Presenter of BBC quiz show Pointless and massive snooker fan Richard Osman tells us about his enthusiasm for the sport, and the time he showed Steve Davis how it’s done….
When did your passion for snooker originate?
I have always loved it. I was born in 1970 which I suppose was the perfect time as I grew up in the 1970s and 80s when snooker became so popular. It’s a fantastic television sport because you can see so clearly the emotions the players go through, the agony and the ecstasy. I’m fascinated to watch them sitting in their chairs while their opponent is at the table, with no hiding place and nothing they can do to stop the other guy clearing up. They try to stay poker faced but sometimes it’s just not possible. I’m astounded by the incredible skill of the top players. But you often see matches where they are knocking in centuries, then it comes down to a deciding frame and they go to pieces, missing easy balls. Then you realise how tough the game really is.
You have been to the Crucible a few times to watch live. How does that compare to watching on TV?
Television and snooker fit each other so well. But coming to watch it live, especially at the Crucible, allows you to see things you have never noticed before. And the atmosphere is so special, something I have never witnessed in any other sport. It is very intimate, especially at the start of a session when the hush descends and everything goes very quiet. It’s almost like being in the middle of a cathedral, but with this hugely important sporting event going on in the middle of it. As soon as you arrive in the area around the Crucible you start to feel that buzz, then you get inside the arena and realise it is much smaller than you thought it was. I love it. I have been to a lot of sporting venues and nothing compares to it.
Can you play snooker?
I’m decent at pool but no good at snooker. When you watch on TV it looks easy, then you get to the club and you’ve essentially got the same cues, balls, table and pockets that the pros have and you feel as if you can do what they can, then you miss a ball by a couple of feet and make yourself look stupid. Perhaps I will get lessons one day and see if that helps. Three years ago I joined a few others like Joey Essex and Rebecca Adlington at the BBC to meet Steve Davis and have a go at the black he missed in the 1985 final against Dennis Taylor. I potted it…and it was all I could do not to sink to my knees and scream in jubilation. I just kept cool and said it was easy. Steve took it pretty well.
There is such a rich mine of trivia associated with snooker, is that part of its appeal for you?
Yes I love the statistical side of it: the rankings, the pot percentages, the career records, all that kind of thing. The way the rankings work now is fantastic because players can rise so quickly, especially with a run in a big money event like the World Championship. I don’t personally write the questions for Pointless but we have a team of ten people doing that and some of them are also snooker fans so we do often have snooker questions coming up. A lot of the questions rely on ‘lists’ so snooker is perfect for that. And we did a quiz called Potless at the Crucible with a few of the players and pundits a few years ago which was great fun.
The World Cup of Crisps you ran on Twitter (deservedly won by Pickled Onion Monster Munch) had two million votes. Any plans for a similar snooker version?
I have done three or four of those including the World Cup of Chocolate Bars (won by Twirl) to raise money for charity. But it doesn’t work for sport because, of course, most sports already have a World Cup or World Championship. But it might be fun to do something on snooker taking the best 32 players of all time and having polls to see who fans think would win, that could have some interesting results.