About Never Mind the Buzzcocks

It's Never Mind the Buzzcocks: the comedy quiz show that marries music with celebrity humiliation. Practically our favourite thing. Plus it reminds the younger, Justin Bieber-worshipping generation who the Buzzcocks were. Nice.

Buzzcock contestants

It's Never Mind the Buzzcocks: the comedy quiz show that marries music with celebrity humiliation. Practically our favourite thing. Plus it reminds the younger, Justin Bieber-worshipping generation who the Buzzcocks were. Nice.

Never Mind the Buzzcocks may technically a gameshow, but it's more like an embarrassment engine into which celebrities are ruthlessly fed like so much pink sausage meat. And this is one machine that's been churning and whirring and screeching a very long time. It was first broadcast back in 1996, and the ringmaster of humiliation was originally Mark Lamarr, aka the 50s throwback. But when he eventually decided to go chow down on pastures new, he was replaced by the evil Peter Pan that is Simon Amstell, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of music despite being about 12. Of course, Amstell himself has since moved on, leading Buzzcocks to do a Have I Got News For You and have a succession of guest hosts, from Alex James to Frankie Boyle.

Still, it was Amstell's tenure that probably struck the most fear into the hearts of hapless celebs, and things came to a famous head when an entity known as Samuel Preston (a kind of reality show Morrissey) appeared on the show and found himself targeted by the red Predator beam of Amstell's scathing wit. When young Simon saw fit to read out bits of the autobiography of Preston's wife Chantelle Houghton (some kind of woman, apparently) it led to him having an almighty strop and walking off the show. Bad news for Preston, but good news for one Ed Seymour, an audience member who was plucked at random from the studio audience to sit in Preston's place. As studio walkouts go, the whole incident is rivalled only by the Bee Gees huffing their way out of Clive Anderson's show.

It seemed that the only way to defeat the Amstell was to either affect John Barrowman-levels of cheerful charm (the "gay off" between them remains a source of wonder and amusement), or go weirdly berserk. Perhaps the greatest follower of the latter path was the late and seriously lamented Amy Winehouse, who lovingly caressed Amstell's face, spat on the floor and declared that she would rather have "cat AIDS" than duet with Katie Melua. Could this be the finest single quip in the show's long run? We'd probably say so, although the reliably evil Frankie Boyle has let off a few zingers during his visits to the Buzzcocks set as well. And by zingers we mean lines guaranteed to get tabloids frothing like a like a rabies-injected Mary Whitehouse.

You'd think there'd be nothing wrong with Frankie diagnosing Axl Rose with having "type 4 career cancer" or wishing all of Muse dead or referring to Wayne Rooney self-abusing, but – would you believe it – the Daily Mail saw fit to comment on his appearance in a less than favourable light. Luckily for Buzzcocks, such media outrage has been relatively rare – most of the time, everyone is more than happy to see celebs made to look clueless, frightened and just plain baffled.

Truly, few televisual pleasures can compare to the terrified confusion of a singer who has failed to recognise their own lyrics. Although a strong case could be made that every single Intros Round – in which the guests have to gamely sing the intros to songs in a desperate attempt to be comprehended by their teammates – is a mini-masterpiece of aural slapstick brilliance. By which we mean, it's funny seeing Phill Jupitus making strange noises while rocking back and forth, waggling jazz hands. Truly a lovely thing to behold, even after all these years.

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