Aired: 4 November 2013 at 6.30pm, BBC Radio 4
Repeated: 11 November 2013 at 10pm, BBC Radio 4
Curator: Humphrey Ker
Steering Committee: Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Sir David Frost, Dr Paul Sinha
Sir David Frost
& Television Host
Sir David Frost was a journalist, comedian, writer, game show host and something of a legend in the history of television.
Born in Kent, the son of a Methodist minister, he began training as a preacher himself, as well as being offered a contract to play for Nottingham Forest FC, but he chose instead to study English at Cambridge. There, he became editor of the newspaper Varsity and secretary of the Footlights, which Peter Cook and John Bird were a part of at the time.
David's career in front of the camera began in the 1960s when he helped to kick off the satire boom by hosting groundbreaking shows such as That Was the Week That Was and The Frost Report, which featured then-unknown comedians like John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker. The shows were an immediate hit and Frost’s catchphrase of ‘Hello, good evening and welcome’ soon became a popular staple of impressionists.
In a long and extraordinarily distinguished interviewing career, David interviewed eight British prime ministers and seven US presidents, as well as the likes of Robert F. Kennedy, Mikhail Gorbachev, Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Yassir Arafat and Nelson Mandela. He was the last person to interview Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. David was one of Concorde’s most frequent fliers – he flew between London and New York an average of 20 times a year for 20 years.
Outside the field of world affairs, he interviewed people like Orson Welles, Tennessee Williams, Noel Coward, Peter Ustinov, Woody Allen, Mohammed Ali and the Beatles. He also hosted the quiz show Through the Keyhole for two decades and, from 2006 to 2012, he hosted Frost Over the World on Al Jazeera English.
In 2003 Sir David was awarded a lifetime achievement at the Emmys.
Extremely sadly, David died shortly after we recorded this episode of Museum. At that moment, we lost one of the boldest, greatest, most influential people that the world of television has ever known.
Underneath [the television interview] is often a power struggle - a battle for the psychological advantage.
Paul Sinha is a qualified doctor, stand-up comedian and one of the world’s top quizzers. He is probably best known as one of the ‘chasers’ on the ITV game show The Chase, where his nickname is ‘The Sinnerman’.
He was born in London to Indian parents - a nurse and a doctor – and educated at Dulwich College and St George’s Hospital Medical School. He performed in the annual revue show and co-edited the medical school newsletter, popularly known as The Slag Mag. While at medical school he became, in his own words, an obsessive pub quizzer, convincing himself that it was a form of self-improvement.
Paul started doing stand-up while working as a junior doctor in hospitals in London and King’s Lynn. His early material drew on his sexuality – he is openly gay - and his ethnicity. He was runner-up in the final of the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year in 1999, but his breakthrough came with his second solo Edinburgh show Saint or Sinha? for which he won an if.comeddie nomination in 2006. His 2010 Edinburgh show Extreme Anti-White Vitriol then won five five-star and six four-star reviews. This led, in 2013, to him appearing on TV in Comedy Central UK’s The Alternative Comedy Experience.
Paul was once part of a team of comedians on University Challenge: The Professionals, but they got hammered by a team of civil servants. He has said that that day ‘changed his life’ and he decided to put in serious hours of memorising facts to compete at the top level, a position he has now achieved. He is immensely proud to be ranked (at time of writing) as the UK’s 22nd best quizzer. In a Radio 4 documentary called Paul Sinha’s Quiz Culture he explored the world of competitive quizzing, visiting the European Quizzing Championships in Derby and pitting his skills against some of the continent’s finest.
His second documentary, The Sinha Test, aired in 2011 and examined patriotism and sporting allegiance. In the show he examined why he has been a lifelong India fan, despite considering himself ‘as British as a pub fight’. Between the jokes he spoke to experts – including a sociologist and a former Test cricketer - to see if he’s alone in not always cheering on the country of his birth when it comes to cricket.
Charles Burgess Fry (1872-1956) was not only one of the greatest English cricketers of all time and holder of the world long jump record, he was also a full back for England, Southampton, Portsmouth and Corinthians (a team who were such sportsmen that they would deliberately miss penalties because they refused to believe that the other team would intentionally foul them) He also played rugby for Oxford, Blackheath and the Barbarians, and could have played for England.
He was supremely athletic; one of his party pieces was to jump backwards onto a mantelpiece from a standing position on the floor. And, had he taken part in the 1896 Olympics (he didn’t, probably due to financial difficulties), it’s believed that he would probably have won the 100 metres and the long jump.
However, Fry’s lifetime of achievements was so huge that when he appeared on This Is Your Life in 1955, Eamonn Andrews’ introduction didn’t even mention his sporting career.
‘I’ve met all sorts of people through quizzing - civil servants and retired civil servants.
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is an English space scientist and science communicator. She is a research fellow at UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies and an Honorary Research Associate in UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy.
She has, she says, a special relationship with the moon, one that started when she first saw The Clangers as a small child. She finds the moon ‘mesmerising’ and, while appearing on an episode of Desert Island Discs, she admitted: ‘I think I am a bit of a lunatic.’
As a teenager she made her own telescope so she could study the moon more closely. It took her six months to make and she even ground her own mirror for it. She went on to study physics at Imperial College, London, and achieved her doctorate in engineering despite being dyslexic.
Maggie's first job was working for the Ministry Of Defence on landmine detection. She returned to academia to build a multi-million pound instrument called a spectrograph to bolt on to the Gemini Telescope in Chile. This allows scientists to work out what’s happening in the heart of a star. She now specialises in making highly technical optical equipment for satellites and is currently working on the replacement for the Hubble space telescope, due to replace it in 2018.
Maggie has also set up her own company, Science Innovation Ltd, which helps to engage young people in the field of space science. Through this she conducts Tours of the Universe to show school children and adults the wonders of space, and she has produced a documentary called Space in the UK.
She still harbours a desire to go into space - her dream job would be as project manager for a telescope based on the moon.
From the age of three, I wanted to get into space and I still do. It’s been the driving force of my life really, that desire to get out there one day.