Interview: Joe Lycett On New BBC Show The Time It Takes

Joe Lycett is the co-host with Alison Hammond of new BBC game show The Time It Takes – the only quiz in the world where the contestants decide how much time they have to answer the questions. Find out more about the show here and below where the Birmingham comic talks about his latest role.

The Time It Takes starts on BBC One on Saturday, November 3 at 5.40pm.


What first attracted you to the idea of presenting BBC One’s new Saturday teatime gameshow The Time It Takes?
I just thought it was so brilliantly silly, daft and not over-complicated. A lot of gameshow formats you have to remember so many different things, whereas this is beautifully simple. Every show is different and it's a very addictive format! Some of the tasks that come up on this, I have a go myself! There’s a round where you have to open lots of sweet wrappers as quick as you can - you think it's going to be really easy but it's not. There’s one where you have to completely deflate an airbed as quick as possible, I'd love to give that a try.

And there's plenty of opportunity for you to use your stand-up skills too aren't there?
Yes, what I also loved is that it’s comedy. It is a quiz show. But first and foremost, it's a funny show. All the timers are funny and the questions are pretty funny too in the way that they're written. It's a comedy programme that just happens to also be a quiz. There's not been loads of risqué stuff, it's a family-friendly show after all. But I love the occasional innuendo!

With Alison Hammond as the referee, it's a Birmingham love-in as well isn't it?
She was so brilliant in the run-through that I couldn't wait for the recording. She's so funny and such a big character, she just fills a room. Alison’s very clever, she knows what she's doing, yet a lot of the time she's funny without realising it, mispronouncing her words. We first met on Celebrity Fifteen To One, with neither of us lasting very long; we weren't very good. We're firm friends now though and the week of recording we were basically in each other's pockets. She lives round the corner from me at home so we've got no excuse not to hang out when we get back to Birmingham.

Were you inspired by any other gameshows?
I love Pointless. The start of my television career was actually working with Alexander Armstrong on Epic Win for the BBC. There were a lot of daft elements to that too and I was the sidekick. It was bonkers.

Should he worry you're after his job?
I don't think so, I'm hardly clipping at those sprightly heels. I'm so pleased that The Time It Takes is my first series presenting role though – it feels like a great place to start.

Do you ever pinch yourself that you're now a gameshow host on prime-time television?
Every day when I'm at work. When I started stand-up, it was really just to have a go at alpha males essentially, there was no plan and there never has been really. So I do pinch myself occasionally. But I try not to reflect too much because then I get nervous.

It looks like they've given you a pretty natty wardrobe for hosting too.
Yeah, a girl called Jen Michalski-Bray does all of the styling for me. And she's picked out some absolutely lovely outfits, so it's been really fun dressing up. It's a bit different to the shirts I'd normally wear on telly. And I've loved painting my nails for it. It's practically a different colour each show but some are replicas. I like being able to do little things like that which will make people at home question why I've done it.

Does The Time It Takes feel like a holiday from stand-up?
A bit, yeah. It's so nice to work with a team because stand-up can be quite lonely and relentless. I've done a lot of it over the last 10 years and what's really fun about this is that it uses a lot of those comedy skills in the presenting. There's been plenty of space for spontaneity too, which I wanted. Alison has been watching me and I'd love her to do stand-up. She's really funny, but every time I suggest it, she says 'oh no, I couldn't possibly do that!' and gets very self-conscious. But I will persuade her!

On a human level, it must be great to see people win a big holiday prize, especially as you personally aren't paying for it.
Yeah, that's the best. When they win it's really fantastic. Some of them are thrilled, which is really nice. And we've had some good contestants, it's been cast really well. I always want them to win.

Have you always liked gameshows?
I always loved The Weakest Link and how brutal Anne Robinson was on it. And Blankety Blank, I loved the Lily Savage era, just the savagery towards the contestants. Oh, and Deal Or No Deal. I watched that all the time when I got back from school. I'd love melting a bar of chocolate in the microwave then settling down to watch. I was quite a fat lad. That was almost a religious ritual for me.

Have you suggested any of the timers yourself?
Yeah, once you start it's very difficult to stop. But then you try it and it's not as good as you thought, no matter how many different ways you approach it. Everyone on the crew's been coming up with timers and some of them have been amazing. But we've also been quite unpleasantly surprised at how difficult it is to generate ones that actually work.

What would be your dream holiday destination if you won the show?
New York, because I've never been.

Do you get recognised much around Birmingham?
Another reason why I love it is that no-one cares. People might come up for a selfie now and then. But Alison is so recognisable and she can just walk all over Birmingham without hassle. The people there have this real, quiet pride in where they're from but no-one makes a fuss. That said, I don't go out to pubs as much as I used to on a Friday and Saturday night!

Interview supplied  by the BBC.


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