I’m pleased this week to post Part I of an exclusive interview I managed to record with Blair Martin, who’s an actor, compere, MC…. and two-time quiz show champion.
In 1993, Blair became an undefeated champion on the Australian version of Jeopardy!, and then in 2007, he won “the Lot” on Temptation, becoming the show’s sixth Grand Champion. As such, Blair and I had a lot to talk about…
And talk about it we did. See for yourself!
SH: Blair, welcome to howtowingameshows.com.
BM: Thank you very much.
SH: You’re a Temptation champion, but before that, you went on the Australian version of Jeopardy! In 1993, which was hosted by Tony Barber. Just by way of background, what was your life like before Jeopardy! in 1993?
BM: Very ordinary. I had been working for a major hotel in Brisbane; The Hilton… just did casual front-of-house work and I picked up the odd performing arts job. Street Theatre at that point was having quite a booming period because of Expo ’88. And from then on, everywhere in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, every event decided they needed to have roving characters, because everyone experienced that at Expo. So from about 1990 I did my first stint as a roving character and coming up with characters.
SH: Were you always a general knowledge buff?
BM: I was always constantly reading – and not books per se, not novels. There was a magazine from England called Look and Learn. My mother would pick it up from the newsagent along with her copy of New Idea and Women’s Weekly. I would get this mag. It was the broadest range of general knowledge you could imagine. It had stories and graphics and graphs and maps of everything. Doesn’t matter what it was; history, science, culture and I devoured those. I would read them constantly, and to this day I still have facts and information that I know came from reading that particular magazine. In the seventies, Tony Barber was a big star because he hosted The Great Temptation. I remember watching that and learning from that. Obviously, I was barely fourteen or fifteen. So it’s a bit hard to think that some decades later I would be in the same position as those people I used to watch. But that’s where my original understanding of knowledge came from.
SH: And then The Great Temptation morphed into Sale of the Century, which ran throughout the eighties. Did you ever try to get on Sale of the Century at the time?
BM: Yes I did. I think I may have still been at university at the time. I remember auditioning for it and never got the call. So when Jeopardy! came on air, I remember watching it and going “actually, this rewards you for being clever”. So I auditioned for that and I got pretty much fast-tracked on to it, because they’d started with Tony Barber saying “we really need smart people on this show”. Unfortunately smart people aren’t always the best television. They were trying something Australians were never familiar with, which was not having the news on at six or six thirty in the evening. Putting on a “game show”, (which people thought it was. Which it wasn’t; it was a quiz program), at six o’clock was a big risk… and obviously it didn’t work. Which is why it went off air within six months. It was only about two and a half, three months after I went on air, that the program ended.
SH: How far did you go on Jeopardy!, and what did you win?
BM: With Jeopardy! it was then a limit of five nights. After five nights, you had to retire. There were five of us in the season of Australian Jeopardy! who were the ‘Undefeated Champions’, and $76,000 was what I won.
SH: That’s great.
BM: And then I was invited back for the Tournament of Champions, and came second, and I got a television!
SH: Did you do any training for Jeopardy! – or could you do any training for Jeopardy! – beforehand?
BM: Jeopardy! was, as you know, all filmed in blocks. I was spread over two taping sessions. Same thing happened to me with Temptation. In that period between, I had a friend of mine – an actor – and he was very keen on helping me get through. I think it was the night before I was due to go back down to Melbourne (for the second taping session). He got the Trivial Pursuit board out and he said “Right!”. And we’re both cricket nuts and 1993 was the coming of the Ashes in that year, and he was like “we are going to have a Six Test Series!” (LAUGHS) And we played until we’d played six games of Trivial Pursuit, which I think was something like about 11 PM that night. I won five games to one. I lost the last one because I was like “I am so tired”. So yes, I did train by playing Trivial Pursuit; six games in a row, one night before I came back for the final.
And that’s where we’ll leave the interview for this week. Next week, Blair and I discuss Jeopardy!, Temptation and The Einstein Factor, and he has some insights on how to present yourself on camera that you won’t want to miss. In the meantime, you can catch up with what Blair’s currently up to at his website, or follow him on Twitter. But until next week, when the interview continues… Arrivederci!