In this, the penultimate instalment of my chat with ‘Chaser’ Matt Parkinson, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask him straight out….
SH: Do you have any tips for anyone considering going on The Chaser as a contestant?
MP: I’ll tell you what; I’ve got some tips for anybody who is considering going on any television show. One thing is to bear in mind that they will get you to sign a contract on the day you go in to play. Now you need to read that contract very carefully because – I don’t know if this is the case with the show I’m on now, but I do know for shows I’ve worked on previously – if your show doesn’t go to air, you won’t get your prize money. That’s a pretty standard thing. I know there have been cases in the past where other people took it to court when they didn’t get their money and the show didn’t go to air.
You need to focus not just on getting as many of your questions right as you can, but you need to make sure that there is something about your show that makes them want to put it to air. So in other words, it comes down to three words; Don’t Be Boring.
If you can only answer questions effectively in a kind of deadpan, stone-faced, icy state, your show is probably going to get pushed back in the schedule… and they might not want to put it on at all. You might be waiting for your money a long time. Whereas if you are a bit lively and there’s a bit of personality about you while you are answering the questions, feeling registers on your face and you are prepared to play a little bit with the host, then it is more likely that your show will go to air and it will go to air soon. So that was my main tip. Remember that you are making TV. You are not just answering the next question, you are making TV. Having said that, beyond that, your strategy shouldn’t be any more complex than ‘just get the next the question right’.
I know there’s a lot of other people try and play – particularly with The Chase, there is room for a bit of strategy, people would say – but I think your strategy on any show like that just comes down to: “you got that one wrong, forget about it”. If you got one wrong, and it’s the sort of show where you get to play more than one show… when you go home, later, don’t worry; you’ll remember all the ones you got wrong. You can sit down and go over them and revise that area. So don’t carry it with you as you go on to the next question. Just forget about it, focus on the next question and get that right.
SH: I remember you giving me similar advice – because I asked your advice when I was about to go on Temptation in 2005. And I remember that particular piece of advice that you gave me and that became a real mantra of mine when I went on there, which was always if I got it wrong, in the back of my mind, I said to myself
“I know the next one, I know the next one, I know the next one”. So it is always looking forward. And the other thing you said was “be yourself, but you are not there to entertain them”. It is a bit of a fine balance. You don’t spend mental energy thinking of jokes to do.
MP: No, you shouldn’t do that. But a limited amount of your subscribers will come from the background you and I come from, where they’ve done performing of any kind, but that’s a good tip. If you have done any performing at all, don’t over-perform for them, and if you’re not a performer don’t worry. Just be yourself. Don’t shut down either. Remember to be you. Because even if you have quite a serious demeanour, that’ll still work for you but just be you.
Another really practical thing is prepare yourself to be in the studio all day. Because most shows will call you in the beginning of day and they might not use you until the last show of the day. And so after years of experience in TV, I have a little bag that goes in the big bag that I carry, and in that bag there might be a box of sultanas and a packet of chewies and a muesli bar, a toothbrush, toothpaste, some things to clean the lenses of my glasses. Just practical stuff. It is a like a miniature version of an overnight bag. It’s like a daytime version of what you would put in your go bag. There are going to be people there to look after you, who are going to say “do you want water? Do you want coffee? Are you okay? Do you need this?” But the things that you know you’re going to want; just pack them with you, because that will help you concentrate in the moment.
SH: That’s a really good tip, no one’s ever said that before!
And indeed they haven’t! What a great, practical thing to do, to make the whole artificial, unpredictable studio experience just a little less jarring for you. I’m a firm believer in this. Any little practical things like this that you can do to increase your comfort level will give you an edge, however slight, over the competition. The whole experience is nerve-wracking and unfamiliar enough – any little piece of security and predictability that you can bring along with you has got to be a good thing!
Net week, as our conversation draws to a close, Matt and I discuss mindgames, “psyching out” and the importance of not falling into traps laid by your competition….