In one round of "The Name Game", when Jonathan Ross has to give clues to the names of sportspeople on his cards, Phil Tufnell gets his own name wrong. At the end, Tufnell's team loses, and Nick Hancock says, "But think of how different things might have been, if only Phil Tufnell had known his own name."
In a Series 6 episode with Greg Rusedski and Fred MacAulay, Nick Hancock declared at the beginning of the programme that because Gary Lineker had just been replaced as the face of Walker's Crisps by Michael Owen, every mention of the word "Walker's" would be treated as a swear word and bleeped. Inevitably, when Gary's team came to play "The Name Game", every sports figure they had to name was called Walker - which was not only bleeped when they gave the answer, but asterisked out in the subtitle for the audience.
A number of variations on "The Name Game" were played over the years which resulted in many hilarious moments:
On several occasions, Lee Hurst (later Jonathan Ross) and Rory McGrath had to give their clues in the form of impressions; as neither Lee nor Jonathan had much talent for impressions, they had to be somewhat more... creative to get their points across.
In a Series 2 episode with Teddy Sheringham and Frank Skinner, Lee had to impersonate Eric Cantona and started by kicking David Gower in the chestnote a reference to an incident at a match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace when Cantona kicked a Palace fan in the chest for heckling him; when this didn't trigger a name, he vaulted over the opposite desk and kicked Frank in the chest. Teddy still guessed Jean-Claude Van Damme before he thought of Eric Cantona.
The impressions invariably included both team captains, though whether the "impressionists" had to impersonate their own captain or the opposing captain varied. In a Series 12 episode with Paula Radcliffe and Ben Norris, Jonathan had to impersonate David Gower, and inevitably affected an "old man" voice for his performance:
Jonathan:(quavering voice) When I was first playing cricket, (David points to himself as if to say "Is that supposed to be me?") Queen Victoria said to me, "Why don't you hit the bloody ball, stop wafting, young jackanape!" David: So it's either W.G. Grace or me, then. Jonathan: It's obviously you! (tosses card aside) Nick: D'you know your own name, David? David: Sorry? No. Nick: No. Okay.
In the same episode, Jonathan forgot he was supposed to be doing impressions, and when he was forced to revise his clue for then-British tennis No.1 Tim Henman ("Tennis player, absolutely no bloody good but very posh"), he affected an exaggerated RP accent and simply repeated, "Tennis player, I'm very posh, not very good." This was topped when Rory McGrath's clue for Canadian-born then-British tennis No.2 Greg Rusedski was to sing "I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay..."
On another occasion, Lee and Rory had to give Pictionary-style clues to the sportsmen on the cards. Lee's names included British swimmer Duncan Goodhew, who is famously unable to grow hair; Lee, who is also bald, drew an arrow on the giant pad and positioned his head next to it, then pantomimed swimming. His next name was 1966 World Cup winner Bobby Charlton, and when a stick figure rendition of Charlton's famous combover didn't trigger anything, he drew a combover on his own head.
The "Feel the Sportsman" round, in which the regulars had to identify mystery guests while blindfolded, was a fountain of these.
In the Series 2 opener with Neil Morrissey and Ian Wright, David Gower and Lee Hurst had to identify footballing hard man Vinnie Jones, who came on stage wearing a big pair of comedy ears to give to Gary Lineker... who shook his hand and said, "Hi Vinnie!" while David and Lee were still blindfolded. Fortunately, neither David nor Lee heard the giveaway, and were inevitably alarmed when they removed their blindfolds to see whom they'd just been groping.
In a Series 2 episode with Steve Davis and Gaby Roslin, David Gower and Lee Hurst had to identify greyhound Mick the Miller. Which was made slightly easier as the dog had died in 1939 and been subsequently stuffed. The bizarre tone of the game was set when Nick introduced the game as the team's chance "to molest a stranger without fear of arrest"... and Lee made a beeline straight for Gaby.
Lee Hurst: Why'd you put a muzzle on a dead dog? Nick Hancock: To stop Rory kissing it.
In a Series 4 episode with Stephen Fry and Brough Scott, David Gower and Lee Hurst had to identify the Cambridge University Boat Club (who had won that year's Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge), who appeared on stage with their oars and arranged themselves as they would do in the boat (with the eight rowers sitting single file and the cox at the front facing the others). After being told their time had started, Lee took two steps forward and immediately tripped over one of the rowers, literally falling head over heels.
In a Series 5 episode with Arthur Smith and Chris Eubank, the panellists managed to manipulate Eubank into describing the very large New Zealand rugby player Jonah Lomu as "a big poof". When "Feel the Sportsman" rolled around, Gary and Rory had to identify... Jonah Lomu. (Although Lomu didn't quite seem to understand why his appearance was so funny.)
Gary Lineker was frequently squeamish if the sportsman in question were somehow messy or slimy; perhaps the best example of this came in a Series 6 episode with Jeffrey Archernote pre-perjury conviction and Vic Henley, when Gary and Rory McGrath had to identify the very muddy bog-snorkelling champion Craig Napper. Gary proceeded to march over to Nick and wipe his muddy hands on his blazer (after Nick quickly covered his face with his sleeves).
Special mention must go to the Series 7 finale:
David Gower and Jonathan Ross had to identify retired Scottish footballer Bernie Slaven, who, as part of a bet earlier in the year, had bared his backside in a shop window after his old club, Middlesbrough, had beaten Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford. Slaven appeared in a kilt which he raised over his backside, on which was painted the result of the match; Jonathan's reaction when he realised that the mystery guest whose mostly bare backside he had just felt was not, as he initially thought, a young lady is hysterical.
Jonathan Ross:[sniffing his hands in dismay] It's the smell of a man! It's the smell of a man's arse! I didn't agree to this! [later, after David has correctly identified Slaven] Nick Hancock: So, how can you recognise the smell of a man's arse so easily?
However, this was topped when Gary Lineker and Rory McGrath then had to identify rally drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist, who pulled up in a rally car which launched a shower of oil all over the unsuspecting Lineker and McGrath, as well as host Nick Hancock and guests Jeff Green and Gary McAllister. (The oil cannon was more powerful than originally intended, but when it failed to work properly during preparations for the episode, the producers decided too much oil would be funnier than not enough oil. The stunt had the unfortunate side effect of completely ruining Gary's £600 suit, which he had received from Jonathan as a gift.)
Nick Hancock:[holding up a completely oil-covered card] How am I meant to do the next round, for God's sake!?
In a Series 10 episode with Gordon Ramsay and Dave Gorman, Jonathan Ross and guest captain Ian Wrightnote David Gower having been away during recording to commentate on England cricket matches abroad had to identify British Olympic gold-winning clay pigeon shooter Richard Faulds... while being repeatedly pelted by clay pigeons fired from offstage by production assistants. After Faulds had been identified, Nick Hancock called one of the production assistants back onto the stage and gave him £20 for hitting Jonathan five times.
In the Series 10 Christmas special with Frank Bruno and Omid Djalili, David Gower and Jonathan Ross - dressed respectively as a pantomime dame and a pantomime cow - had to identify British mashed potato wrestling champions Lisa Donner and Lienka Hanzeloba. Who, inevitably, were demonstrating the sport as David and Jonathan tried to guess who they were, and dragged both of them into the vat of mashed potato that had been brought on stage for the round.
In the Series 12 opener, the teams had to identify animals instead of sportsmen. David Gower and Jonathan Ross had to identify a zebra (of which their teammate, Ed Byrne, said "I can't believe we got a zebra into a TV studio and it didn't even shit on the floor!"), while Gary Lineker and Rory McGrath were given an alligator, much to the delight of Jonathan and Nick Hancock. Neither actually got anywhere near the alligator (Gary in particular was on his guard because of the reactions of the audience and his other teammate, Shane Warne) until they took their blindfolds off - and promptly fled the stage in terror.
The Series 16 opener was the first episode with Phil Tufnell and David Seaman as captains, and Phil got a baptism of fire for "Feel the Sportsman" as he and Jonathan had to identify the Manc Union champion paintball team. Their blindfolds were wrapped over safety goggles, which already had them on their guard (meanwhile, Nick, David, Rory, and guests Graeme Le Saux and Ed Smith also donned safety goggles), and halfway through the round, two further members of the Manc Union team emerged from the sides of the stage and shot both Phil and Jonathan in the backside (Jonathan, inevitably, was more upset about the damage to his suit).
In the series' hundredth episode, David and Gary swapped places on the panel after Gary and Rory were accused of cheating in the previous episode. The scores finished level after the final game, so David, Rory, Gary, and Jonathan had to play a tiebreaker game of musical chairs (the music being the theme from Match of the Day). The ensuing fights over the chairs each time the music stopped (ignoring instructions not to pull the chairs out of position) were priceless, especially David and Jonathan's fight over the final chair.
In a Series 2 episode with Steve Davis and Gaby Roslin as the guests, the producers were clearly trolling Lee Hurst with their choices for "The Name Game". After six fairly run-of-the-mill names, the seventh name was Indian cricketer Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan, the mere sight of whose name stopped Lee dead in his tracks for a moment... and yet David Gower was able to get the answer correct just from a vague comment about "van driving" and the fact that the name was extremely long. The eighth name was Brazilian footballer... Tim. Lee finally came completely unstuck on the ninth name, Indian cricketer Laxman Sivaramakrishnan.
Nick: Say that name again, that was brilliant. David: Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan? Nick: That's brilliant. That's- that's actually longer than some of your innings!
The Christmas specials were often good for holiday hijinks from the very start of the episode.
In the Series 3 Christmas episode from 1996, Nick Hancock's desk was decorated with flashing coloured lights. Then he began his introduction...
Nick: Hello, and welcome to this special Christmas edition of- (the lights short circuit and explode in spectacular, if harmless, fashion) ... They Think It's All Over. (rips the lights from the desk and throws them to the back of the stage)
Later in the 1996 special, as David's team were preparing to select a number on the Injury Board, a moment that David Gower and Lee Hurst had scripted without the knowledge of the other panellists took place:
Voice: Mr. Gower! Mr. Gower! David:(impatiently) Oh, what now!? (scoots his chair back) (a young East Asian man climbs out from under the desk, holding his back) Man: I'm sorry, I just cannot keep doing this... (hobbles off stage to the laughter of the audience and David's other teammate, Steve Backley) Lee: Well, that's bad news- Nick: How long have you two been cooking that up?! Lee: I was gonna say, that's bad news for me! (begins to climb under the desk)
The Series 5 Christmas special in 1997 featured Sooty with the "assistance" of Matthew Corbett (his then-puppeteer) on David Gower's team, with Graeme Le Saux on Gary Lineker's team.
In the "Excuses" round, David's team had to identify javelin thrower Steve Backley's explanation for ending up with a suitcase full of women's underwear after returning from the 1997 World Championships in Athletics in Athens. Matthew claimed that Sooty knew the answer, but wanted to whisper it to Nick (Sooty famously only being able to "communicate" by whispering in a person's ear), which Nick allowed... and then declared Sooty's answer correct and gave David's team three points.
Matthew tried his luck again in "Sing When You're Winning" when David's team had to complete a song first heard on the terraces at Norwich City in 1902 and sometimes still heard even now, and claimed that Sooty's friend Sweep (who only communicates by making a squeaking noise), who was sitting at his feet, knew the answer. This time, Nick refused to give him the points... prompting Sooty to produce a gun and point it at Nick, squirting him with water. Nick responded by upending his bottle of water over Matthew's head. The fracas continued into the beginning of "Feel the Sportsman".
Nick: David and Lee, you're first, you have 90 seconds (Sooty begins firing his water pistol at Nick again) to tell us who your mystery sportsman is, while I go and get a gun.
For the Series 8 Christmas special in 1999, the set was decorated with a tree with a stuffed bird, complete with tweeting noise. After Nick asked the first question, David Gower produced a hunting rifle and "shot" the bird to silence its tweeting. Scripted, of course, but still hilarious.
Nick: Classic Gower timing. Played the shot long before he needed to. And got a duck!
In a Series 18 episode with Alastair Campbell and Will Carling, Jonathan Ross had to give Campbell and Phil Tufnell a clue for former England cricket captain Nasser Hussain during "The Name Game". His clue led to a hilarious pseudo-Freudian Slip from Campbell:
Jonathan: This is, er, a cricket captain, (points to Campbell) same name as the blokeyou put out of work. Phil:Blair! Alastair:Bush! Jonathan: No! Alastair: I mean... (his answer suddenly registers with everyone; the audience laugh and applaud) Jonathan: Hullo! That's good news! You heard it here first!