Two of the most fearsome interrogators in the media clashed yesterday, as Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman submitted himself to an interview by the BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s John Humphrys.
The chat was on the light-hearted subject of the 50th anniversary of BBC2’s University Challenge, which Paxman presents, but that did not stop the pair deploying their arsenal of tough-talking tactics.
There were repeated interruptions and gasps of exasperation as well as accusations of badly chosen questions, poor research and failure to pay attention, as Paxman and Humphrys talked over each other and exchanged jibes, while the Today presenter repeatedly mentioned his own TV quiz show Mastermind.
Confronted with Paxman’s scorn at some of the questions, Humphrys was at one point reduced to saying: “What would you like me to ask you?”
The pair goaded each other about their ages as 62-year-old Paxman referred to Humphrys’s “very advanced age.
Humphrys, 69, hit back: “My hearing’s probably better than yours, but go on.”
The interview wound down on a note of unity as the pair agreed there would probably be a place on TV for shows like University Challenge and Mastermind for many years to come. Humphrys then ended proceedings on a generous note, wishing Paxman “another 17 years” as a quizmaster.