Behind the Scenes on Dara O Briain's Go 8 Bit
Ellie Gibson tells all. Well, some.
Hello there. As regular readers may know, I'm currently appearing in video games TV show Dara O'Briain's Go 8 Bit, Monday nights on Dave. It's the brainchild of comedians Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon, who are the team captains, while I play Richard Osman.
Every week, we invite funny people to compete at a selection of games from a range of different eras. The computer wizardry is provided by Rob Sedgebeer and his team of tech elves. There are no prizes, because it's just for fun, and as everyone knows all comedians are millionaires anyway.
I'll be honest - we were very nervous before the first show went out. There was a lot of chatter about whether video games can even work on TV. Would people watch it? Would they hate it? Would the energy in the studio translate on screen? Would anyone pick up on the blistering sexual tension between David James and, well, everyone else in the room? (He radiates a unique blend of warmth, sagacity, and magnetic charm. It is like being in the presence of Aslan.)
We're still only a few weeks in, but so far it seems like at least some people want to watch games on telly. Around 600,000 viewers saw the first episode of Go 8 Bit, making it the most popular show on Dave that week. We have also had lovely feedback on Twitter, and from some of our parents. (Shout out to my 99 year-old Grandma, who calls it Dara Brian's No Bits, and STILL thinks my main job is writing Ceefax.)
We've also been asked a lot of the same questions, so I thought I'd use this month's column to answer them. Partly because I think it's good to be transparent, and mainly because Christian rejected my first column idea, How I Single-Handedly Brought Jambo Safari to Consoles.
Has anyone told you you're a bit like Richard Osman?
Really a lot.
How did the show come about?
Steve and Sam invented it three years ago after forgetting to write a proper Edinburgh show. It was a bit different then - they had to do forfeits for losing games, like eating the same number of Mini Cheddars as the pills their opponent's Pac-Man consumed. It was a big hit with audiences, and then they got the TV deal, and Dara came on board, and now they're unbearable.
How did you, Ellie Gibson, get involved?
I went to see the stage show and loved it. I helped out a bit when they brought it to EGX. I had to do an audition for the TV show, during which I mainly read out interesting facts off a laptop, and continually referred to Dara as "Alexander". I think that's what swung it.
So I wasn't involved with Go 8 Bit from the start, but I feel lucky to be involved, and they've made me very welcome. We were chatting in Steve's dressing room one day, during a break from filming, and he said, "You know, it's like how Ringo only joined The Beatles after they got their record deal, but they said it felt like he'd been part of the band all along."
"Wait a minute," I said, "Are you saying you and Sam are Lennon and McCartney, and I am Ringo Starr?"
"No," said Steve, "Sam and I are both George Harrison."
If the show's called Go 8 Bit, how come you also play games that consist of more than 8 bits?
I am sorry to have to tell you this, but not all the questions in Never Mind the Buzzcocks are about the music of The Buzzcocks. Also, 8 out of 10 Cats isn't about cats.
Basically, it's meant to be a pun on the phrase "go apesh**". The plan was always to play games from throughout history - it would have been easy to make a retro show, and exploit the nostalgia factor, but it's more interesting to show a variety of stuff. I'm proud of the fact the programme is putting some fantastic indie games not everyone will have heard of on the telly.
What's with the rotating stage?
Bit of fun, innit? People seem to either love it or hate it. Personally, I think it's great, but then I grew up in an age where light entertainment meant watching a racist tell some darts players they'd just won a trench coat and some jeans.
Are you famous now?
I have had exactly two very brief and singularly dismal tastes of fame:
1. After we filmed the episode with Sexy Zangief, I got talking to the Cher lookalike. (I always dreamed of being a Cher lookalike myself, but my school careers counsellor said it was an unrealistic aim, which is how I ended up settling for a few years on the cruise ships as an Elkie Brooks tribute. But that's another story.)
The Cher lookalike was lovely, and told me all about how she'd been doing it for years, and had performed in Vegas, and been actual Cher's body double. Then she said, "Can I get a selfie?"
"Yes!" I burst out.
"...With Dara?" she finished.
"Er, yeah, I'll go and ask him for you."
2. On the afternoon before the first episode was broadcast, I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time googling the show, and being amazed at all the coverage it was getting. I was so caught up in enjoying the sight of my own name on the internet that I failed to notice my toddler doing an enormous poo on the carpet, then proceeding to tread it in like a French peasant crushing grapes for wine.
I found myself on my hands and knees, scrubbing human excrement out of Ikea shagpile, thinking, "I bet this doesn't happen to Richard Osman."
Will there be a second series?
I don't know. The best way to find out would be if everyone tweets @join_dave to ask, explaining it's the best thing they've ever seen in the history of television, including that episode of Man Vs. Beast where an orang utan and a sumo wrestler did a tug of war.
Has anyone told you you're like a female Ed Byrne?
Isn't this whole thing a bit self indulgent?
Yeah, probably best leave it there.
Next month: The Time I Had to Lend That PR a Load of Cash After he Spent All the Press Trip Money on a Lapdance on the First Night. Dara O'Briain's Go 8 Bit is currently showing at 10pm Mondays on Dave. It's repeated on Friday at 8pm and Saturday at 6pm, or you can catch up online.