Rob Brydon: ‘The Guess List won’t cure cancer, but I hope viewers find it entertaining’

Rob Brydon is a busy man right now. The 48-year-old actor and presenter is currently on our screens bickering and bantering with Steve Coogan in BBC2’s The Trip to Italy, the sequel to their Bafta-winning series The Trip, which this time sees the pair on a gastronomic tour of Pompeii, Rome and the Amalfi coast.

In a very different vein, Rob also hosts a new six-part comedy entertainment series, The Guess List, which starts on BBC1 on Saturday, 12 April.

Each programme sees two contestants vie for a prize that has been specifically chosen for them, assisted by celebrities from the world of sport, music, TV and film, including James Corden, David Walliams and Ronnie Corbett.

TV&Satellite Week magazine caught up with Rob to find out more…
How would you describe The Guess List?

”It’s a comedy entertainment show that the whole family can enjoy. I see interviews where presenters talk about their new shows as if they’ve found the cure for cancer. I’m afraid I can’t elevate The Guess List to that position, but I do hope that viewers will find it entertaining.”

Do you get lots of offers to host Saturday-night shows?
I turn down a lot of projects and try only to choose things that I think I can bring something to. In the past, I’ve rejected some formats because I thought they were too gimmicky. I like very straightforward stuff where it comes down to the performer. The bottom line is, if the viewers aren’t laughing, I haven’t done my job.”

Why do you think Would I Lie to You? has been such a hit?

“It’s a great format and I work very well with team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack. We are three people who genuinely like each other, and that’s a rarity in this business.”

The first series of The Trip was a big hit all over the world. Did that add an extra burden when making The Trip to Italy?

“Any time you come back to something that has previously been well received, like Gavin & Stacey, there is always pressure. But you have to get beyond that and just get on with it.”

Are you and Steve Coogan close off screen?
“We don’t hang out when we’re not filming, but we bonded more this time. Making the first series in the north of England, we’d both go home at weekends, but this time we stayed in Italy for five weeks. We’d often eat together in the evenings and definitely got closer.”

You said that Coogan should make the next series of The Trip with his Philomena co-star Judi Dench. If that happened, what would you do?
I’d go off and make a gay version of As Time Goes By with Geoffrey Palmer.”

What TV shows are you enjoying watching at the moment?

”I’m watching House of Cards and I’m loving it. Having done so much improv recently on The Trip to Italy, it’s great to watch something with a proper script and the actors playing well-constructed parts.”

You are known as a terrific impressionist. Who are relishing impersonating right now?
I love doing the writer Gore Vidal. He was a wonderful communicator and a great raconteur, although I have to admit, he is not the most mainstream impersonation I’ve ever done.”  

Where was your first ever stand-up gig, and how did it go?
I performed at a notoriously tough London venue called Up The Creek. It didn’t go well. As soon as the audience realised I was from Wales, the inevitable happened. It started with one sheep noise, and within a minute everyone was doing it. It was like Spartacus: ‘I’m Baa-tacus!’ ‘No, I’m Baa-tacus!’”

Your autobiography, Small Man in a Book, ends with what you were doing in 2000. Why did you choose to close it there?
The year 2000 seemed to be the natural cut-off point because that was when my career took off and I started winning awards. The book is about my struggle and how I kept on going in the face of failure. People relate to that far more. No one wants to read about me boasting, ‘And then I said to Rod Stewart…’”