I remember when ‘Deal or No Deal’ first came onto our screens. It was an innovative new game show and heralded the return of childhood favourite Noel Edmonds. In the first series, we got to know the people behind the boxes as they returned each episode until they played their game. And each game and player was different. Until someone eventually won the £250,000 and each scenario seemed to play out. Either people dealed too early because they really needed the money, they played on too long and lost everything, or they played on and won big. It’s been on for seven years now, but there’s no more suspense anymore – we’ve seen all the iterations.
And though they’ve done comedy skits on Comic Relief and I think they were involved in that Channel 4 swap day a few months ago, Easter Sunday saw the first full ‘celebrity’ version of the show. And they invited the ubiquitous Channel 4 stalwart Jimmy Carr to play the game. As with all celebrity version of these game shows, the money he would win would go to his chosen charity. So far, so usual, and so mundane. But the producers had a brainwave – because not only was the player a ‘celebrity’ they asked him to invite 22 of his friends to be the ones opening the boxes for him. And so they had 22 stand up comedians behind the boxes.
Cue some funny lines as the comedians opened their boxes, flirted with Noel and Jimmy, and then became genuinely emotional and invested as the game progressed. Most of the comedians were unknowns to television audiences. I only recognised Pippa Evans (who also does stand up as an American Loretta Maine), Tiffany Stevenson and Marek Larwood. We were given the names of Justin Moorhouse, Suzi Ruffell, Dave Johns and Alistair Barrie. But a quick trawl has given up all (I think) of the others involved: Adam Bloom (a guy who once had to play a gig to one person, and didn’t know whether to carry on when the person nipped to the loo), Chris McCausland (a blind comic who thought he was on Blockbuster), James Dowdeswell (who shared a passionate embrace with Jimmy Carr), Jojo Smith, Mick Ferry, Tom Wrigglesworth, Ian David Stone, Mike Gunn, Paul Thorne, Stephen Grant, Danielle Ward, Nick Helm, John Moloney and Ben Norris.
In the game itself, Jimmy Carr played a bit of a disastrous one. He got rid of the high reds fairly early on and was offered £41 at one point. And yet he kept on going because he wanted to believe that he had a red number in his own box. His chosen charity were Helen and Douglas House, a children’s hospice just outside of Oxford. I know people who have used the services of Helen and Douglas House and, as with so many other similar charitable organisations, it does great work. It has already, I am sure, benefitted a lot from the publicity Carr gave them on the show. In the penultimate offer, Carr only had one red box left and all blues and was offered £1000. He was told to go on by his colleagues – as Tiffany Stevenson put it – they could do a benefit gig to raise money if they lost it (an idea that the other stand ups didn’t particularly jump on or mention afterwards but apparently it was only recorded a couple of days ago so they still might). And he went on until he had just £750 or £35,000 and an offer of £14,000 from the banker.
When you’re playing this kind of game at home, you always think to take the risk. As they always say – you came into the game with nothing, so anything extra at all is a bonus. But when you’re playing for a charity and you could lose £14,000 then that’s another thing. Although £35,000 is more than double £14,000 – £14,000 is a hell of a lot of money to throw away. But Carr did so and failed.
Maybe Carr will altruistically donate £14,000 himself. Maybe the publicity of the show will earn more than £35,000 in the end – as all the comedians involved have been driving people to donate £5. But a tax-free donation of £14,000 was squandered because Jimmy Carr thought he was a lucky man with a lucky career. Maybe he thought that the producers would fix it so that he would get a large amount. There was a weird silence as Carr processed the money he had lost and it seemed like he thought The Banker would suddenly ring up and say he would donate the money anyway. But then the programme wouldn’t work if you don’t play the game properly and it all ended with a sour note.
To donate £5 you can text ‘give33 £5’ to 70070