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AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TARRANT

Added 58 days ago. 09 December 2022

Here at Wiltshire Farm Foods we love quizzes and puzzles, so who better to catch up with than the King of Quizzes, Chris Tarrant! Find out more about his glittering career and how he likes to celebrate at this time of year.

 
After short stints teaching and truck driving, Chris managed to make his dream of working in television a reality…

"It’s so embarrassing but I basicallywrote to every television station in the country, with a dreadful brash letter which included the awful phrase, “I am the face of the seventies…this is your last chance to snap me up!” 98% of them had the good sense to throw it in the bin, but two invited me for interview, and my patter must have worked as both offered me a job!

I started on a news programme called ATV Today at 6 O’clock and I did that for a couple of years. I was doing heavyweight news items at first and I really didn’t enjoy it… so they started giving me the lighter items that were a bit daft and that sort of qualified me to do what turned out to be Tiswas. The chaotic kids show sent his popularity soaring.

When the TV company were trying to get a Saturday morning kids’ show together and wanted someone ever so slightly potty, my producer immediately said, “Well that will be Chris Tarrant!” I did it for 8 years, probably the happiest years of my life. There was a weird period when I was doing both ATV and Tiswas - and I had to choose what time I wanted to do news or roll around in custard with a bucket on my head… and it was buckets for me!

Covering adults in gunge, kids tripping over…we’d never be allowed to do it now! And everybody wanted to come on it! Queen, Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox – I met so many of my heroes. I made lifelong friendships with Sally James and Lenny Henry… and we changed the face of children’s television."
Chris then moved into radio, with a 20-year stint at Capital Radio.

"I did it the wrong way round, most people do radio hoping to get into television! But with radio I just got to go into a room with a huge pile of records, talk nonsense, get paid and go home! I loved the immediacy of it. The freedom to think of an idea on the drive to work... and just do it!"

Then there was a little show called Who Wants to Be a Millionaire…

"I almost turned it down as I was too busy. I had done a show on the radio called Double or Quits, which was the germ of Millionaire, and the producer said, “I want you to do a pilot for a new show.” I said, “Well I’ll do the pilot but to be honest I won’t have time to do the series.” But I remember thinking, “This is actually quite a good idea!” – especially after we did the second pilot where we dimmed the lights and added all the scary dramatic music."

He knew early on that the show was going to be a big hit…

"After we did the first show, a lorry pulled up and this guy shouts, “Hey Chrissy, phone a friend?” Since Tiswas people have been shouting things at me in the street, but I thought, “this show has only ever gone out once, and that bloke has already got that catch phrase in his head.” I didn’t realise then that people would still be shouting it atmme for the next 15 years of my life! They still do! I don’t mind - it amuses me! But at that moment, I thought, we are on to something really big here… and of course, we were."

The show went through the roof!

"The prize for the first show was something like £64,000 and back then no one had ever won money like that. Whether it was Japan, America, South Africa… the show always got to number one. And when Judith Keppel won the first ever million, it was world news. We were interviewed on CNN together! It was the first time anyone had won million pounds on a game show – ever! It was like a live drama; you see close ups of people’s eyes… And I had to train myself to have a poker face. There’d be a little lady playing for £8,000 and I would think “I want to tell you the answer so badly… but I just can’t!”

It was life-changing sums of money. There was one guy who burst into hysterics, and when I asked why, he said, “I’m just about to answer a question for £16,000 and I know the answer… and I’ve never seen £16,000 in my life.” I mean, how nice is that?"
It’s a traditional Christmas at the Tarrant House!

"We have a designer friend wh ocomes round and we really do the house up - my wife Jane and I just love it. We have a house full of decorations. We always go to our local pub for Christmas Day lunch as it’s a local tradition… turkey and all the trimmings, Christmas pudding and brandy butter. We’ll have our in-laws, and the kids will come round on Boxing Day… we will have a great time."

He shares some of his Christmas favourites with us…

Christmas present
"I got this Cowboy suit as a kid, and I feel like I wore it every day for years. And then my Granddad gave me a fishing rod. And they had no idea what they started as I’ve fished in just about every country in the world ever since."

Christmas song
"Definitely Elvis – Blue Christmas. Johnny Cash, Rod Stewart I love a lot, Jane loves Michael Bubl√©. We’re a sucker for it all… but we don’t play Christmas music until at least the 15th December."

Christmas film
"It has to be ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ with James Stewart. I have watched it so much that I know almost every line in it. But it’s a lovely nothreat movie that moves all sorts of emotions in you and has an incredibly happy ending. It’s perfect – especially at Christmas time."
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