Mikey Robins is quite simply one of Australia’s Favourite Comedians, with an incredible career that spans television, radio and live stand-up, for more than 25 years. In 2006, he proved himself – not once, but twice! – in the arena of TV quiz shows, taking out top honours in Australia’s Brainiest Comedian, AND Temptation‘s ‘King of Comedy’ tournament. I was rapt when Mikey agreed to be interviewed by me for www.howtowingameshows.com.
SH: Mikey Robins, welcome! You and I are similar, insofar as we have both won Temptation and Australia’s Brainiest.
MR: Yes, but you got to keep the money.
SH: (LAUGHING) Well, there is that – yes. Before these two appearances, had you had any previous game show experience?
MR: No, but I’d always been an avid watcher of quiz shows. I love quiz shows, and my favourite at the moment is probably Eggheads.
SH: Eggheads – that’s the English one, where ordinary people go up against quiz champions, is that right?
MR: Yes, I’m obsessed by Bawwy.
MR: Barry. He’s an expert at everything, but he can’t pronounce his Rs.
SH: (LAUGHING) Right. Let’s start with Australia’s Brainiest Comedian. This was in 2006, there were 9 contestants, and you beat all of them, to win the very attractive trophy.
MR: Which I still have.
SH: Where is it?
MR: It’s in my office. Unfortunately the lovely little orb on top fell off. I have to get round to supergluing it back on.
SH: Oh dear. They don’t make trophies like they used to – that’s tragic.
MR: It sits next to my City of Newcastle Drama Award, my cup for Comedy Temptation and my “Most Improved Forward, Under-10s” in the South Newcastle Rugby League training.
MR: Yes, it’s been a life of low accomplishment.
SH: Oh come on now. When you were invited to go on Australia’s Brainiest Comedian, what was it that made you say “yes”?
MR: Ah, they paid me.
SH: (LAUGHING) Oh, right. Okay, that’s good.
MR: I suppose one of the things is that I’ve always watched game shows, and I’ve always done okay lying on the couch like everyone does, watching game shows. And so I thought “Oh yeah, I’ll have a crack at that – that could be fun”. And it was a chance to win $20,000 for a charity, which was also lovely.
SH: Which charity did you nominate?
MR: It went to Autism Spectrum Australia. I’d done some fundraisers for them.
SH: So, you would have known most of the other contestants, wouldn’t you? How seriously did they take it?
MR: Some took it more seriously than others. I think for Greg Fleet, it was a day out of the house. Colin Lane? I think Colin had a crack. And Red Symons and Mark Trevorrow got very serious. In fact, I think one of the reasons I won – apart from the fact that I had a good grasp of general knowledge – was that in the Final Round, those two were so eager to take each other out that they tended to jump in too quickly. And I sort of Steve Bradbury-ed in between them.
NOTE: Steve Bradbury is an Australian speed skater who won Olympic Gold in 2002, when the two competitors in front of him fell over.
SH: Right – they wanted to buzz in at all costs, and didn’t have time to think of the answers?
MR: Yeah, they were both jumping in too early.
SH: Did you do any preparation for going on the show, in terms of studying or research?
MR: I’m afraid not, Hally.
SH: (LAUGHING) No, okay, that’s good.
MR: No, it’s amazing. I can’t remember where I left my keys and my mobile phone, but I do remember who was the fill-in drummer for The Beatles in the first 2 gigs of the Australian tour*… and dates of battles, and all that sort of stuff. I have a much better memory for things that have no significant impact on my life.
SH: Yeah, trivia. Of course.
MR: Or I think the medical term is I’m “full of shit”.
SH: (LAUGHING) “Full of shit”. Okay, that’s the medical term; I’ve learned something today! That’s great. When you were on there, with 8 other comedians, how much pressure did you feel to come up with gags and “be funny”, rather than just playing the game?
MR: I think that if you like quizzes – and I like trivia nights in pubs – and even having a background from a comedy quiz show, which is what I suppose you’d call Good News Week, you concentrate on getting the answer right first, and then let the comedy come naturally.
SH: Of course; I should mention too that you had been on Good News Week (a weekly topical comedy quiz show on Australian television) for many years, in its various incarnations, and so you’d have been very abreast of current affairs, I’d have thought?
MR: Oh yes, I must admit, when it came to Good News Week, I would study. Fortunately, I was on breakfast radio for most of that time as well, so I’d read three newspapers a day. I’d read The Australian, The Herald and The Telegraph… and from 5:00, when the Channel Ten news would start, till the end of The 7:30 Report was my daily “workout”.
SH: Well, that’s a solid diet of news. When it came to Australia’s Brainiest Comedian, had you watched any of the Australia’s Brainiest shows before? Were you familiar with the format?
MR: No, I hadn’t. The format took me by surprise.
SH: What was the Special Subject you chose for the final round?
MR: Yeah! I actually did really well in History at school. I actually came first in my year.
SH: Right, and how did you go in that particular round?
MR: That was one of the reasons why I won; I’d built up so many points in my special round, that I had a bank of points which got me through to the Final Round.
SH: You mentioned before that the format took you by surprise. For those who don’t know, the Australia’s Brainiest format contains general knowledge questions, a memory-type card game, where you have to remember where answers are when the cards are turned over –
MR: Yeah, I did okay with that…
SH: And there’s also a keypad anagram word puzzle that you have to solve very quickly. How did you go there?
MR: Not so good. I’m a person who struggles with “How To Get The Bear Out Of The Maze” on a kid’s placemat at a fast food restaurant. My wife will happily sit down and do sudoku for hours – I still don’t even understand what it is. It’s got something to do with the number 9.
SH: (LAUGHING) I think it does – I’m not sure myself.
MR: Similarly, I’m not particularly good at crosswords either.
SH: Right. So those elements of the game were not your strong suit?
MR: No. Basically just “Remembering-Shit-That-You-Learnt-At-School”; that’s the stuff I’m good at.
SH: Excellent! And during the playing of the game, did you have any tactics or strategies? Even if you were just making them up as you went along?
MR: I suppose one thing was – to be serious for a second…
AND that’s where we’ll end things for this week. (Nothing quite like a good cliffhanger!)
Be sure to check back in to www.howtowingameshows.com next week, when Mikey will reveal his main tactic for game show success, and we’ll also begin to discuss his Temptation experience.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about this week’s post, as always please do feel free to ask, by emailing me, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* It was Jimmy Nicol.