      Hamish Blake?
      Adam Spencer?

      Thank God for Stephen's wonderful opening.

    Oh no, I'm going tonight! I admit I was apprehensive when I booked the tickets without knowledge of the local 'talent'. My hopes were somewhat raised after hearing of Denton and other intellectual personalities down south, but as usual Brisbane misses out. I'm still looking forward to seeing Fry and Davies though, even if the $150 ticket cost is over the top.

    I went to the sat night one, and from what I have heard from others it sounds like it was the best one. It really does depend on the panelists, and I thought the aussies on sat night did fairly well. And of course Stephen Fry was great as always.

    No doubt it was expensive, but it was also sold out, so obviously people were willing to pay.

    Yeah the questions were recycled but that didn't bother me at all. For me QI isn't about learning interesting facts, though that's a nice bonus, its about the funny and interesting responses the panelists give to the topics.

    For instance, despite already knowing that the nokia ringtone was the most listened to song ever, the question still led to some funny moments, like denise humming Khe Sanh while Stephen looked totally confused, and the gag about Alan's phone.

    For me it was well worth the steep price. But I can understand the disappointment from other shows where the panelists weren't as good.

    JH, your review of the night is *exactly* how my wife and I felt.

    I discovered before the show that each Aust QI performance was essentially the same script with new panel members each night to keep it fresh and spontaneous. From that point on my fear was if you’re an Aust comedian being invited onto one of the most highly regarded panel shows in contemporary television, and you have only one night to “impress”, you’re going to overplay your hand at every opportunity.

    Unfortunately that’s largely how it played out – each panelist trying to outdo the other with Coleman (cringe) being the loudest and crassest. Hence we heard far too little from Alan, and Stephen spent most of the night patching it all back together – which was an impressive accomplishment.

    My only criticism of the QI team is the poor casting they undertook in Australia. Surely we have more than one Andrew Denton?

    Hamish Blake?
    Adam Spencer?

    Thank God for Stephen’s wonderful opening.

    I went to last night's show at QPAC and was very disappointed in the other panelists. They were out of their depth in comparison to Stephen who did such a great job as the host.

    However, I didn't feel like the show accommodated for all age types as I'm sure there are other people my age (mid 20s) that enjoy reading or hearing Stephen Fry's works or indeed watch QI and ended up bored by the try hard antics of the other panelists.

    Alan Davies had a few shining moments. I think most attendees mainly paid to be in the room with Stephen Fry. It was worth it for me for that reason alone. Although, Stephen could've easily done a one man show since he is full of wonderful, funny stories and he has the genuine, honest ability of building a rapport with the audience whereas I felt that the other panelists spent most of their time trying to be funny instead of actually achieving it.

    I've said it elsewhere and I'll say it again here. Australia doesn't possess enough in the way of comedic talent to hold its own in a show like this. It requires some intelligence as well as humour and quick wits, and sadly there aren't enough Aussie "pesonalities" to get close to matching the likes of the faces that appear on the TV version. It'd be quite interesting to know who decided on a list of potential and then confirmed guests. Red Symons? WTF?! Thank god we didn't get him in Brisbane but even his lack of talent notwithstanding, there was still enough of a cringe factor in the overall way that the panel members countrywide failed to rise to the challenge. This, folks, is why the Brits can consistently churn out stuff like this, and why the Australians can only manage low-brow one-offs like The Castle and then spend the rest of their lives crowing about it. Sad but true.

      ^this. I mean i would've been ok if theyd at least taken the best of the best of aus talent (eg. Hamish Blake) but sadly no

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