Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Heresy 5 (listen here)

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

  Update: you can listen to this episode for week or so here.

  Fifth and penultimate show in the Heresy series is up tomorrow - Wednesday December 28th at 6.30pm, Radio 4.

  Two witty and brilliant political columnists, Matthew Parris and Julia Hartley Brewer, join me and one of Heresy‘s favourite comedians, Dave Gorman, to argue against the statements:





  It’s an interesting, spiky little episode, this one. Our first statement got a 93% yes vote - in other words, 93% of our studio audience agreed with the statement we are attempting to attack - which is the highest yes of the series so far, and thus the biggest challenge for the panellists. I also lost my temper, briefly, in the final topic. If you’d asked me to guess, in advance, which topic in the whole series would cause me to lose my temper, I think I would have picked that one last. It was just meant to be a funny chat about a hat! My plan was to mount a rousing defence of Princess Beatrice’s hat, based mainly on sympathy for the harmless young woman who’s always been picked on (for her weight, her teeth, her dress sense and her parentage) when, to our public knowledge anyway, she’s never done anything bad to anyone. But I didn’t think we’d do much more than make jokes.

  The audience, however, were not pro the Princess, or the royal family at all. And they were not prepared to have their minds changed! See if you can spot the moment, during that topic, where I lost my cool…

  In my defence, it does prove what I was saying in the post called “Heresy 3”. This isn’t just a novelty format where we construct obstinate arguments for the sake of it - some (if not most) of the time, I really mean it...

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John Redshirt at 9:38 am on December 28th, 2011

Well Victoria, I have nothing against the royal family or Princess Beatrice, and I rather like her for wearing that hat.  I wouldn’t say it was terrible, just a bit ridiculous, like a toned down version of Lady Gaga.  Then there is Princess Eugenie, no one seems to remember her hat, and I’m not sure I am even spelling her name correctly.
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to secure a ticket for the recording, so my absence could not help you.

Ivor Shelter at 10:29 am on December 28th, 2011

Perhaps I’m showing my ignorance here.  You often seem to use the word “spiky”, but what exactly do you mean by it?  Do you mean something definite, or is “spiky” just a trendy meaningless buzzword used by the comic community at the moment, rather like “edgy” (which may have fallen out of favour in the BBC world, following the Ross/Brand incident)?

Could you, for instance, use the word “prickly” instead, or would that change your intended meaning?

Victoria Coren at 11:03 am on December 28th, 2011

  Hi Ivor. No, I’d say “spiky”, “prickly” and “edgy” are words with three distinctly different meanings. Last week’s Heresy was none of those things: the Christmas episode was very light and jolly, with sad and wistful notes (about the 1960s) but very soft edges. That isn’t a criticism, I love that episode. It has a warm and festive tone.

  This week’s is spikier in an almost literal sense: panellists make sharper comments, particularly Dave Gorman when he’s talking about the royals. They also disagree with each other more directly: all three guests, for example, accuse each other of pomposity. But it’s not unfriendly, it’s just bold and outspoken, therefore it isn’t “prickly” (which suggests a note of unpleasantness or mutual dislike).

  “Edgy”, meanwhile, is used to mean controversial as a broadcast: conversations, remarks or images that are near the knuckle, might not have been broadcast ten years ago, or might give a producer or channel controller pause for thought before allowing on air. Charlie Brooker’s recent TV show Black Mirror: The National Anthem, for example, in which the Prime Minister had sex with a pig, was not “prickly” or “spiky” but it was “edgy”.

  So, I stand by my choice of word! This week’s Heresy isn’t prickly, and it isn’t especially edgy - it is friendly and undangerous - but there are spikes along the way.

Chris at 12:10 pm on December 28th, 2011

I must disagree a little on last week’s episode. I found I was a little distracted by its unpretention, but won over in the end by the fine, woody notes of the aftertaste.

MildMike at 1:38 pm on December 28th, 2011


You’re not a follower of this ( lot are you?

Backdrifter at 7:16 pm on December 28th, 2011

Gasp - you gave away the ending of that Black Mirror episode.

Colin at 7:29 pm on December 28th, 2011

Loved it! I’m glad you lost your temper- it’s comforting to know that you will wade in when the panellists are going for cheap laughs.

On an unrelated note I fantasized today about a current affairs-based talk show hosted by you and Eddie Mair…

DW at 8:07 pm on December 28th, 2011

Spiky it was - and your defence of royalty did come over quite noticeably at the recording… You are definitely in control as chair and I commented on the sense of school ma’am with a twinkle in the eye…. The show was a little tense in that the panellists were not shy in putting in a dig or two. Julia and Matthew were mildly patronising and ‘snobby’.. giving Dave Gorman the ingredients to push boundaries. Good fun!! Happy New year VC

Mike McRory-Wilson at 9:37 pm on December 28th, 2011

Hope I’m getting this right - never used a blog before.

Congratulations on your succinct and speedy stand against cheap cruelty.  I’ve even written (to my eternal shame) to The Radio Times singing your praises.  Oh, and, yes, it was a ghastly hat!

Best wishes,


psychofant at 11:41 am on December 29th, 2011

victoria, after the last episode of HERESY, im sure your OBE will already be in the post. you could wear it in your hair as a fascinator, it wouldnt look any more risible than Beatric’es hat!

Ivor Shelter at 12:10 pm on December 29th, 2011

Thanks for answering my query, Victoria.  I was curious, as you are the only person I have come across using the word “spiky” about a programme, whereas “edgy” seems to be a commonly used term.  I’m relieved that your definitions seem to be broadly what I expected.

I keep finding that once familiar words are developing unexpected meanings, and I wonder if I ever did understand them correctly.  I’ve been told that next week I’ll be enquiring about water sports.  I know they’re not just for sailors, nowadays we have motor boats.

Also, thanks for the almost retweet and mention on twitter.  Pretty good for someone who doesn’t yet have a twitter account!

mick at 8:23 pm on December 30th, 2011

where is best place to watch poker games (and hopefully learn) on the net ( with chat ) ?

Victoria Coren at 12:46 pm on December 31st, 2011

Hi Mick. I’m not sure exactly what you mean. You can watch videos and poker programmes on YouTube or PokerTube or, or you can watch people playing online poker on any of the poker websites. I’m not sure which is best for watching because I don’t rail the game very much myself!

Robert (Mac) Campbell at 8:43 pm on December 31st, 2011

I can’t find any poker sites running the story that online poker is likely to be re-instated in the US. It’s been in the UK newspapers, or did I dream it?

Backdrifter at 11:09 pm on January 9th, 2012

Belatedly, I really enjoyed Heresy 5 and completely support VC’s reaction to the Beatrice comment. I hate smirking humour that’s at the expense of people’s looks. I still remember the drip-drip of unkind remarks in the media about Chelsea Clinton’s looks - WHEN SHE WAS ABOUT 15. Making fun of how a teenage girl looks… not exactly cutting-edge.

Victoria Coren

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