Answering the Question Before Last

Here we go again with another misguided attempt to add extra value to by giving you something never before seen on the World Wide Web... only for everyone else to just cut and paste it onto their own site anyway.

No doubt you'll have seen the classic 1980 Two Ronnies Mastermind sketch before (and if you haven't, here it is), but our research has turned up this revised, expanded and in some places even corrected version, performed as part of Messrs Barker and Corbett's 1983 London Palladium residency. Plus, read on for a transcript of the sketch's forerunner from The Burkiss Way. BOM bom-bom-BOMM...!



David Renwick


Ronnie Barker as Magnus Magnusson

Ronnie Corbett as Charlie Smithers

Mastermind Sketch

MAGNUS: And so to our final contender. Your name, please?

SMITHERS: Good evening.

MAGNUS: Thank you. In the first heat your chosen subject was Answering Questions Before They Were Asked. This time you have chosen to Answer the Question Before Last each time. Is that correct?

SMITHERS: Charlie Smithers.

MAGNUS: And your time starts now. What is palaeontology?

SMITHERS: Yes, absolutely correct.

MAGNUS: Correct. What is the name of the directory that lists members of the peerage?

SMITHERS: A study of old fossils.

MAGNUS: Correct. Who are David Owen and Sir Geoffrey Howe?

SMITHERS: Burke's.

MAGNUS: Correct. What's the difference between a donkey and an ass?

SMITHERS: One's a Social Democrat, the other's a member of the Cabinet.

MAGNUS: Correct. Complete the quotation, "To be or not to be..."

SMITHERS: They're both the same.

MAGNUS: Correct. What is Bernard Manning famous for?

SMITHERS: That is the question.

MAGNUS: Correct. Who is the present Archbishop of Canterbury?

SMITHERS: He's a fat man who tells blue jokes.

MAGNUS: Correct. What do people kneel on in church?

SMITHERS: The Most Reverend Robert Runcie.

MAGNUS: Correct. What do tarantulas prey on?

SMITHERS: Hassocks.

MAGNUS: Correct. What would you use a ripcord to pull open?

SMITHERS: Large flies.

MAGNUS: Correct. What did Marilyn Monroe always claim to wear in bed?

SMITHERS: A parachute.

MAGNUS: Correct. What was the next new TV station to go on the air after Channel Four?

SMITHERS: Chanel Number Five.

MAGNUS: Correct. What do we normally associate with Bedlam?

SMITHERS: Breakfast television.

MAGNUS: Correct. What are jockstraps?

SMITHERS: Nutcases.

MAGNUS: Correct. What would a jockey use a stirrup for?

SMITHERS: An athletic support.

MAGNUS: Correct. Arthur Scargill is well known for what?

SMITHERS: He puts his foot in it.

MAGNUS: Correct. Who was the famous clown who made millions laugh with his funny hair?

SMITHERS: The leader of the mineworkers' union.

MAGNUS: Correct. What would a decorator use methylene chlorides to make?


MAGNUS: Correct. What did Henri Toulouse-Lautrec do?

SMITHERS: Paint strippers.

MAGNUS: Correct. What is Dean Martin famous for?

SMITHERS: Is he an artist?

MAGNUS: Yes - what kind of artist?

SMITHERS: Erm... pass.

MAGNUS: Yes, that's near enough. What make of vehicle is the standard London bus?


MAGNUS: Correct. In 1892, Brandon Thomas wrote a famous long-running English farce - what is it?

SMITHERS: British Leyland.

MAGNUS: Correct. Complete the following quotation about Shirley Williams: "Her heart may be in the right place but her..."

SMITHERS: "Charley's Aunt".

MAGNUS: Correct, and you have scored 22 and no passes!


This version was published in The Utterly, Utterly Amusing And Pretty Damn Definitive Comic Relief Revue Book in 1989, and the topical references were getting a bit old even then.

TV-am had launched a mere two weeks before the Two Ronnies started their run at the Palladium, and it was still in its disastrous "Famous Five" phase, so the "Bedlam" gag would have been bitingly topical (especially for the Two Ronnies, who weren't exactly known for being satirical).

It's noticeable that some of the changes in this version are actually corrections. Presumably people pointed out errors after the original broadcast: in the TV version, Robert Runcie's title was given as "Right Reverend", which has been corrected to "Most Reverend", and the wording of the paint strippers question has been amended so that methylene chloride is used to make paint strippers rather than being employed directly for that purpose. That particular question is now outdated as well, the EU having banned the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers in January 2009.

The new-to-this-version Marilyn Monroe question is quite a good bit of trivia, as it happens!

David Renwick (and, presumably, his then co-writer Andrew Marshall) had previously employed this concept in a 1979 sketch for the radio show The Burkiss Way (it's in the episode "Lesson 35: Remember The Burkiss Way", as part of a sequence that also parodies The Generation Game and 3-2-1). You can see why Renwick might feel he hadn't quite "nailed it" at this first attempt, but here's the transcript anyway...

Answering One Question Behind All The Time

[Audience applause]

MAGNUS: Thank you. Can I have your name, madam? [pause] Your occupation?

SPEDDING: Doris Spedding of Bayswater.

MAGNUS: And your specialist subject?

SPEDDING: Housewife.

MAGNUS: And you have two minutes on “Answering one question behind all the time” starting from now. How long was Noah in the ark?

SPEDDING: Answering one question behind all the time.

MAGNUS: Correct. In the GPO, what do the letters stand for?

SPEDDING: Forty days and forty nights.

MAGNUS: Correct. What does GB on a car mean?

SPEDDING: General Post Office.

MAGNUS: Correct. What sort of a boat is a junk?

SPEDDING: It’s made in Britain.

MAGNUS: Correct. What nationality was William the Conqueror?

SPEDDING: Chinese with a flat bottom.

MAGNUS: Correct. What’s another name for the Playboy Club?


MAGNUS: Correct. In 1954, what was it that killed 35,000 rabbits?

SPEDDING: The Bunny Club.

[Time-up signal]

MAGNUS: I’ve started so I’ll finish.

[Falls silent]

Extra special bonus alternative ending!

A version also appeared in the Burkiss Way tie-in book, Best Seller! The Life & Death of Eric Pode of Croydon. Instead of Doris Spedding, housewife, the contender is recurring Burkiss Way character Eric Pode (whose delayed answer to "Your occupation" is "I work for Lewisham Council as their chief accident black spot.”) The actual questions are the same (though the rabbit death-count is upped to 40,000) except that after “The Bunny Club” it concludes as follows:

MAGNUS: Will you get the hell out of here, you pimply-faced little dipstick…

PODE: Myxomatosis.

See also

Game Show Spoofs

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