Interview: TV quizzer and stand-up comic Paul Sinha talks to Your Move
Interview by Lawrence Saunders
You may know him best as The Sinnerman from ITV’s ‘The Chase’ but Paul Sinha has spent much longer cracking jokes on stage as a stand-up comic than he was wowing the great British public with his astonishing general knowledge.
Ahead of his appearance at Liverpool’s Hot Water Comedy Club we caught up with Paul to talk life, love and the pursuit of quiz contestants.
Can you tell us a bit about what people can expect from your show? Will you be revealing any secrets of ‘The Chase’?
Not really…but I do quite a lot of stuff about the reality of being a Z-list celebrity. If you’re expecting me to talk about nothing but ‘The Chase’ then you’re definitely going to be disappointed.
The show is really a sequel to a previous show I took to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015 about having found middle age happiness and it’s a sequel to that in the sense that I got dumped a week after I came back from Edinburgh and I had to start all over again.
It’s the story of the last two years of my life and piecing it all back together again – but in a funny, and non self-pitying way.
The ‘Paul Sinha’s History Revision’ radio show told some fascinating stories from human history and was rewarded with a prestigious Rose d’Or award. How did this come about? Are you a history buff?
On Friday and Saturday nights I’d bang out jokes to laughing drunks and then I was invited to do this show about the history of the world.
I’m not a historian but through being a professional quizzer for a number of years you end up finding out stuff that the general public don’t really know about.
“I was quite surprised to find out it’s one of the most prestigious awards in broadcasting.”
It was then a case of talking about relatively unknown stories or the story behind the story and giving people more of an insight into the way the world is.
The award was just a complete and utter surprise. One minute I’m having lunch and the next minute I’ve got a text message from my producer saying ‘you’ve been nominated for a Rose d’Or (Golden Rose)’ and I didn’t really know what it was. I was quite surprised to find out it’s one of the most prestigious awards in broadcasting.
The whole thing was a little bit surreal. I got a free trip to Berlin and got to meet John Cleese. You take your good fortune when you can get it.
Do you practice for ‘The Chase’?
I study all the time. I mean, two hours before this phone call I got up and I was writing a quiz. I do all sorts – write quizzes, host quizzes, take part in quiz leagues and competitions.
We don’t just turn up to ‘The Chase’, we have to do a lot of work.
Apart from a bit of work on television, film and pop music I don’t focus on ‘The Chase’ with my revision. I just hope that the questions I learn come up.
You don’t know what questions are going to be asked but you do know that you need to keep an eye on TV, films and pop music, otherwise you’re going to end up looking pretty stupid.
That’s the difference between TV quizzing and non-TV quizzing, there are far more questions on entertainment.
With ‘The Chase’ being an ITV teatime show we can’t exclude the viewers by just asking about highbrow subjects.
The viewers like to know there’s stuff that we don’t know that they do and that’s always a great moment for them.
Of course there’s loads of stuff we don’t know that they do but it’s always great to give them those moments.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why I love Liverpool – it makes me feel like a star!”
Do you ever feel bad when you ‘catch’ the contestants and stop them from winning the money?
If it goes down to the last five seconds and I catch them then it’s almost impossible not to feel bad. It’s the same if they haven’t done anything particularly wrong, but the times when the contestants have had chances to push you back and they haven’t taken them then you don’t feel bad.
If they score 20 and you just get 20 answers in a row, and they haven’t had a chance to do anything about it, then yes I do sympathise with them.
You’ve got to remember what the contestants are going through, they’ve got their own little financial dream…it’s gutting.
But we’ve got to put that out of our minds otherwise we’d end up losing when we really shouldn’t have.
We have to absolutely focus on our part of the job which is to try and play at 100% and not get distracted by other factors.
I must admit though that if we do catch them in those last five seconds then there usually is a depressive air in the studio.
Of course ‘The Chase’ is incredibly popular across the country but here in Liverpool people seem to have a special love for the show. Is this something you’re aware of?
Yes, I’m very aware of how much the people of Liverpool like The Chase! I’ve never gotten into a taxi in Liverpool without being recognised. I think one of the reasons I like drinking in Liverpool is because I quite enjoy the rare occasions when I’m treated like more than just a Z-list celebrity.
I can go a whole week in London, where I live, without being recognised but in Liverpool I can’t walk into a bar or pub without being recognised.
I think that’s one of the reasons why I love Liverpool – it makes me feel like a star! I don’t think I could spend my whole life like that but it’s nice to dip into it.
I’ve been playing Liverpool for 17 years now, I love it. I’ve been a Liverpool fan since I was a kid football-wise, but in terms of the place as a city I’ve just fallen in love with it over the last few years.
Paul Sinha brings his ‘Shout Out to My Ex’ show to the Hot Water Comedy Club on 2 November.