Being on BBC Genius

I used to listen to a radio programme called Genius. It was a 30 minute comedy show hosted by Dave Gorman. People would write in to the show with their genius ideas, and Dave, a guest and the audience would scrutinise it. Each show had between 4 and 6 ideas crammed in.

Genius ideas were things like helium-filled bubble wrap to save on postage costs, and perforated bread to keep the bread whole, but make it easy to tear a slice off.

In later years the show progressed onto TV, on BBC2. It still featured a guest, an audience and potential geniuses who submitted ideas. TV was great for this, because you could see the idea demonstrated. The TV show featured ideas such as the conveyor duvet, (a tube of duvet that wraps around the whole of the bed, so if your partner pulls the sheets you’re still covered,) The democratic bus, (where the passengers get to say where the bus goes,) and an “a-bear-tois”, (a place where naughty children go to have their teddy bears destroyed.)

So when I saw on the internet that Genius wanted people to submit ideas for the next series, I contemplated sending in an idea that I had a few years ago. My idea would speed up communication in EVERY language on earth, and I was quite proud of it. I almost did, but as I couldn’t get it to sound as good when written down as it sounded in my head, I ended up not doing.

So, a few weeks later on Twitter, I noticed that Genius presenter Dave Gorman was asking for people to send in their “wow” moments to his other, non-Genius-related radio show. He wanted moments when you’ve suddenly thought “Wow! That now makes sense!”

I thought back to when I had my genius idea. I remembered that it had caused me to have one of those “wow” moments, as I realised I could revolutionise worldwide communication. So I sent Dave a message outlining my idea, for inclusion on his radio show. A few minutes later I got a message back from Dave, saying he wouldn’t use it on THIS radio show, but that my idea would be better suited to Genius. Whoa! Dave Gorman, the presenter of Genius, had completely unofficially endorsed my idea! (OK, when I say “endorsed” I mean “didn’t actually endorse it.”) Ironically, in asking for people to email in “wow” moments, he had just emailed out one too!

So I composed an email outlining my idea, in preparation for submitting to Genius. Then I ummed and erred for a bit. Then I rewrote it, before further umming and erring ensued. This carried on for a while and eventually, (after three full days,) I clicked “send” and my idea whizzed off to Genius HQ.

A few months later I got an email from BBC Genius. It said that my idea was great, and that I’d been invited to come to filming in London on 10th June, at BBC Wood Lane….

LONDON?!? I’m in BOLTON! LONDON IS MILES AWAY!!! I was driven down to London once as a passenger, because I attended a payroll exhibition with my boss. It took 7 hours in a car! We had to fill up on petrol 4 times! Now, I do payroll and I work with numbers daily, so I know what 7 hours + 7 hours is. It’s …. quite a lot of hours driving. Being a passenger was fun, but I really didn’t fancy driving for 7 hours each way!

I knew it would be expensive, like in the hundreds, but I decided to check train prices to London anyway. I clicked a few things, and squinted as I prepared for the price appearing on screen……. and after a few calculatory moments……..£26.00.

£26.00?!? This was obviously a mistake. I played with the options. I chose to have a reserved seat and clicked “recalculate.” £26.00. I added that I wanted an aisle seat. Still £26.00. I added that I wanted to be facing forward. Still £26.00. This was the best day ever!!!

So I booked trains to and from London, at a surprising cost of just £52 return, and relaxed. It was only March. I had months before I was due to actually go.

Suddenly, (and far quicker than at any other time in my life,) the month of June appeared. I had booked trains, received tickets, booked a night in a nearby Travelodge, got my reservation details, and got an app on my iphone that showed tube lines. I was ready.

I won’t bore you with details of my journey, but I got to BBC Wood Lane at 3:30pm with an hour and a half to go. I stood on the bridge exiting the tube, overlooking BBC Wood Lane, and took a photo of the queue outside the building. I nipped onto Twitter on my phone, and tweeted “Just arrived at BBC Wood Lane in preparation for going on Genius with Dave Gorman.” I got a message back from a stranger, called @Kyuker, who had obviously just searched twitter for “Dave Gorman genius”, saying that they were en route too. Weird! I was a little perturbed as it appeared that friendly strangers were also coming… I crossed the road and joined the queue.

At just after 5pm all the potential Geniuses, including myself, were called out of the huge main queue of normal audience members, and were asked to form a separate smaller queue of geniuses. I was fifth from the front. I could feel the power of our combined genius brains pulsating. I was surrounded by genius. This was, without doubt, a place where great ideas were formed. I thought back to previous episodes of Genius…. the hoodie with two hoods so your partner won’t get wet if it rains…. teaching maths using dance……. making the Isle of Man symmetrical to increase tourism…. Maybe I was standing next to the next official Genius. Or maybe, as I thought about how good my idea actually was, THEY were standing next to them!

Looking at my fellow queuers I decided that if I were to be a REAL genius, evil or otherwise, and based entirely on the average face from other people in the Genius queue, I needed a beard.

When you enter BBC TV Centre, they scan you. They check to see if you’re carrying any weapons, or have any large metal objects about your person. Luckily, I’d left my large metal objects and weapons at home so I was free to enter. I did however receive a cautionary look from a security guard. He was either giving me a knowing stare, letting me know not to start anything, or he was doubting my genius purely from my lack of beardyness.

We were ushered into the green room. A lady found my name on the register, issued me with a pre-made name badge, and I sat waiting with other people.

I nipped onto Twitter again and put something like “I’m in the green room waiting to go onto Genius!” Shortly after, I got a reply from @Kyuker saying “Me too!” That meant that the stranger was in the room WITH me somewhere!!!

I glanced around, but couldn’t see anyone who looked remotely like the profile pic of the stranger. I hoped they had seen my profile pic and would approach me instead. I tweeted “Where abouts are you?” @Kyuker replied “wedged in a corner near a bin! It’s packed in here!”

A make-up lady came walking around the room, looking for people with name badges on. She approached me and asked politely, “Do you mind if I dust you?” The people I had seen her dusting before me all looked happy, so I agreed and was dusted henceforth.

An hour later a packed room of 70 Geniuses was lead out of the green room and onto the Genius stage. We all found our allocated seats and made ourselves comfortable on them. On each seat was a cue card – a card with our original idea printed on it for us to read from. Each of the Genius ideas had been re-written by one of the BBC writers to make it punchier; equally as funny but condensed. My original submitted idea was 6 paragraphs long, but the BBC writers had cleverly managed keep the original principal and condense it into just 4 lines. I liked their rewrite.

While we were testing our seats and chatting to our new Genius neighbours, Dave Gorman came in to have a chat to us Geniuses. He perched casually on the front of his desk on stage and addressed us all for around 30 minutes. This was a pre-show chat with only him and us 70 geniuses. No main audience, no filming, just a really lovely casual chat. He regaled everyone with stories of previous Geniuses, reminded everyone that it is a comedy show, answered a few questions, and genuinely set everyone at ease with his talking.

We were then lead back to the green room for a while, while the normal audience was brought into the studio we had just left.

After a nip to the loo we were all brought back into the studio in front of the 500+ strong audience. The main audience sit at the back of the studio in stadium style seats up to the ceiling, while the Geniuses all sit at the front of the stage, in a curve that bends in a semi-circle around Dave Gormans desk. I was on Daves left, 2 seats back.

The guests were lead on, (Tim Minchin and Alexei Sayle,) and they took their seats beside Daves desk.

Shortly after, the lights dimmed, the theme tune played and filming began.

(You’ll have to watch BBC2 on October 25th for the outcome.)

3 hours later, after filming, we were assembled in the green room all gathering our coats. A queue formed in front of Dave Gorman. People were queueing to chat one-on-one briefly to him, so I made my way to the end of it. As I joined, a friendly lady asked “Are you @AnotherCraig from Twitter?”

“Yes!” I replied, “yes I am! Are you @Kyuker?!?”

“YES!” she replied excitedly.

AAAARGGGHH!! I was doing that thing that your parents ALWAYS tell you not to do! I was talking to a stranger!

We had a long chat about how good filming the episode was, how great Twitter is, and how I must buy the latest Danny Wallace book (something I still have to do!) @Kyuker was really called Nikki, which is something I would never have guessed from her Twitter username. I explained I was called Craig, something which, in retrospect, is probably blatantly obvious.

We shared our Genius ideas. Nikkis was Magnetic Socks. She had experimented with other magnetic clothing, but had accidentally burnt her hand on a glue gun while making a magnetic jumpsuit. She had applied glue to a strip magnet, then pressed it onto the clothing accidentally with the wrong polarity, causing it to repell, fly spinning through the air and land on her hand. She had the makings of a true genius. And whats more, she didn’t have a beard like the geniuses in the outside queue from earlier.

The Genius queue shortened and I finally got to shake hands with Dave Gorman. He was clearly shattered. It was approaching 11pm, and he’d probably been up working since the crack of dawn.

“Thanks so much for a great show” I said.

“You’re very welcome!” he replied. “It was good, wasn’t it!” he continued, grinning.

“Absolutely great! Would you mind signing my cue card?” I asked. Dave jumped off the desk he was perching on, and willingly Gormanised it. He read my card after signing and read my idea and recapped it was great.

“I was umming and erring for weeks before I submitted it” I chatted, “and only did because you suggested I did on Twitter.”

“Ahhh, you were right to send it in.”

Then he sat back down again.

“Sorry, would you mind if I get a photo with you?”

Dave jumped back up off his desk, and stood by my side. We shared a slight hug, as Nikkis companion (really sorry, buy I didn’t get their name,) took a photo.

I genuinely admire his commitment. He stayed there, shaking hands and signing autographs until he had spoken to EVERYONE. The amount of hours he puts into Genius must be immense.

After signing, a final handshake, and receiving an official Genius badge, I left.

Outside BBC centre, I chatted briefly to Nikki and her friend. (Again, sorry I don’t know her name!) We agreed the show was great and that Nikkis Genius idea was a sure-fire winner, providing the issues with polarity and burning of flesh were sorted out.

Then I got on a train and whizzed back to my Travelodge. I was shattered.

I’d travelled on a bus to Bolton town centre, train from Bolton to Manchester, train from Manchester to London Euston, 2 tubes to Travelodge to drop off my bags, 2 tubes back to BBC for filming and two more tubes to get back to my travelodge.

That is 9 different journeys in 1 day, travelling for 5 hours 20 minutes and covering around 215 miles.

I know what you’re all thinking……

So…….. what has that done to the graph?

*Kyuker would like it noted that she is both stunningly beautiful AND single*

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