Chase star Paul ‘The Sinnerman’ Sinha juggles Parkinson’s and Covid-19

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“In real life, I don’t look like ‘The Sinnerman,'” says TV brainbox hunter Paul Sinha, referring to his on-screen nickname, “because I don’t wear a white suit and my hair does not contain a solid product.

“So in Britain I walk around relatively unnoticed. But in New Zealand that’s just not an option because the share of viewership figures we get for The hunt is higher here than anywhere else in the world, I think. And the popularity of it means I get spotted whenever I walk anywhere in New Zealand. People recognize me everywhere and wonder what I’m doing in their country. Recognition is on a whole other level.

“But I absolutely appreciate it. I’m not going to lie and say no. Don’t get me wrong, I never got into The hunt become famous. That wasn’t the reason to do it. My background is stand-up and as part of my background I got pretty good at quizzes and that’s how I landed The hunt. I never wanted to be a TV quiz. But fame has been fun.

Paul Sinha in Beat The Chasers

Not for syndication

Paul Sinha in Beat The Chasers

His interest in comedy went hand in hand with his medical studies and he graduated as a general practitioner in the 1990s.

“The exit from medicine happened steadily, rather than suddenly,” he says.

“Everything helped everything else. Being a doctor gave me perspective and anecdotes that helped my comedy. Being a comedian gave me a curiosity about what’s going on in the world and it really helped me doing quizzes.

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He is, he says, ‘a busy person’ who enjoys his varied life of touring with his live comedy and having his own radio shows linking comedy to the facts on BBC Radio 4 and also hosting a light-hearted TV quiz about celebrities in the UK called Paul Sinha’s TV Showdown.

All this inscribed in a calendar which has The hunt be filmed pretty much all year round.

But, like all of us, his movements were restricted during the Covid lockdown and he had to come out with the double whammy of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in May 2019 and suffering severely from Covid at the start of the pandemic.

The Chase - Left to right: Anne Hegerty (The Governess), Mark Labbett (The Beast), host Bradley Walsh, Jenny Ryan (The Vixen), Shaun Wallace (The Dark Destroyer) and Paul Sinha (The Sinnerman).

Provided

The Chase – Left to right: Anne Hegerty (The Governess), Mark Labbett (The Beast), host Bradley Walsh, Jenny Ryan (The Vixen), Shaun Wallace (The Dark Destroyer) and Paul Sinha (The Sinnerman).

“I had a lot to juggle, but everyone has them,” he said. “I don’t think it matters who you are or what you do for a living, the weird circumstances we’ve found ourselves in with the pandemic and the lockdown mean we’ve all had our own struggles and I’ve been really determined to just forget about them and move on.

“There have been a lot of online quizzes during lockdown and it has helped my mental health tremendously. It meant you didn’t feel isolated – although I have a husband (he married Oliver Levy on December 14, 2019), so I wasn’t totally alone.

“There’s been a lot of drama over the past two or three years, but as far as I’m concerned, as long as I can answer general knowledge questions quickly and write and act out jokes, I’m a happy man.”

But he admits that he and his quiz colleagues aren’t quite normal.

“Having a quiz experience makes people, like me, a little weird. Sometimes there’s a frustration in test takers when you think, ‘Why don’t you think like I think? You should think about that question. But the quiz sometimes forget that not everyone is as obsessed with answering questions as we are and therefore they won’t necessarily understand the obvious clue in front of them.And in fact you are dealing with normal people .

Although he is one of the best quizzers in the world and hosts his own TV quiz, he says his knowledge of TV shows is not his strong point.

Paul Sinha in Beat The Chasers

Provided

Paul Sinha in Beat The Chasers

“I was a big TV viewer growing up. It was a very eclectic mix. In terms of kids TV, I really enjoyed Rentaghost and Danger Mouse. And I’ve always loved television with an element of fantasy in it – Blake’s 7, Doctor Who. I was one of those kids who watched just about everything. But my knowledge about it is not very good.

“There are so many TV channels now that it’s hard to follow everything. You fall asleep one afternoon and they’ve made three new Netflix dramas by the time you wake up.

“Knowledge of soaps used to be a big thing in quizzes, but these days you’re more likely to be asked about talent and reality shows such as I’m a celebrity, the X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and Pastry shop. But I can’t watch everything.

Was he generally pretty good at quizzes when he was a kid?

“I was banned from playing Trivial Pursuit when I was around 13,” he laughs. “I don’t think I’ve played there since.

“It wasn’t just me. My sister also likes general knowledge and other kids our age hated us. We weren’t popular for a game of Trivial Pursuit.

The Chase, TVNZ 1, weekdays

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