Who remembers Letters and Numbers? For a couple of years from 2010 this SBS game show gained a huge cult audience. It was based on a French show, but had lots in common with the UK version known as Countdown (not the Molly Meldrum one of course). The format was simple enough. Two contestants compete in a series of games making words from randomly selected letters and doing mathematical equations against each other and the clock. The SBS version was hosted by former Adelaide news reader, Richard Morecroft, with David Astle on lead dictionary and the shows unlikely sex symbol Lily Serna on kick arse mathematics. I say unlikely because who was expecting anything but bookish nerds on a spelling and maths game show.

Turns out smart girls are super attractive. Serna has two degrees (Mathematics and Finance, and International Studies). It was SBS so clearly it was not a big budget project. Who am I kidding there was ZERO budget. Contestants got a copy of the MacQuarry Dictionary signed by the hosts. All that said, and against all odds (and evens), Letters & Numbers became a firm favourite and it wouldn’t be pushing the point to refer to it as ‘beloved’. So take that premise, fill the panel with comedians, in a late night setting, with an audience full of people who get to play along and you have Late Night Numbers & Letters. Guided by Melbourne comedian, writer and marvelous curmudgeon Nick Caddaye, Late Night Numbers & Letters returns to the Adelaide Fringe for a limited run.

This late, live version of the cult TV favourite Letters & Numbers, often sees festival comedians competing with each other for numerical and linguistic superiority. Surely this alone makes it better than the original?
Better is very subjective. If otherwise very talented and smart people failing terribly at straightforward word and number puzzles is your thing, then yes, it’s one-hundred percent better.

Does the fact that those comedians have sometimes being drinking present a plus or a minus?
Doing word puzzles is thirsty work. Frankly, it’d be crazy not to drink. 

The audiences at your shows get to play along and some of them take it very seriously indeed. Who are the people who make up your audience?
They’re the best people in the world! Handsome, clever, generous with both their time and their money… But they’re also mean. More than once they have mocked our failing competitors, and tears have ensued. One comic vowed never to come back to Adelaide (although, to be fair, that was more to do with a certain Police matter…)

This is your third season in Adelaide, how do we stack up against the other states? Can we spell and add up well?
Actually, this is our fifth year. I was going to say you were great, but this question has made me reassess.

Clearly I need some coaching from Lily. You’ve had some guests appear from the actual Letters & Numbers show, were they flattered or terrified?
Weirded-out to begin with, but they soon get into the swing of things. See question 2. (Note: David Astle might be the nicest man in the world.)

Interview by Ian Bell

Late Night Numbers & Letters is on for three shows only 9:30pm on February 16, 17 and 18 at Auditorium at The Science Exchange (55 Exchange Place). Tickets from Fringe Tix.

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