Tell us about The Answer Trap, and what viewers can expect from it.
The Answer Trap is a gameshow unlike any other – you don’t need to know the answers like in most quizzes. You can turn up without knowing anything and still give it a go. So we’re a quiz for fiendish pub quizzers and the more casual quizzer who shouts occasionally the telly. The game is designed in such a way that it allows the Answer Trappers, me and Frank, to show off our fiendish knowledge and the way we set traps. Sometimes the traps can have amusing anecdotes other times they can be curious facts. Other times they're just plain mean.
How hard would you say the traps are? Or how easy did you make them to fall into?
The traps have been set in a way in which when we reveal the answer to the audience and they didn't know the answer, it’s something that they might be able to share with someone down the pub, or with the person they live with. Like an interesting takeaway. Again, if you know the topic inside out, say if the category is FA Cup winners, you can identify the traps. But I think the traps work best when people have a little knowledge. There's a phrase: ‘a little learning is dangerous’, because if you have no idea then you don't know what the traps are. But if you know a little bit you think you can avoid a trap and it’s more satisfying for us when people fall into them.
Did you enjoy the challenge to try and catch people out?
I'm a part-time school maths teacher and, in that role, I want to encourage and support the students’ learning and development. This show allowed me to bring out a slightly more mischievous side of my personality. I'm not a total meanie, but I take some delight in catching contestant in traps.
Did you find there were any sore losers or did the contestants mostly react well to the traps?
Everyone was really good sports. I don't know whether it's because they were so grateful to have a day out during the pandemic, all of them were saying it was the first time they’d been out in months. They got to wear their nice shirt, trousers, heels, put some make-up on.
Are you and Frank competitive with each other on the show?
I genuinely think if Frank and I were in pantomime, we might be the ugly sisters! The competition between us is fun. We're very good friends but it's fun for the audience to see the banter between us. We take delight in beating each other but in a really fun, positive, almost sibling-like way.
Would you have been caught out by a few of Frank’s traps were you playing the game?
Without a doubt. There are times I'm looking at the board and going, ‘which one is real?’ Honestly, there are a few times where even though I've seen all the answers before, I'm genuinely thinking, is that a trap is that not a trap? So when they fall into it, I don't know. Even though I've seen all the questions, in every episode, I'm learning something new from Frank in every single episode.
You rose to fame on University Challenge, what made you want to compete on a TV quiz?
Growing up, my dad used to take me and my brothers to East Ham Library every Saturday afternoon. We’d make a delicious South Indian, Keralan lunch then head off to the library, sitting there for hours reading all sorts of books on Aztec civilization, Victorian engineering, the fiction of Tolkien. As a teacher, I might say ask whether there was a learning objective, but there wasn't, it was about getting a sense of a love for learning about the world.
Funnily enough, before University Challenge, I never really liked quizzes, pub quizzes. If I did it with a team, or work quiz, we'd always usually win. I'm quite competitive but I didn't take part in many quizzes. Since University Challenge, I've now become a bit of a quiz addict. I love quizzes. Before that, it was just something I was good at without ever taking part. Whereas now I take part and I practice, and I like to consider myself a serious but fun quizzer.
Do you think it's more than knowledge, is it the competitiveness side that draws you into quizzing?
This is an excellent question. I genuinely love learning. For me knowledge is a curiosity, it's having a little story that you can share with someone. One of my friends was having a Chupa Chups lollipop recently. I said, ‘Oh, do you know Salvador Dali designed that?’ Having knowledge means that when you're with people from all sorts of walks of life, you've got little stories behind things that can just brighten up the conversation a bit. So that's the driving factor, it just means your life is more is enriched. But then since University Challenge, I've liked the competitive element of trying to do well, trying to win. I won Celebrity Mastermind a couple of years ago so I would love to take part when quizzes as well as being the Trapper as well.
Do you have an all-time favourite quiz?
Since University Challenge it is that show because I now watch it quite religiously. I've got my heart set one day on taking over Paxman's job. Honestly that would be my dream job. Paxman is mean, I'm not mean like him, but the old host before him from 1962 to 1987, Bamber Gascoigne, he was a schoolmaster. Also, Countdown which is more of a game show. I love reading and writing stories the word games are always fun. As someone that ended up doing maths at university and teaches maths, the numbers are my favourite part.
What's it been like working with Anita Rani?
She’s a combination of inspirational role model, big sister, hero. I've watched Anita's career from afar and admire the way that she's a go getter. People say never meet your heroes, but Anita Rani is the opposite because working with her, she's amazing. I would talk to her about the way things are running on set and how to work things out and she would really give me a proper advice based on our years of working in television.
Do you think quizzes are a good springboard to encourage children to be more interested in certain subjects and education in general?
Yes definitely, students can be quite competitive. I love young people to love learning for its intrinsic merit and some do but, for a lot of people, even myself when I was a student, when there's an added incentive, a competition, it gives you the extra little push. As a result, you might learn something or try and make sure to revise next time. It gives you the initial hook.