ED2014 Comedy ED2014 Interviews ED2014 Week0 Edition

Dan Schreiber: The idiot elf arrives at the Fringe

By | Published on Wednesday 23 July 2014

Dan Schreiber

Dan Schreiber is one of the ‘QI elves’ to which Stephen Fry often refers on the popular BBC panel show, helping dig up the trivia and misconceptions that form the heart of the show. But you might know that already if you’re a ‘QI’ fan, because Schreiber is one of the regulars on the show’s spin-off podcast that launched earlier this year, ‘No Such Thing As Fish’. He also works with QI creator John Lloyd on the radio show ‘The Museum Of Curiosity’, a programme he helped conceive and co-produces.
But away from the elving and curious museum producing, Schreiber also performs stand-up, and this year brings his first full hour show to the Fringe, ‘Cockblocked From Outer Space’. We caught up with the man himself to talk ‘QI’, the most amazing of facts, and what we can expect from his debut Fringe show.

CC: Let’s get the ‘QI’ questions out of the way first! How did you get to be one of the QI elves?
DS: I moved over to England after graduating from a hippy high school in Sydney without any qualifications. A chance meeting with the ‘QI’ bosses led to the job. Every elf has a title: History Elf, Science Elf and so on. I was Idiot Elf. I knew nothing. Surprisingly, knowing nothing is an advantage at ‘QI’.

CC: And what exactly does being a QI elf involve?
DS: Refusing to find anything dull. Reading that 3000 paged book on the history of popes, until you spot that one golden sentence that reads: “During his 27-year reign, Pope John Paul II took over 100 skiing vacations”.

CC: You’re also a regular on the ‘QI’ podcast ‘No Such Thing As A Fish’. Is it good to share your bits of trivia direct with the audience, rather than letting Stephen Fry take the glory of being the top trivia deliverer?
DS: The podcast is my favourite thing to do. It came about because too many facts in the ‘QI’ office kept going to waste. Like the time Chief Elf James Harkin looked up from his computer and said: “You know there are currently over 600 guys in the world with two dicks”. We decided to gather round a microphone once a week and share our favourite facts we’d found that week. As we speak we’re eighteen episodes in, are number three in the iTunes charts and have just hit our two millionth listen. It’s done ridiculously well. None of us expected that.

CC: How did you come to co-create the radio show ‘The Museum Of Curiosity’ with QI chief John Lloyd?
DS: John, Richard Turner – the other co-creator/co-producer – and I wanted to make a show where we could meet our heroes. While trying to think up what that show could be, John Lloyd got offered the post of Professor Of Ignorance at the University of Buckingham. This got us thinking, what would a Prof Of Ignorance do? Probably run an infinitely large and impossible museum. And that’s how we got our show.

CC: How does working on the radio show compare to ‘QI’ itself?
DS: It’s completely different. ‘QI’ is all about the facts. ‘Museum’ is all about the people. Finding the world’s most interesting authors, explorers, potato experts, deep-sea divers, and getting them to sit with each other, just chatting about their favourite things.

CC: When did you make the move into stand-up?

DS: Four years ago. When my agent forced me to get on stage to do it. I didn’t want to do it, because I had nothing to say. So, I got very drunk before going on. The gig worked. I realised that not only did I have nothing to say, but I had shitloads of nothing to say. I have over an hour of nothing to say now.

CC: What can people expect from your Fringe show? Will it be brimming with trivia?
DS: My blurb basically says it all: Yetis, astronauts, paranormal dating websites, the trouble with being hairy, the ancient wisdom of Chinese zoo keepers, the pubic lice hunter of Rotterdam and more. It’s packed with facts and personal adventures into the world of dork.

CC: And why the title ‘Cockblocked From Outer Space’?
DS: I once had a date ruined by a man from outer space. Literally while he was orbiting the planet in the International Space Station.

CC: You’re also doing a live version of ‘TMOC’ with John this Festival. How will that compare to the radio show?
DS: Just like the radio show it’s going to be packed with amazing guests from academics like the head of Ancient Babylonian Cuneiform from the British Museum to comedians like Jimmy Carr. We’re doing nine shows. Come.

CC: Do people constantly ask you for your favourite bit of QI trivia? Does that get irritating?
DS: Yes! But no, it’s not irritating. Any conversation that begins with someone saying “did you know…” always ends up being an awesome one.

CC: What’s your favourite bit of QI trivia?
DS: Did you know… In 1895, the only two cars in Ohio crashed into each other.

CC: You must know a lot of brainy and knowledgeable people. What’s your dream pub quiz team?
DS: Easy. My ‘No Such Thing As A Fish’ co-hosts James Harkin, Anna Ptaszynski and Andy Murray.

‘Dan Schreiber: Cockblocked From Outer Space’ was performed at Underbelly at Edinburgh Festival 2014.