Interview with Chris Moyles

by Lisa McGarry

You’d think getting up at some horrendous o’clock every day to do the Radio One Breakfast Show would be enough to render Chris Moyles catatonic with exhaustion. Instead, he seems to be a bundle of energy. When he’s not off climbing mountains in Africa, he’s writing books, or recording albums of song parodies, or just going to the gym to keep his new slimline shape. In amongst all of which, he’s also managed to find time to make a second series of his Channel 4 show Chris Moyles’ Quiz Night.

Here, Moyles takes a break from his hectic schedule to discuss the new series – and much more – while topping up on some much needed caffeine in a café outside the studios of Radio One.

The second series of Chris Moyles’ Quiz Night is coming up. For those who missed the first series, what’s it all about?
It’s me and three top-notch superstar celebrities playing a quiz. I take part in it, so I don’t know the questions, and I don’t ask the questions, I just host it. We’ve changed it slightly for this series, in that we play for the audience now, so the audience vote on who they think’s going to win, and if that person does win and they’ve backed the winner, then they get a prize, be it an i-Pod or a share of some money or whatever. So that makes it a little bit more competitive from our point of view. And we have some questions read out be celebrities, the likes of Peter Crouch and Ozzy Osbourne, people like that. And we have some silly little, hilarious sketches and little skits. And some of the guests win a prize, and someone has to sing a song at the end of the show. So it’s brilliant – it’s soon-to-be-award-winning television. And we’re moving to Friday night now, which feels like a natural home for the show.

Any other changes we should be aware of?
We’ve got a brilliant new game called the Record Player Challenge. Someone came up with this idea to be a human stylus on a record player, which you get moving by running on it, like a treadmill. The song speeds up the faster you run, and you’ve got to guess what the song is. And there’s a buzzer on the other side of it, and you have to press the buzzer and get back on, and obviously people get busy and fall off. It’s great, we’ve built this amazing human record player.

It genuinely looks like you’re having fun on the show. Do you enjoy it?
Yeah, I love it. It’s a good laugh. It’s quite a simple show to do – there’s not a lot of autocue reading, it’s just a bit of chatting and having a laugh. It’s quite spontaneous and off-the-cuff, which is what I like about it. And it’s good fun, the guests are great and we have a good laugh. Some of them are a bit more troublesome than others. It’s genuinely a good night. I’d watch it if I didn’t host it.

Tell me about the guests from the last series.
Ste… [At this point a beautiful woman walks past, and Chris wolf-whistles. It feels mortifying, until it turns out they know each other, and she responds with a cheery “Morning, Chris!”]…Stephen Fry was brilliant, he was amazing, and really, really lovely. I think everybody had a really good time and enjoyed themselves, which helps. Alan Carr and Jerry Springer were brilliant.

So there was no-one who didn’t ‘get it’?
No, everyone got it. David Walliams tried to get zero points. I think he got one point last time he played. Stephen was great, as I say. Abbey Clancy was brilliant, because she’s gorgeous, so to sit next to her for 20 minutes was brilliant. And she won. She ended up winning the whole series.

How did that happen? How did she end up beating Stephen Fry?
She just genned up on stuff, because it was topical then. It’s not going to be topical this series, it’s going to be more random. But she just knew stuff that had gone on that week. I think she’d been studying the newspapers quite a lot that week. I thought someone had been giving her the answers, but I was assured that wasn’t the case, she just genuinely got almost everything right.

Who have you got appearing on this series?
We’ve got a really good line up. We’ve got Katie Price on one show, Peter Andre on another show – we thought it was best to separate them. Johnny Vegas is doing it, which I’m sure will be riotous. Vic Reeves is doing it, I think Sharon Osbourne is coming on – she’s never backwards about coming forwards.

How do you manage to get such good guests? Are a lot of them mates of yours?
We blackmail them! I think a lot of people from this series saw the first series and thought it looked good fun. David Walliams is the only returning guest, I think, he really wanted to come back on. He loved it, he rang me the next day to say what a good time he’d had. That was really nice. There are people who have said no, but they never tell me who said no. I’m desperate to find out. But I’m really pleased with the guests we’ve got for this series. James Nesbitt’s come back as well – he wasn’t in the first series, but he did the pilot. We bribed him with a crate of wine – which was a very smart move by our executive producer.

How many times did you win in the last series, and how many did you come last?
I don’t think I won it once in the last series. Did I? I can’t remember.

Do you like performing in front of a live studio audience?
Yeah, it’s great, because you get an instant reaction to something. Sometimes jokes just fall completely on their arse – you’ll say something that you think is really funny, and it’ll just get no reaction whatsoever. I’ll generally say “I thought that might have got a bigger laugh.” Which, bizarrely, then gets a laugh. But then sometimes you’ll just make a throwaway comment and it’ll get a really big laugh. You just never know what’s going to work. You can’t really write the show, a lot of it is just on the night. But there’s nothing better than making a room full of people piss themselves laughing.

You’re not afraid to tease your guests. Do they ever get offended?
No, everyone’s alright. And most people give as good as they get anyway. It’s not just me taking the piss out of people, it’s often them taking the piss out of me, or we all take the piss out of each other. It just depends who’s on, but the chemistry’s normally really good between the guests. [Another beautiful woman walks past. “Hi, Pip,” Chris calls out. She flashes him a winning smile.]

Do you know every beautiful woman in this area?
Yes. [Laughs] You’ll notice I don’t say hello to ugly people.

Do you ever get in trouble with your girlfriend, with all the flirting you do with the beautiful women on the show? In the last series, Patsy Kensit came on and gave you a lingering kiss…
She’s fine. Soph’s been with me long enough now that she’s used to it. She came to most of the shows last time as well. She was there when Patsy was there. But then, so was Patsy’s new husband! It was part of the job, it’s just work. Someone’s got to do it. It’s either me or James Corden, and we’re both giving it a crack.

What would be your dream line up of guests for the show?
I don’t know, everybody who we’ve had on has been so good! People like Gary Barlow – he’s just great – sometimes the biggest names can turn out to be a bit rubbish, but Gary was great.

Did you do your Gary Barlow impression when he was on?
Yeah, I did.

It’s actually rather good!
Thanks! It comes from spending a week with him [climbing Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief]. You get to know everybody inside out, and get to know their mannerisms and so on. But he wasn’t all that well that week. I make him out to be a bit sleepy, but he was doped up to the eyeballs on painkillers, because he had a really bad back. After a full day walking he’d have to go off for a sleep. I don’t know if he has a sleep in the afternoon normally…

What was the experience of climbing Kilimanjaro like? Did you love it?
No, I didn’t love it. It was horrible. There were moments of it that were amazing and breathtaking – well, it was all breathtaking, because I was climbing up a bloody mountain. It was just a long, long walk every day, with a bit of scrambling. We had to climb up what they call the Barranco Wall, and I’m scared of heights. And I don’t think people appreciate the size of the mountain – I didn’t – its base is the size of the M25. A lot of it is gradual climb and crossing valleys. But this wall we had to climb was horrendous. Luckily it got really cloudy, so you couldn’t see off the ledge. And when we got to the top of it, which was about an hour to climb, the film crew, who had been up to that bit and filmed before, said “Thank your lucky stars it was cloudy, because it’s pretty much a sheer drop. Be grateful that you couldn’t see it.” Which I was. But you get to the top of that, and they give you a five minute rest before you start up again. It was never-ending. But it was an amazing thing to do – and I don’t think I’ll be doing it again!

Did you cry on the mountain?
Yeah, we all did, cried like babies.

At the top?
All the time. One night I was just an emotional wreck. I just couldn’t stop crying. I wasn’t upset, I was just exhausted and emotional. Ronan Keating was asking me if I wanted a cp of tea and I was just bawling. Then 20 minutes later he came back with a cup of tea and he said “Jesus Christ, are you still fucking crying? Come on, let’s have a sit down.”

You must form close friendships on something like that.
Yeah. Gary and I have become really good friends through it. And to think, I only did it all for free Girls Aloud tickets.

And to spend a few days looking at Girls Aloud bottoms?
All we did was look at each others bottoms. You plod really slowly – you’re made to walk slowly to save your energy – so I can describe everybody’s bottom, and everybody can describe everybody else’s bottom. All the girls have got tiny bottoms.

And your bottom is considerably tinier than it was. You’ve stayed in pretty good shape since then.
Yeah, I’ve kept my training up. I’ve lost about two-and-a-half stone this year. I’ve had to have all my suits taken in since filming the first series of Quiz Night.

Does the budget not stretch to getting you new suits?
Not at Channel 4, no. You must be joking. I think I got one new suit. But I feel a lot better for being fitter. I’ve got to try and get down to obese!

In the past you’ve talked about wanting to break Tony Blackburn’s record for longevity presenting the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. You’ve done that. How long do you want to keep going for?
Just as long as everyone’s happy doing it, I’m happy doing it, the boss is happy with it and the audience is enjoying it. I originally joked with Andy, the boss, that I’d do it for ten years, and we both laughed. But we start our seventh year this year. Who knows, we might make the ten. It would be quite nice, actually. At the moment I really love doing it, I love the show. It’s a pleasure to do, I love doing it – just hanging out with a load of mates every morning. We’re all loving it, and we’re planning some things for next year. [A passer by comes over the shake Chris’ hand, and stops to have a quick word]. I asked him to do that!

There’s a bit of a moral backlash going on at the moment, where there are people just waiting to jump on anything that broadcasters say. Do you feel the weight of that?
A little bit. The die-hard fans of the show know what we do, and they want it every day. If you pull back on stuff, they get really annoyed. And then there’s new people who don’t know the style of the show, who then go “Oh, you can’t do that, it’s outrageous!” So you’ve got to try and find a balance between not offending new listeners but keeping your die-hard audience happy. It’s quite a difficult thing to do. The thing about our show is it’s not nearly as outrageous as the papers like to make it out to be. The ridiculousness of a guy in his mid-50s writing for the Daily Mail about how appalling the show is – well, great, it’s not aimed at him. He should find it appalling or boring or childish, because it’s not aimed at him.

Do you think we’re in danger of ending up with a very bland entertainment industry as a result?
I think if we’re not careful we are, yeah. It’s getting harder to take risks, because too many people are jumping on this morality bandwagon. It’s a media creation. That whole ridiculous Russell Brand farce – whether it was offensive or not, 99 per cent of the people who complained didn’t hear it. Jimmy Carr’s joke – you’ve got journalists ringing up mothers of soldiers and re-telling the joke completely out of context, which is absolutely outrageous, and they don’t see the dark irony of what they’re doing.

Chris Moyles’ Quiz Night is on Channel 4 at 10pm on Fridays from 26th February.