As the audience awaits the start of Right Questions, Wrong Answers, an announcement is made over the tannoy to inform us that a joke about a chicken has “suffered a ruptured punchline” and will now be replaced by one about universal basic income. Thus, the tone for the evening is established: we’re in for a heady mix of equal parts eccentric absurdism and incisive political satire.
When Andy Zaltzman enters the stage, he adopts the role of a quiz show contestant, charged with answering the biggest questions facing the world today, such as: ‘Is capitalism right or wrong?’ and ‘How would you end conflict Middle East?’ Like the rest of the show, the delivery of this section is fast-paced, slick and assured. Zaltzman, unable to answer any of the questions correctly, due to the fact there are no clear cut yes or no answers (“this binary bulls**t holds us back!”) is given the consolation prize of “a nagging sense of foreboding about the future.” He then provides a list of some of the other “wrong answers” from history – all the things we’ve got wrong as a species. These include: nationalism, the New Testament, the 1980s, the Second Amendment and Fifa.
Zaltzman introduces us to a few of his novel inventions throughout the show – contraptions he has thought up to help make sense of these confusing and challenging times. The first of these is a set of Voter-interpreting goggles, which he uses to scan ballots from the Brexit referendum in order to determine the individual voter’s motivations. In terms of a political slant here, Zaltzman knows who his fans are, but he doesn’t quite pander to them. Just as there were “f***wits on both sides”, he states, there were also people on both sides voting for opportunity and hope. One voter he analyses picked ‘remain’ because they once had a nice holiday in Spain. Someone voted ‘leave’ because they are a poet and wanted chaos and instability in order to alleviate their writer’s block.
Another of Zaltzman’s gadgets is his Compromise Generating Robot, who suggests the debate around gun laws in the US can be solved by fitting all guns with a prolonged cooling-off period between the trigger being pulled and the gun actually firing. Similarly, Brexit could be organised on a “one week on, one week off” basis to appease both sides.
While some of the content of Right Questions, Wrong Answers will be familiar to fans of Zaltzman’s podcast, The Bugle, the high calibre of the material is undeniable. Both erudite and side-splittingly funny, Zaltzman continues to prove his mettle as one of the UK’s most intelligent and inventive satirists.