Red Dwarf Survivor

A fan gathering with a difference - who will win?

This is John Baker. Based in California, he's fairly normal guy, usually. He's 23, he manages a branch of Blockbuster. He's the kind of guy you'd trust with your car, your cat, or your penguin glove puppet.

John proudly introduces his girlfriend, Arnold

He's also the kind of guy who delights in the torture of his friends and neighbours - and all in the name of Red Dwarf.

Five years ago, on his 18th birthday, John gathered his local Dwarf club together for Smeg Fest. Watching all 52 episodes over three days, guests were scored and rated on how they watched each episode. "People who stood through the entire episode got a lot more points then people who slept through it," he explains. "We ate chicken vindaloos and tasted the horrible gazpacho soup [and] there were penalisations for using the toilet. The person with the most points at the end of the three days won the new set of Series VIII tapes!"

Part fun-loving, hardcore fan, part Marquis de Sade, John's latest endeavour has evolved far beyond mere lavatorial inconvenience (no pun intended). This year, pushing the group to the limits, was the year of Red Dwarf Survivor - based (which is to say 'ripped off') from the TV endurance show.

Tuesday evening at John's place is a typically quiet affair

"I went to work making up Red Dwarf related stunts and challenges. About a month prior to the event I set up a web site and form to register for the event. All of the participants filled out the form and a questionnaire about their likes, dislikes, where they were born and things like that. After I saved a ton of money for all the food I would be providing. I spent the entire week setting up the games by purchasing different items from different shops.

"Everyone was instructed to bring five comfort items with them [and] they could only wear one layer of clothing. They were told that they would be sitting with a group of people in a cold empty room with a cold, hard, tile floor. They were also told that there will be cash prizes and an autographed photo of their favourite Red Dwarf character if they won."

Musical chairs. Without the music. Or the chairs...

Assisted by his sister, host John sealed his eight victims in a single room for 48 hours. They included students Brian, Jennifer and Summer, plus John, a 22 year old Police Academy Cadet, who frankly should have known better.

"I told them the only rules were they must stay in the room and watch Red Dwarf, and that to win is to be the last person to remain in the room." But, of course, it wasn't that simple...

With their comfort items stored outside the room, each contestant would compete against the others, but teamwork was also required. "After two episodes they would have to work as a team in a challenge to earn some of their comfort items back, or win a snack for the team. The first challenge consisted of pulling an ice cold piece of metal attached to a rope through everyone's clothing in under two minutes while responding to Red Dwarf trivia."

Is that a sausage roll in your mouth or are you just pleased to see me?

Players also competed to become 'captain', hunting for a whistle in a plate of whipping cream. The winner was awarded a green 'H' necklace. This person would then decide the doom of two of his team members... "There was a lot of hostility and drama between people when watching episodes. Fights broke out and tempers got red hot. Although no alliances were formed, people talked to other people to plan who would be voted next."

"Then we had a ceremony where the newly elected captain would place two red and white checked gingham hats (complete with braids of hair sticking out) on two people. These two would now be on the 'chopping block'. These two would watch a few more episodes wearing the hats while we got ready for everyone to vote for the next participant to leave the game."

John's hat apparently exudes magnetic properties

The second day's breakfast was the morning comfort challenge. Everyone had to eat a very large sugar puff sandwich, completely dry, and then wash it down with a shot glass of Tabasco Sauce. Both the toilet and the trash-can were on standby - particularly following the previous day's challenge, which was to eat a bowl of corn flakes with grated raw onion sprinkled on top. Milk was apparently optional.

Then it was time for the 'stasis booth', with each participant taken away to record their thoughts on video. "We would have a quick chat about how they were doing in the game, what secret feelings they had about anyone else in the game, and which of the two people with hats they would vote out. After the voting was done I would remove the hats and announce the one person to leave game. However they now became 'the jury', who would vote for the winner when the group would be down to two. So although you were removed from the game you still got to watch for the most deserving person to be announced the Red Dwarf Survivor."

See, he can be kind sometimes...

Though it didn't last long - the next comfort challenges were decidedly un-lovely. "They had to taste melted chocolates from diapers and match candy names to each of the diapers." Hmmm.

What happens when you run out of dessert plates

"The best challenge of them all was the one to bring the group from four to two. The remaining three were instructed to sit at a dining table. From the questionnaire they filled out, each was presented with their least favourite food. The foods were a banana (Summer), a veggie burger, and a bowl of sauerkraut (Brian). After some vomiting and gagging - especially from Brian - we determined our next captain and the other two looked at each other wondering who was going to leave... "

The revised McDongle's take-out menu gets its first focus group test

The eventual winner was cop-to-be John, who had bravely confronted his fear of veggie burgers. With such enduring heroism, California will surely soon be safe from burglars, thieves and vegetarians.

Somebody please please please replace his passport photo with this one...

"Everyone had a great time. The biggest complaint was that butts were in pain from having to sit on a tile floor for two days." But lest American fans now feel safe from harm, be warned - John hasn't hung up his torturers mask just yet. "This will be an event to remember and possibly repeated... "

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