A very British underdog

Guinness Book of World Records 2001

Or as I call it the “great Guinness stitch up”

This documentary is only part of the story, this is the start of the stitch up.
John Moschitta Jr cried so much and made so much of a fuss in the media that Guinness publishing limited decided to pretend that this contest had never happened.

At that time there were four fast talkers in the world, the fourth one being Sean Shannon, he was invited to take part in this contest but he declined.
Sean, and I mean no offence by this, is what I would describe as a “one trick pony” he can only do one thing and that’s recite the “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet. He can’t actually talk fast or do any other piece fast except that one piece of literature.
When I met Sean a few years later I asked him about this contest and I asked him why he didn’t take part, he was completely honest and he said “because I can’t talk fast all I can do is Hamlet’s soliloquy”. At his point I need to digress to explain something about sprint versus marathon.
Usain Bolt holds the 100m World record, he ran 100m in 9.58 seconds.
That’s 23.35 Mph. A marathon is 26.21 miles, so if you extrapolate Usain Bolt’s 100m speed then theoretically he could run a marathon in 1 hour and 7 minutes. The reality is that would never actually happen because sprinters can’t maintain that speed for a long period.

Hamlet’s soliloquy is 262 words long, Sean Shannon did it in 23.8 seconds. This I will come back to in a little while now we need to go back to the 1990’sMoschitta became “Blur” in the transformers movie franchise and as such he gets to go to a lot of conventions, here’s a report from Botcon in 2000 in which Moschitta was specifically asked about the contest.

Botcon report

Mr. Moschita also talked to us about the fast-talking world record, which has become a matter of some dispute.  The way the Guiness book decides this record is by recitation of the "To be or not to be" sililoquy from "Hamlet".  There's a man in the UK named Steve Woodmore who had a talk-off with Moschita on a live morning TV news show and completed the speech in.01 seconds less time.  
The Guiness judge then had to make an immediate declaration of the winner without having time to review the tapes of the
contest because of a pressing international news item which had taken up more time than expected.  Going just by the time, Woodmore was declared winner.  
Later, upon listening to the tapes, it was found that Woodmore
had omitted three sentences!  Although Moschita never got him to come to a rematch, Woodmore did repeat his feat with the full speech and was declared the new record-holder.  At least, in the UK Guiness book.  The editor of the American version doesn't feel that Woodmore's speech is understandable, and continues to list Moschita.

Where do we begin with this? well firstly you need to understand that the three of us that took part in this contest, that’s Myself, Fran Capo and Moschitta we all assumed that as this contest was live it was never recorded.
We got that wrong, it was recorded and after 25 years I have managed to get hold of a copy of the full segment.

Over the years I have told this story many times and I have been truthful about it, I believe I gave an honest account of what happened, now I have seen it, I know that I did and that others didn’t.

Moschitta on a live morning TV news show and completed the speech in.01 seconds less time.  No John, you were actually 1.8 seconds slower than me.
The Guiness judge then had to make an immediate declaration of the winner without having time to review the tapes of the
contest because of a pressing international news item which had taken up more time than expected. Going just by the time, Woodmore was declared winner. No John, they actually took almost 22 minutes to review the tapes and were not pressed to make an "instant" decision
Later, upon listening to the tapes, it was found that Woodmore
had omitted three sentences! No John, every word was there in it's entirety in fact you were the one that stumbled over lines and made the mistakes.
Going just by the time, Woodmore was declared winner. No John, Fran was declared the fastest on time, but after adjustments were made for intelligibility I was declared the winner.
Although Moschitta never got him to come to a rematch No John, it is I who has asked you many, many times to have a rematch, you have refused each and every time, you were even asked to take part in the documentary above, you again refused.

In 1990 when this contest took part John Moschitta was actually quite a famous personality, he had a very successful television commercial for FedEx, he’d also become the voice of blur in Transformers which at that time was a very popular franchise. There was I, an unknown from a different country who suddenly appeared out of nowhere and taken his world record. In fact if you look at the full segment you actually see the presenter state that John Moschitta is the current world record holder the problem there is he wasn’t. I was the current world record holder. He was a media personality this meant he had access to media channels that I didn’t and after the contest he slammed me in the media, I mean he used every dirty trick in the book he could to make it look like I cheated . The reality is he was a bad loser, a petulant child stamping his feet and sulking and he cried rivers of tears over it to the media.

The Guinness Book of records promised the 3 of us that this would be the definitive contest ,this would be the contest that finally ended the controversy over the world’s fastest talker because all 3 of us were reading the same passage in strictly controlled conditions. In fact if you look at the documentary you can see the managing director of the Guinness World of records exhibition stating this quite clearly. Once the contest was over not only did I get a medal from Guiness I also got a certificate, this stated that I’d set a new world record, this world record was for a previously unrehearsed passage and was 483 words per minute. At the time of writing this world record remains unbroken. The problem is Guinness deny it, they published in the 1990 or maybe the 1991 book, then never mentioned it again.

I believe this to be because of the media faster Moschitta created around this they didn’t want to be involved in any of this controversy .
This controversy followed me right through to the year 2000 when once again guinness in their infinite wisdom decided to ratify who really was the world’s fastest talker except this time they didn’t give the 4 of any opportunity to prove it they just decided it would be Sean Shannon with his recital of Shakespeare’s hamlet soliloquy.
They mention me in the 2001 book and have never mentioned me since then they tote Sean Shannon as the world’s fastest talker, the reality is Sean Shannon isn’t the world’s fastest talker, Sean is the world’s fastest reciter of Hamlet’s soliloquy.

The world record is measured in words per minute, Sean Shannon only spoke for 23.8 seconds that’s just over one third of a minute.
As I stated earlier giving him on words per minute speed is like giving Usain Bolt the marathon world record based on East 9.58 seconds 100 meter sprint.
On the day I broke the world record I’d gone into the television studio with a passage that was 595 words long and in the practicing and in the run up to it i’d managed to speak that in around 60 seconds, I.E. a full minute.
At that time the world record was 583 words per minute. I was aiming for around the speed of 595 words per minute. I don’t know what happened on the day I think I was hit with a massive adrenaline rush because it really was one of my first appearance is on television everything was right and I blasted through it one time and instead of doing it in 60 seconds I did it in 56.01 seconds, this is the fastest I’d ever done it, never in practice did I achieve that speed.

I claim and I believe that I have 2 world records, the first one being for the world’s fastest talker for a previously rehearsed passage which is for 637 words a minute, I actually spoke for almost a full minute, the Second World record is for a previously unrehearsed passage which gave me a speed of 483 words per minute as per the documentary please to world records have remind on broken since 1990 it’s now 2020 that 40 years that I’ve held both is world record for that I have never been truly credited for.

Guinness will tell you that they chose Shannon and the soliloquy because it was the only way to ratify who was the fastest, They completely and totally ignore the fact that they already done it once on 1990 from my point of view I broke the world record, then in a Guinness organised contest generated another world record, I’d beat all comers that’s 2 world records. Twice I’ve beaten everybody in the world, how many more times do I have to prove that I am the world’s fastest talker?

For many years I have tried to get Moschitta and Shannon in the same room as myself under strictly controlled conditions were we would once again get to fight for the world record, it never happened each, and every time both of them declined to take part.

This also raises another more important question and I believe the reason Guinness won’t back down, where they (Guinness) are the sole arbiter of a record their editorial policies dictate who the current record holder is rather that who the correct record holder is. That’s right Guinness stole not 1 BUT 2 world records from me.

They won’t back down because if they admit they have done this to my records then they know people are going to ask asking questions about the accuracy and integrity of the book.
If they did this to my world records, how many others are not accurate or truthful?


Various sources.

Popular Science

Google Books Search


Here we now are in 2020 some 30 years later but things are different now.

Back in 2013 I was diagnosed with cancer, Follicular Lymphoma.
In 2014 I had Radiotherapy on my neck which affected my saliva glands meaning I couldn’t talk fast any more.

In 2017 my cancer reached the point I needed chemotherapy but after a year of chemo in Jan 2018 I was declared in remission.

In Jan 2019 I caught the simple flu, well i say simple, it wasn’t, it nearly killed me, I got pneumonia, then double pneumonia and so much damage was done to my lungs I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis.
Not only can I not talk fast, now I can’t even breathe fast and mostly need a wheelchair to go out.

March 2020 my cancer came back and at the time of writing, Sept 2020 I am once again undergoing chemotherapy.

But you know what, I fought for and won not 1 but 2 world records, that’s me, a fighter and I am going to do the same with cancer, I beat it once and I am going to beat it again.

The Guinness book of records twitter is @GWR should you wish to ask them to put their side across.

My version as I told it.

Whenever I spoke about this 1990 contest to people I always told them that there were several things that put me on the back foot before we even go into it.
One of them was that when they introduced us they said John was the current World Record Holder.
Tha really threw me because I was the current record holder and had been for almost a year at that point.
So, did they really do that to me? live on American T’V? well sort of.

You have to understand that until just recently I hadn’t seen recording and never realised it even existed, all I had to go on was memory.
After watching it I can see they were clever. They knew I was the current record holder but you have to remember Moschitta was a “hero” and on home ground.
They stated that “according to the current guinness book of records” technically that was true, the current book was the 1990 book, I first broke Moschitta’s record after the 1990 book was published, the first book I would be in would be the 1991 book.
The other thing that seriously disadvantaged me on the day was that I was extremely tired and jet lagged. I told people that I actually flew in the day before. They even reference this in the clip.

I had arrived in my hotel at 7 PM in the evening, we were each couried a copy of the script at 9pm that night that we would be reading the next morning. We had just under 12 hours to practice it, I’ve just been on 8 hour flight from London on my body clock is way out because of the jet lag and 9 o’clock at night is like 3 AM to me. I’m already shattered, I then had to stay up most of the night to practice this piece for the contest that was a big disadvantage because the other 2 lived in the states and that meant they had no jet lag and lack of sleep to fight. What I didn’t realise until I saw this clip is that they had had another dig at me by stating I self proclaimed as the current world record holder.

Then just really put me on the back foot they decided I should go first, I hate being the pace setter. If someone else sets the pace then you have a target and only need to do enough to beat that target and possibly not your best.
Talking at world record speeds is physically and mentally draining and If you can get away with only doing what was needed then all the better.
But no, I had to set the pace, I had to give it everything I had to make sure I was better than the other 2 and I had no target to aim for so it had to be my maximum effort. So I walked towards the Mic, I even “facepalmed” because I thought I was just about to fail and make myself look a complete idiot in front of 12 million people.

Steve Woodmore

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