The Lumber Room

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Mastermind

with 8 comments

Surely the most brilliant sketch ever, if not the funniest:

It’s from the BBC show The Two Ronnies, by Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. It’s probably their most famous sketch after Four Candles.

Here’s a transcript. (Each answer is “actually” for the question before last, helpfully put in the same colour, though of course that’s not the joke.)

(Barker plays Magnus Magnusson, the presenter, and Corbett plays a contestant.)

Magnus Magnusson: And so, to our first contender. Good evening, your name please?

Contestant: Uh, good evening.

Magnusson: In the first heat your chosen subject was Answering Questions Before They Were Asked. This time, you have chosen to Answer the Question Before Last each time. Is that correct?

Contestant: Charlie Smithers.

Magnusson: And your time starts…Now! What is palaeontology?

Charlie Smithers: Yes, absolutely correct.

Magnusson: What’s the name of the directory that lists members of the peerage?

Smithers: A study of old fossils.

Magnusson: Correct. Who are Len Murray and Sir Geoffrey Howe?

Smithers: Burke’s. (Berks)

Magnusson: Correct. What is the difference between a donkey and an ass?

Smithers: One’s a trade union leader and the other’s a member of the cabinet.

Magnusson: Correct. Complete the quotation “To be or not to be…”

Smithers: They’re both the same.

Magnusson: Correct. What is Bernard Manning famous for?

Smithers: That is the question.

Magnusson: Correct. Who is the present archbishop of Canterbury?

Smithers: He is a fat man who tells blue jokes.

Magnusson: Correct. What do people kneel on in church?

Smithers: The Right Reverend Robert Runcie.

Magnusson: Correct. What do tarantulas prey on?

Smithers: Hassocks. (?)

Magnusson: Correct. What would you use a rip cord to pull open?

Smithers: Large flies. (flies)

Magnusson: Correct. What sort of a person lived in Bedlam?

Smithers: A parachute. (Parish hoot?)

Magnusson: Correct. What is a jockstrap?

Smithers: A nutcase. (nut case!)

Magnusson: Correct. For what purpose would a decorator use methylene chlorides?

Smithers: A form of athletic support.

Magnusson: Correct. What did Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec do?

Smithers: Paint strippers. (he painted strippers)

Magnusson: Correct. Who is Dean Martin?

Smithers: He’s a kind of artist.

Magnusson: Yes, what sort of artist?

Smithers: Erm…Er…Pass!

Magnusson: That’s near enough. What make of vehicle is the standard London bus?

Smithers: A Singer.

Magnusson: Correct. In 1892, Brandon Thomas wrote a famous long-running English farce, what was it?

Smithers: British Leyland.

Magnusson: Correct. Complete the following quotation (siren goes) I’ve started so I’ll finish. Complete the following quotation about Mrs. Thatcher: “Her heart may be in the right place but her-“

Smithers: Charley’s Aunt. (Charlies aren’t).

(Later on stage they apparently performed a slightly different version with a few corrections.)

Written by S

Sun, 2010-02-07 at 18:51:26

Posted in entertainment, Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

8 Responses

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  1. “Magnusson: Correct. What do tarantulas prey on?

    Smithers: Hassocks. (?)”

    What do tarantulas “pray” on.

    Preyas

    Sun, 2010-02-07 at 19:32:29

    • Ah, brilliantly simple. :-) I hadn’t thought of that, thanks.

      S

      Sun, 2010-02-07 at 20:34:41

  2. I’ve never understood why he says “pass” re: what sort of artist Toulouse-Lautrec was, and why the answer
    “pass” was “near enough.” Can anyone explain?

    Chuck R

    Sat, 2011-02-05 at 01:33:42

    • There’s nothing special about why he says “pass”: sometimes contestants on Mastermind don’t know the answer and will say “Pass”. (BTW, according to the “answering the question before last” theme, “pass” is an answer to “Who is Dean Martin?”) And of course, it’s up to the discretion of the quizmaster to decide when an answer is “near enough”.

      In the context of the running conversation, though,

      Magnusson: Who is Dean Martin?
      Smithers: He’s a kind of artist.
      Magnusson: Yes, what sort of artist?
      Smithers: Erm…Er…Pass!
      Magnusson: That’s near enough.

      I think the joke is that Dean Martin was a rather… unique sort of performer about whom it was difficult to say anything more precise than “a kind of artist”.

      S

      Sat, 2011-02-05 at 07:05:05

      • The Dean Martin question: A “piss artist” is a slang term in Britain for an alcoholic.

        ericvg16

        Fri, 2012-04-20 at 05:06:37

        • Ah! Thanks, that’s something I didn’t know. So I guess “pass” is near enough to “piss”.

          S

          Fri, 2012-04-20 at 20:59:47

          • I doubt anyone will read this but I’ll leave it here nonetheless.

            I think it’s not a reference to “piss” because it’s also supposed to be the right answer to the previous question, while poking fun at the current question but crucially, with the SAME answer.
            The only explanation I could come up with was by assuming pass was ‘close enough’ to “ass”.
            They’d simultaneously be taking the piss out of Dean Martin (for whatever reason they thought they should in those days)… And potentially answering the previous question since Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings often featured bottoms, and I don’t see how he can be called a piss artist. He was rather good.

            Of course the other possibility is that in the ever-ending complexity of the writing for the sketch, the premise of Smithers’ subject applied to “Who is Dean Martin?” and “Yes, what sort of artist?” as separate questions, in which case the first answer answers the Toulouse-Lautrec one adequately, and the latter one answers the second question, but in this case it can’t be “piss” and has to be “ass” as well.

            Phew.

            A.Fox

            Fri, 2016-08-19 at 15:32:39

            • One observation is that Toulouse-Lautrec was an alcoholic: one of the sections on his Wikipedia article is titled “Alcoholism and prostitution”. So he may qualify as a “piss artist”.

              However, I’m pretty sure that they are actually intended as separate questions. (That is, what you call “of course the other possibility” is in fact the right one.) In the humorous theme (the actual dialogue, i.e. answers are for the question immediately asked), the questions and answers go:

              Magnusson: Correct. What did Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec do?
              Smithers: Paint strippers.

              Magnusson: Correct. Who is Dean Martin?
              Smithers: He’s a kind of artist.

              Magnusson: Yes, what sort of artist?
              Smithers: Erm…Er…Pass!

              Magnusson: That’s near enough. What make of vehicle is the standard London bus?
              Smithers: A Singer.

              Here there’s no joke in “Who is Dean Martin?”/“He’s a kind of artist”, but the joke in the immediately next “Yes, what sort of artist?”/“Pass!”/“Near enough” is that Dean Martin is “near enough” to a “pass” kind of artist. It appears that Dean Martin too had a (cultivated) reputation as a drunk, according to the Wikipedia article:

              The [Dean Martin Show] exploited his image as a carefree boozer. Martin capitalized on his laid-back persona of the half-drunk crooner […] making snappy if slurred remarks […] Despite Martin’s reputation as a drinker – perpetuated via his vanity license plate “DRUNKY” […] He borrowed the lovable-drunk shtick from Joe E. Lewis, but his convincing portrayals of heavy boozers in Some Came Running and Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo led to unsubstantiated claims of alcoholism.

              So, as the joke goes, it seems quite likely that the humorous answer “piss artist” (near enough to “pass”) is what is intended.

              It fits the other theme as well: in the “answering the question before last” theme, the above questions and answers go:

              Magnusson: Correct. What did Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec do?
              Smithers: He’s a kind of artist.

              Magnusson: Correct. Who is Dean Martin?
              Smithers: Erm…Er…Pass!

              Magnusson: Yes, what sort of artist?
              Smithers: A Singer.

              Magnusson: That’s near enough. What make of vehicle is the standard London bus?
              Smithers: British Leyland.

              etc., which makes sense as well. The contestant Smithers has passed the “Who is Dean Martin” question, but correctly answered the follow-up “what sort of artist [is Dean Martin?]” question with “A singer”. (Such a followup question would be unlikely in the real Mastermind though.)

              So I’m leaning towards the “piss artist” explanation as the one that was intended, and intended to be funny to the audience. Besides, it can’t be “ass” in the American sense (the British use “arse” for that), though it could be the “donkey” sense but that’s not very funny.

              S

              Fri, 2016-08-19 at 20:52:23


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