Comedians Josh Widdicombe and James Acaster say new panel show ‘is what we do with our friends anyway’

Comedians Josh Widdicombe and James Acaster. Picture PA Photo/UKTV/Ellis O'Brien.
Comedians Josh Widdicombe and James Acaster. Picture PA Photo/UKTV/Ellis O'Brien.

A new panel show, devised by Josh Widdicombe, is launching today. Georgia Humphreys chats to the comic and co-host James Acaster, both touring in Yorkshire this year.

Take two teams of comedians, throw them a series of ridiculous hypothetical scenarios, and what do you get? Dave’s brand new panel show, devised and presented by Josh Widdicombe, with fellow comic, James Acaster, as his co-host.

The absurd questions in Hypothetical range from “You have to live in a motorway services for a year, how do you cope?” to “You have to take a selfie with Nicolas Cage within 48 hours or you die - how do you do it?”

It means the guests having to seriously think on their feet - especially with Widdicombe and Acaster throwing them curveballs.

“You’d hope one of the things that audiences will enjoy is actually asking the questions themselves of themselves, and to friends the next day,” says Widdicombe, 35, known for TV shows such as The Last Leg, as well as sitcom Josh.

In fact, the idea for the show came from Widdicombe “always asking people those kind of questions anyway”, says Acaster. The stand-up star, who has had countless appearances on the BBC show Mock The Week, says: “I’ve known Josh for about 10 years now and he always asks people, ‘How much would I have to pay you to go pull that man’s ponytail?’

“I’ll usually be one of the people who likes jumping in with rules, to make sure people can’t get out of it too easy. So it was an easy fit for us to do a show like this; this is what we do with our friends anyway. And most of the guests are our friends.”

The strong rapport between Widdicombe and Acaster came in handy for dealing with the unpredictability of a show full of improvisation. Having started out in comedy at the same time, they did loads of gigs together early on, including the Edinburgh Festival.

They regularly appear on a variety of comedy panel shows - and both come from stand-up backgrounds. That’s something they always want to continue doing and they’re both going on tour this year - and both taking to the stage at Yorkshire venues.

Widdicombe is taking his Bit Much show to York in October and Hull and Leeds in November, whilst Acaster will perform in Scarborough, York, Sheffield, Harrogate, Hull, Leeds and Ilkley later this year.

Stepping out of their comfort zone for Hypothetical was something they embraced.

“We did loads of run-throughs in the lead-up to it, and even they were just so much fun; you feel that new challenge of doing a show that’s mainly improv-based, and just improving at that was so much fun,” says Acaster. And then by the time we got to the record, we just knew the format inside out.”

“This is the first time these people hear that question,” Widdicombe says. “We can’t prepare for what their answers are going to be, and we’ve got a few props that we have, because you think, ‘Well, it will possibly go in this direction’. But we will never try and steer them.

“There are loads of props we have which never got used because people didn’t answer in the way we thought would be the obvious way. And I think that’s what excited us about doing it, really.”

As excited as the friends are for us to see the show - and play along - down-to-earth Widdicombe won’t be checking social media as it airs.

“I find that too stressful,” he confides. “There are some people when their show goes out they sit and watch the hashtag but I think that’s where madness lies really.

“The excitement will be watching the Dave announcer say it’s on. And then once it starts, I’ll think, ‘I’ve already seen this!’”

Hypothetical starts on Dave today and will be available for catch-up on UKTV Play. The first episode stars Rob Beckett, Jessica Knappett, Liza Tarbuck and Tom Allen.