20 Questions with Greg Jenner

Greg Jenner is the Historical Consultant to CBBC’s multi-award winning sketch show Horrible Histories, and also writes sketches and songs for the series. He seems to suit historical costumes, so often ends up in the background of sketches looking confused. Greg studied History & Archaeology BA and Medieval Studies MA at York University from 2001-5, where he did lots of stuff with URY, and occasionally scribbled for Vision. He has spent the past 6 years making historical TV programmes. He is now moving into writing books and screenplays.

1: What TV show do you wish you had created?
The cynical bastard devil on my shoulder says something vastly profitable like ‘American Idol’, but I’d love to have the kudos of being ‘Mr West Wing’. Now there’s a TV show!

2: What’s your all time favourite historical fact?
William the Conqueror’s bloated corpse exploded at his funeral, and then the church caught fire. Imagine the Dimbleby BBC narration!

3: Which historical leader do you feel the greatest affinity with?
King John, a spectacularly awful king. He angered everyone – his family, the Irish, the Pope, the French, the aristocracy, the archbishop of Canterbury, the poor… and then he lost his crown jewels in the sea. I aspire to his Herculean levels of ineptitude.

4: What would be your X Factor audition song?
I’d probably just remove my trousers, and hum the French national anthem through a cardboard tube. My French mum would be simultaneously delighted and ashamed, and that’s what every son should aim for.

5: What’s the most played song on your iPod?
‘It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong’ by Four Year Strong. I’m very pro-beards and shouting in modern music.

6: What’s your chat up line of choice?
“Hello”, shouted from a distance of 30 yards, immediately followed by me fleeing the scene in case she saw me.

7: Which historical period would you most like to live in?
Renaissance Florence would be nice. Though I’d probably get an inferiority complex, surrounded by all those talented renaissance men and women. They’d all be painting frescoes, and I’d be milking a chicken or something. Can you even milk chickens? See? I’m useless.

8: Snog, Marry, Avoid- Mary Queen of Scots, Boudicca, Catherine the Great
Avoid Mary, her hubbies explode all too often. Marry Catherine for the conversation, and snog Boudica… though hopefully before she drinks the poison.

9: In which country would you most like to stage a coup?
France. I’d make my mum Minister for Cheese and my dad Vice-Admiral of Vineyards. The rest of the country would run itself, really.

10: If you could be any cocktail, which cocktail would you be and why?
I’m a teetotaller, so a virgin fruit smoothie.

11: Is the pen really more powerful than the sword?
If propelled from a mortar, quite possibly! But yes, ideas rule the world – My friend just made an award-winning documentary about Gene Sharp, the man whose writings inspired the Arab Spring. Gene is 83, works from a tiny office in Boston, and shuffles when he walks, but his book ‘Dictatorship to Democracy’ has brought down every fallen dictator you can think of. That said, I’m not sure anyone ever attacked him with a sword. Maybe he’d lose horribly. Hard to say.

12: Which one luxury would you take to a desert island?
Seven tonnes of Nutella.

13: What’s your guilty pleasure?
Idiotic films where people get hit in the face with spanners.

14: What’s your biggest achievement?
Making history cool for an entire generation of children. It’s nice to imagine history undergrads of the future reminiscing about King Charles II rapping when they were kids. That said, the BAFTA on my shelf impresses more people, though. It’s ludicrously heavy.

15: Snog, Marry, Avoid- Napoleon, King Louis XVI, Henry V
Definitely marry Napoleon, he was rather brilliant. I’d snog Henry, but only because Louis’ facial hair would tickle my face.

16: Bourbon or Custard Cream?
Gah… it’s not quite ‘Sophie’s Choice’, but that’s properly hard. I guess custard cream, but I couldn’t tell you why.

17: If your life didn’t revolve around history, what would it revolve around?
Music, I guess. I was in a guitarist and singer in a noisy band, and it was quite hard to give up on those rock ambitions at 19. Then I gave up on my new plan to be a history professor. Clearly I’m very fickle.

18: I five years time I will be…
Thirty-f**king-four! How did this happen?! How!? I’ve got the portrait in the attic, but clearly something went wrong with the ritual sacrifice. I knew I should have gone for the goat blood. Stupid guinea pigs.

19: Who’s the most famous person you’ve ever met?
I’m going to sound horribly smug now. Quite a few, really. Jack Whitehall presented me with my BAFTA, and Chris Addison and the League of Gentlemen are guesting on series 4 of Horrible Histories. They were all incredibly charming. But spending 3 days with Stephen Fry was quite a thrilling experience for a professional geek like me. Playing digital darts with his iPad as the board and his iPhone as the dart was surreal in the extreme.

20: Vision or Nouse?
Ha! Easy one, this. As a former scribbler for The Sketch (do you still have that?), it’s Vision all the way.