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Richard Osman on his surprising fame, 'It's like worrying nobody at a party likes you'

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The cloche: that well-known garment made famous in 1920s Hollywood, and worn by women the world over to this day. Just not this woman.

So when game show host Richard Osman asked, live on the set of his new series, “On what part of the body is the cloche traditionally worn?” I panicked. “The waist?” I replied, stupidly.

“BRRRR,” went the buzzer, quickly followed by my dignity.

Yet it had all started so well.

Invited by Richard to try out his newly recommissioned hit BBC2 teatime show, Two Tribes, I leapt at the chance. (My mother, who has an unwavering crush on the bespectacled 6ft 7in man-mountain, would never have forgiven me otherwise).

Endemol TV

Clemmie Moodie in the new series of Two Tribes

Playing in a one-off special, I arrived at the Elstree studios in Hertfordshire for a green room briefing alongside my fellow contestants.

Name badges proudly in place, we were then given a rundown of the show before being taken on set and told where to stand (on small white masking tape crosses).

As fans of the popular show will know, players are divided into two teams based on what they have in common. Prior to filming, I had waded through a 30-minute questionnaire answering a string of probing, occasionally awkward, yes/no questions.

Endemol TV

Clemmie Moodie on the show

Once on set, the two camps were formed based on who had responded in the same manner. First off, I was put into the Yes camp, having admitted to attending a boyband concert. (In my defence, it was One Direction – and for work.)

And then began the one-minute, quick-fire general knowledge round, in which my lacking cloche knowledge was exposed.

I did, however, correctly identify how many months of the year begin with J (three), and which one of the Queen’s children has not been divorced (Edward).

BBC

Pointless Celebrities Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman

Our team scored a respectable 10 points, and then it was time for the Nos’ go. They managed a paltry four, thus seeing my gang safely through to the next round.

Chatting backstage to the unlikely new star of daytime television, I am delighted to discover he is as warm and witty off-screen as he is on it.

By his own admission he is also incredibly shy. But this probably isn’t surprising, given that fame found him rather than the other way around.

A successful producer for many years, the Cambridge graduate made his TV debut in 2009, at the tender age of 39.

It was while pitching the format to his other hit programme, Pointless, to BBC1 execs – taking on the role of host Alexander Armstrong’s assistant to demonstrate – that he got the gig.

Shoved out in front of camera, to this day Richard still gets nervous.

“It’s a weird transition, and I didn’t ever seek it out,” he explains.

“I am quite shy and find presenting by myself difficult and being in front of a live audience really difficult, quite awkward. You just have to get through it, I don’t think there is any way to overcome shyness.

“I always think it’s going to get easier, but it never does.

“But it’s like being at a party when you meet people and think, ‘Oh God, what if they don’t like me?’ It’s like having to go through that every single day.

“I get frightened in front of new audiences, and the contestants are nervous, I’m nervous, and the audience are there wanting to have a nice time – and the whole thing mortifies me until everybody is laughing.

“So much of it I love though, and once the audience is happy and warmed up, it’s great. But what else can I do? I really want the show to be a success and I’m really proud of it.”

The 44-year-old – who regularly tops magazine polls to find the Top Celebrity Weird Crush – is, though, secretly quite chuffed with his new-found sex god status.

“Usually it’s the mums and grandmothers who like me,” he grins.

“But the reaction I get is no more than anyone else on television. I imagine I get the same reaction as someone like (former Coronation Street star) Bradley Walsh and I’m very happy with that.

“It does happen though, just because you’re on the telly, but it’s lovely.

“I think it’s nice that in all walks of life there are different role models who come across as bright and who like learning stuff.

“So if anyone wants to have a crush on me, they’re very welcome to. I’m very comfortable with it!

Back to the serious business of trying to win this show. With two contestants now eliminated we were divided again, this time based on our responses to the question: “I would always choose a partner based on brains over beauty.”

Shamefully, I was in the No tribe – or “shallow tribe” as Richard was quick to dub us. It was now a buzzer round, with the first team to answer five questions correctly through to the final.

Things didn’t start well for my team. After four questions, we were 4-0 down. “Never,” boomed Richard, “have we had a 5-0 whitewash. Are your buzzers working?”

We quickly pressed our buzzers and, yep, they were working just fine. We were simply stupid. “Helen of Troy is said to have launched a thousand ships using what?” Richard then asked. “Face!” I was about to bellow, excitedly – before realising Richard was already congratulating the other team upon their 5-0 drubbing.

BBC

Richard Osman

My moment was over, and off we trudged to watch the finalists battle it out for a fictitious sum of prize money.

Commiserating with us afterwards, the show photographer suggests a group photo for posterity where, once again, I find myself open to fresh humiliation.

“Er, perhaps we should get you a box to stand on, Clemmie?” the photographer asks, seeing I come up to Richard’s pelvis.

“Honestly, this is more embarrassing for me,” Richard smiles, kindly, as I look up at him, as a baby giraffe would to its mother.

His height is, of course, one of the reasons he is so instantly recognisable. For a man struggling with fame, this can also be quite daunting. A Fulham FC season ticket holder, he continues to use public transport to get to games and will not be going all “private jet” on us any time soon.

Dealing with losing his anonymity, he adds: “Because we’re on telly every day, and because I’m so tall, I’m yet to find a disguise. I’ll go out with some of my producer friends who are super, proper famous people and they’ll just take their glasses off and no one will talk to them all day.

“But I can’t do that. When Pointless started, the only people that would recognise you were fans, which was lovely because then they’d feel a part of the show.

“But when you’re on TV a bit more, you become a bit more ubiquitous. People recognise you, even if they don’t know what from and that’s when it’s a bit annoying.

“I’ve yet to find the hat, glasses, moustache combination that makes me invisible. At the moment people are just like, ‘Oh, that’s Richard Osman in a hat’.”

Perhaps he should try a cloche…

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