A scene by scene analysis of the funniest moment in the history of The Chase
Fanny Chmelar deserved better.
Show me a television programme more enjoyable than The Chase and I will show you a mirror so you can see exactly what a filthy, rotten liar looks like.
The Chase is precious and wholesome. There isn't a single time of day that it doesn't nestle perfectly into a TV schedule. First thing in the morning? The Chase on toast. Midday? The Chase soup. Dinnertime? The Chase and chips. 4am? The Chase and chasers.
Although eternally enjoyable, in 2011, we reached peak Chase. Bradley Walsh had been presenting the show for two years and was hitting his stride. The Chasers were growing into their roles as loveable villains, while the entire country was tuning in to finally satisfy a lifelong craving for a TV quiz show that is both enjoyable and easy to play along with.
Then a name like 'Fanny Chmelar' came along and solidified Bradley's position as Britain's Most Precious Man, but it came at a cost.
Everything about the above two minutes and fifty two seconds of television is perfect. The buildup, the restraint, the loss of restraint, even the omnipresent graphics somehow play a very important role in proceedings.
With the utmost appreciation, we must now deconstruct what I am comfortably hailing as One Of The Greatest Moments In Television History. This will allow us to get to the bottom of why it is so infectiously funny, whilst also providing a valid opportunity to relive the magic in all its glorious standard definition form.
Act I, Scene I - The Setup
Bradley Walsh, sweet and innocent Danny Baldwin from Corrie, angelic and precious Graham O'Brien from Doctor Who, loveably and cheeky Bradley Walsh from The Chase, man who seems like he'd definitely be the first one to slip his tie on his head at the afters of a wedding, Bradley Walsh. Things start off smoothly in a typical Chase-like fashion, where Bradley reads out the question with gay abandon. Ever the professional, his delivery is clear and authoritative. Nobody laughs, not even the contestant. It seems like Bradders might honestly pull this one off. He might actually say 'Fanny Chmelar' on national television without even so much as a smirk. Have we underestimated this great man?
Act I, Scene II - Maintaining Decorum
The Chaser locks in her answer, followed swiftly by Bryn, who still looks like he's contemplating the answer long after he's already selected it. In terms of not laughing during sexual health class when you're fourteen, even though the teacher keeps using the word 'private parts' for penis, everyone is playing a blinder. We haven't seen Bradley on screen since the answers were locked in, but can assume that he's carrying this particularly weighty moment with dignity, grace and a professional manner intact. It's evident that the hilarity of a name like 'Fanny Chmelar' hasn't quite dawned on Bryn yet, which is fair given that he's taking the game quite seriously, just as The Chase requires of all its contestants. All in all, it seems like this minor blip might actually go by undetected.
Act I, Scene III - The Struggle Begins
Instantly, Bradders begins to crumble. He can't get through a second reading of the question without losing it. He tries to hold the laughter in, contorting his face into that of an involuntary response when you bite your mouth ulcer in the exact same spot for the fourth time today. Bradley Walsh is a professional man, he's an accomplished man, but at the end of the day, he's a man who prioritises banter over most things, as is only right. He unfolds his arms to steady himself, but if anything, that just makes the whole situation funnier. Bryn hasn't a clue what's going on, he's still staring at the question as if it'll prematurely reveal the answer. Bradley leans on the comically large interactive screen for composure. Maybe he can turn this around. All hasn't been lost. Not yet.
Act II, Scene I - Bradley Falls The First Time
In a comforting inevitability, a silence befalls The Chase studio floor. Both answers have been locked in, a fact we know thanks to the arresting sound effects used in conjunction with both the contestant and Chaser's little satisfactory nods. They, along with the nation, turn to Bradley, willing him to get through this career-defining moment. Alas, he bottles it. Future Sir Bradley Walsh cannot contain his laughter at a woman legitimately being named Fanny Chmelar. He invites the audience to join in on the joke as he emits a fart-like sound with his mouth. Even The Governess has a small yet controlled chuckle. The illusion of professionalism has been dropped. Fanny Chmelar has broken Bradley Walsh and in turn, she has broken The Chase.
Act II, Scene II - Continuation Of Descent Into Hysterics
At this point, everyone is in agreement that Fanny Chmelar is far too hysterical a name to overlook. It deserves the time and space to breathe, to really get into your psyche so you can process precisely why it's funny. Eight years later, it's still banter. Fanny. Chmelar. Fanny. Smeller. Like a person whose job it is to smell fannies. An American viewer would find it funny, but not as funny as Brits because fanny refers to a marginally different area over here. The audience are losing it, Bradley is losing it, Anne Hegerty is losing it, all of the contestants are losing it. This is peak British television, this is peak Britain to be quite honest, everyone banding together to laugh at an unfortunate name, lowkey bullying the individual cursed with a suggestive moniker in English-speaking countries. This is England '11.
Act II, Scene III - Composure Is Regained
After what I'm suspecting is a flawless edit, Bradley regains composure. He could have been laughing for upwards of ten minutes, but we may never truly know. Only those present in the ITV studios on that fateful day know the truth, and I'm inclined to believe that they've all had to sign non-disclosures out of respect to the entire Chmelar clan. Bradley takes a deep breath and utters the words "You've put..", then wavers a smidge, but gets things back on track to deliver "...show jumping". Again, he has a small chuckle, remembering just how funny Fanny's name is, but keeps a relative level of calm about things. He instigates some chat with Bryn, asking how his answer came about and avoiding repeating the name at all costs by distracting himself with menial chitchat. It seems like he might have unfucked it all. Has Bradley Walsh somehow managed to talk himself out of a particularly tricky situation?
Act III, Scene I - Bradley Falls A Second Time
Judas Bryn throws things off kilter by voluntarily saying the name 'Fanny Chmelar' in his response to Bradly's questioning about choosing an answer. He put an emphasis which I'm prepared to go on the record as saying was intentionally suggestive, particularly on 'Chmelar', which led to Bradley's ultimate demise. Hearing someone else saying the name has understandably set Bradders off. He's crippled with laughter, growing abs by the second, such is the ferocity of his amusement. Bryn tries to continue the conversation but it's like talking to the scattered ashes of a loved one. All he can do is stand idly by as a grown man ruptures his spleen laughing at a name that sounds like fanny smeller.
Act III, Scene II - Bradley's Soul Leaves His Body
At this stage, Bradley's spirit has left his body. Sure, he's physically there, but his soul is elsewhere, working through some stuff until it's fit for return to its host body. He may never regain his full self, part of Bradley Walsh could be lost forever, wandering the abyss trying to process precisely what could be so funny about a German sportswoman's name. There's a very real and present danger that all of Bradley will be sacrificed to the banter Gods, resulting in him launching into a 35-minute riff on this lady's name, destroying his career with every added joke and impression of her being bullied at school during English and also Biology class. All we, the viewer, can do is join in with the laughter and hope that it all comes to a natural and respectful conclusion at some point.
Act III, Scene III - The Chaser Falls
In what is the TV show recording equivalent of catching your Mum smiling after she catches you calling your sibling the C-word, Anne 'The Governess' Hegerty is caught having a private giggle about Fanny Chmelar as well. This gives Bradley the reassurance he needed that he's absolutely right in borderline soiling himself over this exquisite piece of genuine comedy gold. Everyone is laughing, partly at Bradley's facial expressions, partly at the suspicion that Bryn still doesn't quite get the joke, but mostly at the fact that a woman from Germany has a legitimate name that sounds like 'fanny smeller'. The lights are green, all systems are go, it is okay to be laughing at this situation for a very long time, possibly forever.
Act IV, Scene I - Order Is Restored
Bradley is coming to the end of his out-of-body body experience, slowly remembering where he is and what he's supposed to be doing. He takes charge of the situation through feminine squeals of delight, declaring "We're gonna make a rule now never to say her name again" and everyone silently agrees. What he meant was "Folks, I'm very close to losing the plot altogether here. I've got about twelve seconds to sort this out or I'm in very real danger of losing my job. Please, help me out. Under no circumstance are you to say the name 'Fanny Chmelar' again. I beg you, my livelihood is on the line". Everyone mentally agrees to the pact. If they are all to make it out alive, they must adhere to at least that one rule.
Act IV, Scene II - Bradley Cannot Help Himself
Fully aware that the joke is coming to the end of its shelf-life, Bradley goes back on his word. He reopens the can of worms and doesn't care what's inside. He riffs. Bradley launches into a glimpse of what he's been laughing at for the past couple of minutes. "I'd be straight down the court in the morning if that was my name, I'd have that changed straight away". This sets The Governess off again, which in turn sets Bradley off and Bryn continues to tag along for the ride, still visibly thrilled to be on The Chase. The audience goes off and we're back to square one. Bradders has commandeered this ship from the start and it's either going to sink or float with him at the helm. The power he holds over the proceedings is remarkable. He is Christ?
Act IV, Scene III - An Unsteady Finish, But A Finish Nonetheless
Bradley knows that time is running out, he has to regain composure just long enough to finish. "We're two from home, we've gotta get there, and quickly..." he says through visibly watery eyes. Bradders needs to wrap things up before 'Bradley Falls A Third Time' becomes our next scene. Honourably, he pushes through, swallowing any further bouts of laugher that try to manifest. We learn that the correct answer is indeed skiing, not that it mattered, and that both Bryn and The Chaser have gotten it wrong. "You should've known that", Bradley says, sounding defeated and exhausted after all that has just gone on. He battled through great adversity to reach the end of the round and these two chumps repay him with incorrect answers. Not only have they laughed at Fanny Chmelar's name, they've also belittled her achievements by not knowing her chosen field of expertise. Bradley moves onto the next question and accepts his fate which will now undoubtedly involve a letter from Fanny Chmelar's fan club. Regardless, we must thank Bradley Walsh for a terrific chase.
Images via YouTube