IAmA former Octochamp on British TV quiz show Countdown. And for you IT Crowd fans- yes, there is an 8+ Club (of sorts). AMA.
For those that don't know, Countdown is one of Britain's longest running quiz shows, featuring word and number puzzles- to save a rather long-winded explanation of what is a simple format, you can find out more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countdown_%28game_show%29.
An Octochamp refers to somebody who has won eight shows in a row consecutively, after which you are forced to retire (you come back at a later stage for the quarter-finals, to which the eight highest scorers of the series are invited). Ask me anything you like about the presenters, my experience of being on TV, THAT episode of the IT Crowd or even just how to improve at things like this or Scrabble (although I in no way profess to be an expert at this!).
EDIT (00:30 GMT): Have to go to sleep as I've got work in the morning, but this has been awesome- never expected it to be this popular, and certainly never expected to make the front page! Thanks to everyone for your questions, hope I managed to answer everyone's and that my responses were semi-interesting/vaguely humorous. Feel free to keep posting if you want to know anything else and I'll try and reply whenever I'm free tomorrow. Cheers Reddit!
Oh, and for anyone wanting to put a face to the username (if not my real name) or still doubting me- here's a pic of me on the show: https://fbcdn-sphotos-f-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/10619_137827978446_2020610_n.jpg
PROOF (21:15 GMT): Pictures of the teapot next to the Reddit thread on my laptop, and also of the teapot in all its glory!
Doesn't exist I'm afraid. And per the first rule, if it did, I'd sure as hell be telling everyone about it.
Please answer my burning question.
After the clock hits 30 seconds, does it go back to 0 clockwise or anticlockwise.
I'm serious. They've NEVER shown the clock reset
It goes back clockwise. They cut away when it's being reset.
For all you lazy out there: http://i.imgur.com/SWwb5.jpg
The week of controversy in question was the week I was on- I'd like to think the whole thing was because of me, but I somewhat doubt this.
Rachel is as close to a 10 as I think it's possible to be, so 9.9 recurring. In addition to being really, really, really ridiculously good-looking, she was also so friendly and chatty- literally can't think of a single bad thing about her in my experience.
How much pussy are you drowning in right now?
You joke, but it's actually proven to be quite an interesting novelty conversation topic when talking to girls- I usually get a wing-man to bring it up though. Wouldn't go as far as saying bitches love Octochamps but I'd say it's certainly played a part in getting to know some laydeez.
I love how you refer to yourself as an Octochamp, makes me want to be one.
"You see my buddy over there... well yeah he's an Octochamp."
That's not how I'd usually get them to introduce me as nobody knows what the hell an Octochamp is most of the time! I will however start introducing myself with the drink milk and woo the ladies line.
Okay, since you brought it up... Explain this real life 8+ club.
There's a website/community online (and offline, they also have events) where you can play Countdown, and though it's open to everyone you will find the people who play the most are usually Octochamps. The standard is as crazy good as on the IT Crowd- there are variants with more letters, variants with shorter time, variants with 'hidden' letters, variants with random numbers (i.e. double-digit which aren't 25, 50 or 75). As I never really got that into the community I can't really pass on much knowledge of how the games worked as I only played the version you see on TV. People get ridiculously good as they play thousands of games, to the point where people average over 100 for over the 15-round format and solve even very difficult conundrums in under 2 seconds without even trying.
How good are you at Numberwang?
A : 16
I believe that's Numberwang.
Can you use tnetennba in a sentence?
Is there really a "Countdown Teapot" or was that just a joke on IT Crowd?
There is a Countdown Teapot. The winner of each show receives one. As far as I am aware this is the only way to get one. Aside from eBay, of course.
Good morning, that's a nice tnettenba.
There is actually a Countdown teapot, Keios80 correctly said every winner gets one. Regardless of if you win or not you get a load of other stuff like a dictionary, a pen, your name board thing, a mug and other general merchandise. You don't get any prize money (unless you are the series runner-up, who gets a grand I think- the series winner gets a £3k set of dictionaries).
Scumbag Countdown - gives wordy people £3000 worth of dictionaries
Well done on winning the football game, you win a football.
Gee thanks, always wanted one.
This always made me laugh, dictionaries did seem a kind of ironic prize. If I'd won I imagine I would have sold them as three grand would be more useful to me.
Have you seen this extraordinary numbers game before?
25,50,75,100,3,6. Target 952.
Solution here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfa3MHLLSWI
Yes I have, that round has somewhat legendary status in the Countdown community. Needless to say, I wasn't even close.
I had a huge childhood crush on carol voderman.
Favourite episode of the IT Crowd?
I'm actually not that big a fan of the IT Crowd (my favourite comedy show is Only Fools and Horses), so the only episode I can recall is the Street Countdown one. Likewise had a crush though.
Rachel Riley >> Carol Voderman, right?
Is that even a question?
I was factoring in sentimentality. I've only watched Countdown in the Channel 4's 8 out of 10 cats does Countdown mashup. So, it's clearly Rachel Riley for me.
In my opinion, Rachel > Carol.
Are you all out of milk?
I have actually been drinking a glass of milk whilst answering these, so yes. Looks like it's time for some ass-kicking.
What word were you most pleased with getting?
Probably PHANTOM, which though it might not have been my longest or most obscure word I was especially proud of because it was a rather 'pure' spot- it doesn't have a common beginning or end, and it's not a word easily reached by adding letters on to smaller, more common stems of letters (which I don't practice doing, but which a lot of people do). The other two letters in the selection were pretty poor as well from memory, so I was delighted to come away with a 7.
Did you go to any events after the shows with the presenters?
Not strictly speaking, no. After the finals were recorded there was a small party sort of thing which they came along to, and similarly when recording shows they were more than happy to chat to you whenever- even at lunch they just sat right next to you. I also randomly bumped into Rachel Riley a number of months after the show in a different city and unbelievably she recognised me before I did her, which perfectly shows just how nice everyone on the show was. I'm also pretty sure that other contestants may have gone for drinks with them after shows in other series.
How long were you in the studio for? I typically don't watch a great deal of television, but whenever I used to visit my grandparents they would have it on every weekday. Sitting down with a cup of tea, tin of chocolate biscuits and a notepad was a wonderful experience. Still, they used to tell me how shows would be recorded in bulk in one day, often explaining how Ms. Riley would always wear the same dress (my granddad was also adamant that you could tell the day of the week or even the time of day by how high her hemline was, the dirty old git that he was) and people mysertiously went from looking refreshed and eager to a little flustered.
They record five shows a day, although I wasn't up there consecutive days- my first three shows were on the last day of one recording block, and then I went back at a later date to record the remaining five on the first day of another recording block. You're in the studios from about 9.30am to 6.30pm (can't remember exactly but roughly this I think), but the actual shows themselves don't take much longer to record than what you see on TV. The rest of the time was spent in make-up, having a tea/lunch break or just milling around. They're a pretty slick operation. The day I recorded five my performances notably drop off the longer the day goes on. A couple of related fun facts are that they stop recording to transition between the letters and numbers rounds as the numbers board is just the back of the letters board (they just turn it round), and you have to bring five different outfits on the day in case you're required for all five shows (every contestant, even the new contestant on the last show of the day, has to do this in case outfits are unsuitable).
Also Rachel definitely wears different dresses, everyone gets changed between shows to create the impression it's a new day. Watch closely though sometimes as people might mysteriously be a lot more tanned between weeks, which probably means there was a summer break between their first day of recording and their second. Your granddad sounds like a legend, no idea if what he said was true!
Did you find the numbers or the letters round easier?
I found the letters easier- I think it's easier to practice, you can build words up by adding letters and under pressure I think it's easier to miscalculate a sum than it is to say misspell a word.
Do you like the Blackout Crew?
I like the one song by them anyone's ever heard of, yes. I'm also a fan of cult Premiership footballers such as Ryan Donk, hence the name.
Show us the teapot!
Will post a picture of proof just as soon as I can locate my camera!
Teapot has been posted! Not the nicest looking thing but it's the meaning of it that counts I guess.
OP must deliver the teapot!
Is it just my biased opinion from over here in Canada or do British gameshows much more commonly require skill and/or intelligence than all the American ones that flood over onto my TV?
Jeopardy! is the gold standard. There's Wheel of Fortune but they apparently don't actively seek intelligent candidates. That's about all I can think of. The Millionaire show doesn't run anymore, does it?
I can't say for sure as obviously I don't know American TV as well as British, but in my experience it seems so- a lot of Britain's most successful gameshows (from stuff like University Challenge and Mastermind to those such as Pointless and 1 vs 100) require a decent level of general knowledge and for some a high level of specific knowledge. The only American shows that spring to mind for me are Wheel of Fortune, Deal or No Deal and Pyramid, which I would argue comparatively require less skill, although I'm sure there are quiz shows more akin to the British ones I've listed as well.
Millionaire still runs here but I don't think it's as watched as it was a few years ago.
Adding 'The Krypton Factor' to your list of British shows Edit: Guess we could also add 'Bullseye' and 'Big Break' as shows that require some degree of skill
I love Bullseye, Jim Bowen is a legend. I liked Big Break's theme tune (snookering you, snookering you tonight!) but likewise hated Davidson.
How do dictionary corner manage to come up with so many words the contestants can't? Is having a (paper) dictionary really that much help? Or do they have computer assistance?
Susie Dent just really is that good. I think the only time she speaks to the producers is to clarify a word, but apart from that she just genuinely gets words on her own. Definitely no computer assistance, I guess the dictionary is good for checking outlandish words you might not gamble on as a contestant but her experience and intellect means she is also an extremely good player.
What sort of bloopers happened on your tenure as a contestant? Such as swear words appearing or things such as that.
How different is playing on the actual compare to playing along at home for example, did you find it more stressful to come up with solutions or was there little difference between them?
In some relation to the previous, how many times did you feel you messed up on what looked simple but had an obvious answer to it.
A couple of things- one time the 30 seconds end sound went, but as Jeff was giving it the 'let's see what they've got' spiel I suddenly spotted a 9, so when he asked me I said 'I've got a 9, not written down'. As a consequence of me saying this, the other guy also suddenly saw the 9 and so when they asked him he also said '9, not written down'. We were both made to write it down, then asked to re-record the last 10 seconds. This prompted a great deal of poor acting from me at least. Another time I was all set to declare TRANNIES for 8, but in the dying seconds spotted INTERNALS for 9, therefore denying me a classic moment.
I didn't really find there was any difference between playing in the studio and playing at home. However, on my first show, I was up against a very very good player (highly ranked online, had already won 5) and so not expecting to beat him went in without really any nerves affecting me. After that as I was used to the experience of the cameras etc subsequent shows were fine. However, I must also praise the production team who make the whole experience so enjoyable that I found it difficult to get any nerves at all!
I messed up big time on a couple of numbers games, and a lot of the conundrums I missed (I only got 1 of 9) became blindingly obvious once revealed. I don't think there were many times I felt like I'd missed out on an obvious word in the letters rounds.
As an Octochamp, did you win 8 countdown teapots? Or are you only allowed one?
You only win one, the teapot is for winning one show- you don't get anything for winning eight. However, in winning eight you'll probably reach the quarter-finals, and all of them get a little glass trophy thing, so I guess you get that.
So, tell us about the club.
In addition to the reply above, I also forgot to mention there is sadly no Street Countdown... for now.
I can never get more than 6 letters, any tips? :[
Lots of tips given in other posts, but in addition to them all I can really say is keep watching the show and maybe play some other words games to expand your vocabulary- Scrabble is obviously excellent, but things like crosswords and codewords are useful too.
From my studies it appears that Carol Vorderman is the finest MILF of our generation - can you confirm or deny this?
I can neither confirm nor deny, but as an Inbetweeners' fan I'd have to forward Will's mum as well.
Are words round easier when your picking the letters,
or are they easier when the other person is picking?
It's difficult to say. On the one hand, when the other person picks, you don't have to think about the selection of them- gives you a bit more time to find words as the process unfolds as you're not busy talking or thinking what to pick next as it's out of your hands. On the other, when you're picking, if you see after say 7 letters that you have seven of the letters needed for an 8 and only need one of the vowels to complete it, you can pick two vowels to increase your chances. For example:
First seven letters- RTNAISE. At this point, I would know adding an O would give NOTARISE, an I would give RAINIEST, an E would give TRAINEES, and a U would give URINATES (lol). Therefore if I was picking, I'd obviously pick a vowel to give me the best possible chance of getting an 8, and with the right other letter maybe a 9. This is how a lot of the top players get long words- they remember hundreds of stems like this. It's a brilliant skill but one which I could never really be bothered to lean bar a few basic ones like above.
Are you a fan of the new host? I always quite liked Jeff's jokey attitude on the show, compared to that stone of a man who's on it now.
To be honest after I went on I stopped watching, so I can't comment on Nick. Jeff however I can, and he was as much of a legend as I imagined him to be growing up watching Soccer Saturday. I think he's a lot smarter than people give him credit for as well, he gets some great spots himself sometimes.
Was there any particular reason you stopped watching after you went on the show?
I just wasn't really interested any more, nothing more than that. Guess for me once I'd gone one it didn't hold as much fascination any more.
I CHALLENGE YOU TO A GAME OF STREET COUNTDOWN
You're going down like a sweet muffin.
What do you think of the recent surge in popularity in the game Words With Friends?
I don't have a phone that can download apps so can't comment on the game itself, but I guess anything that gets people using their brains has to be a good thing! I'm a massive fan of Scrabble and Codewords and things like that, so the more the merrier.
Did you ever lose?
Unfortunately yes, in my quarter final. I was in an extremely strong series though so figured it would happen sooner or later in the latter stages.
How difficult was it to get accepted, how long after your application did you get on the show? Did you have to go to an audition/ screen test or anything like that?
Yes, you have to audition. I first applied aged 14 and was rejected, but got on when I reapplied aged 17. From memory, I think you fill in a relatively standard form, then I think most get invited to audition. You play a few rounds of the letters, numbers and conundrums, and before gave a little introduction of yourself which might count in terms of seeing how personable you are (I don't know if this is true). They let you know within a few weeks if you are going on or not, then you usually tend to record a few months after this, although this can vary. I can't really say how difficult it was as there's not set score which if you get, you get on, but I'd think you would need to be reasonably good in the audition to have a chance.
F H V A E O R S O
30 seconds. GO!
I genuinely did this over 30 seconds and got HOOVERS, no idea if there's anything better! Tricky selection.
Did you have long hair and glasses? Can you complete a rubik's cube super fast? If you have I met you a couple of years ago.
That's not me, but I think you are thinking of the guy who won my series, Chris Davies- really nice guy and a truly mind-bogglingly excellent player. He was another standard to me, fully deserved his title.
Have you ever played 'Street Countdown'?
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