SH: Before we wind it up, I did want to ask if there are any general Pearls of game show host / game show contestant / game show champion Wisdom you might have…
JZ: The bottom line is if (as host of RocKwiz) I don’t put them in their best possible space and make them feel comfortable, they won’t give the best of themselves. That’s why I am so against the reality TV stuff because you’re often not put in the best space to do your best work.
SH: Quite the opposite.
JZ: Yeah, quite the opposite. I want my contestants to leave there going “I have been dying to be on that show, I finally did it and it was better than I ever thought!” Because we can’t exist without them, I can’t do the show without them. They often know more than the musicians do. It is just a constant delight to see what they come up with and how much they love giving their information finally.
SH: What are your favourite game shows?
JZ: Mm! Good question.
SH: Thank you very much. If you have any; maybe you don’t have any?
JZ: I don’t like the reality-based ones. I don’t like it when they get cruel, and when they go into manipulating viewers into feeling sorry for the contestants because they’re down-and-out. If they’ve gone there because they’re great dancers, just let them dance and let’s just enjoy that. I did have a lot of time for So You Think You Can Dance. I loved watching non-famous people who were unbelievable dancers. I didn’t mind that Letters and Numbers, if I may say so. Is that a quiz show? Is that a game show?
SH: Yes, it is a game show.
JZ: I liked Letters and Numbers because anyone could play. We had anecdotal evidence that parents loved to watch it with their kids of a certain age because they could be in it together. There’s not enough of those ones. And it’s not about ego, it’s just about smartness.
SH: In England that’s called Countdown, and it’s run for over 30 years.
JZ: The French have it too.
SH: Yes, that’s right. The Australian version didn’t last very long at all, unfortunately.
JZ: People arked up about it, but no one listened. And it probably only cost about 3 dollars to make so I don’t see what the problem was. Aaanyway, I used to love old episodes of Pot of Gold.
SH: Oh really. That was a talent quest show from the 70s, wasn’t it?
JZ: Yes. When Bernard King was a judge. You’ll see Julia Morris singing I’m Holding Out For A Hero.”* I like stuff from the past because there’s sort of a naivete to it that we don’t really see anymore but boy I used to love The Einstein Factor. I do like elements of QI as well, and I’ve been on that show too. I like QI because again it’s not about a prize, and you do really learn interesting stuff. I think if you have that reaction to something, that’s good.
SH: How was that experience, by the way? I haven’t asked you about that.
JZ: I had done one of the live shows out here. I was on with Shaun Micallef and Angus Sampson and Alan Davies. We all seemed to enjoy it and have a good time, and they enjoyed my work, and they said “if you’re ever in England, we’d love to have you on board”. So after Eurovision in Azerbaijan (Julia presents the Australian broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest each year), I had to go through London to come home anyway, and shot two episodes of QI in one day. That’s how they do it. They shoot 90 minutes for a 30 minute show, so it is quite long. The air conditioning machine is right on top of the contestant so it is freezing cold, but it is quite hot in the actual room, apparently, for the audience.
It was really scary, but I was very prepared; I had funny stories to tell. I was very glad I watched an episode being filmed the night before, just to get a feel for it, because it is not just about being funny all the time. It is just about answering questions and listening and I am just delighted that the funny things I said that got good reactions made the edit; I was really happy about that. I thought they were generous and I am really happy that they said “she got two really big laughs in each show, we’ll keep them in”.
JZ: Really happy.
SH: What show would you like to host that you haven’t had a chance to yet?
JZ: I would like to either do something with teenagers or something with the elderly. I would love to host a show with the elderly but a show that isn’t condescending. A show with senior citizens that’s about finding and getting their great information out, that we have never seen before, that we have forgotten. Commonsense really, getting that out, and making them kind of…
SH: The stars of the show. The wisdom of the elders, yeah. What would you say are the three most important things for someone to know if they want to be a contestant on a game show?
JZ: Listen. Really listen to what is going on. Use whatever helps you to listen best. So if it is to calm down, go to the toilet, take three deep breaths… I really think that is the big one. Be calm – so a few big deep breaths in is a good one – and the next one is to listen really, really attentively and you know what? Enjoy it! Because it’s going to be over in heartbeat! And enjoy it because there are elements of it that are really fun and I think if you are really listening and you are relaxed, it can be one of the best ways to be in the moment. And you are so in the moment – it goes by so quickly – you have to watch it back on television to remind yourself how you did it!
SH: That’s great. There’s some good tips there, thank you very much.
JZ: A pleasure.
SH: Thank you very much for generously sharing your time and your thoughts today. Julia Zemiro, woman of many, many talents. And may you continue to light up our screens for many years to come!
And that’s where we parted ways. I’d like to thank Julia again for giving so generously of her time and experiences for www.howtowingameshows.com. And if you’re in Australia, you’ll soon be able to catch Julia on the ABC in her third series of Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery, and presenting Eurovision for SBS TV in mid-May, and of course, hosting the upcoming 13th series of RocKwiz!