My very first interview with a winner of ‘The Chase’ – Part I

andyz_chaseIn November 2015, 35-year-old digital producer Andy Zito was a contestant on the hit quiz show   The Chase: Australia. In a result that bucked the usual trend of the show, Andy and his teammate Louise Harper actually managed to beat ‘The Chaser’; in this case, Brydon “The Shark” Coverdale… taking home a cool $34,000 for their efforts. Andy kindly agreed to talk to me about his game show experience, for www.HowToWinGameShows.com.
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SH: Andy, thanks very much for speaking to me today.

AZ: A pleasure!

SH: What inspired you to try out for The Chase: Australia? Had you been interested in quizzing and game shows for a long time?

AZ: I’m a huge fan of trivia and quiz shows in general, and will more or less watch any quiz format available to me, even down to asking my wife to read me the quiz from the paper. I just really, really enjoy seeing if I know stuff, and then seeing if I can remember stuff. I certainly made it my business as a young kid to watch Sale of the Century whenever I could, which was pretty much every night, and was really excited to see a quiz show that relied on buzzer speed, question strategy and general knowledge than pure luck – after a hair-splitting, one question loss in the ‘fast money’ on Million Dollar Minute I was keen to have another serious crack at winning some cash, too!

SH: Can you talk us through the audition / interview process for The Chase: Australia?

AZ: From memory it was all pretty straightforward. I’d seen the ‘quiz show’ ads on air during the UK Chase screenings, and could tell – given it was an ITV studios production and by the style of the commercial – that it would likely be for The Chase: Australia, and so I went to the website to fill out the form. A short time later they were in touch on the phone for a quick chat and a short quiz – I felt confident I’d done OK, but they never tell you how you go in the audition quizzes! After that, we were asked to come in and meet in a group for a bigger audition, some talking to camera prep and a quiz game. At that point it was simply a waiting game to see if we’d get the call up…

SH: How long was it between the audition day and getting THE CALL that you’d been selected to go on the show?

AZ: I can’t quite remember, but it was perhaps a week or so. They said I’d be called up with dates soon after. A little later I was informed that I’d been chosen to take part in a special ‘Cup Day’ episode, which would be a two player version and would run for 30 minutes instead of the usual 60. This struck me as a GREAT idea, as I felt the odds would be more in my favour, but I can’t really say exactly why… We filmed my episode in the middle of September, and it aired November 2.

SH: What did you do by way of preparation for going on the show?

AZ: I tried to build knowledge in my gap areas as best I could – I’m weak on things like sport, politics and history, but strong on pop culture, movies, music etc., so I used a great iPhone app called Memrise which is actually a language trainer but has other content you might want to drill… I also watched both editions of The Chase religiously, and tried to get a sense of the rules, the ways the questions fell, frequent topics and how to anticipate the questions mid-stream.

SH: On record day, I’m assuming you get to the studio with a bunch of other contestants, and are shepherded around by the contestant coordinator… Do you find out who the other members of your team are straight away? Are you given much time to chat, get to know each other and form a game plan?
AZ: In our case, we were there to film a special, shorter episode to air in a 30-minute slot over Cup Weekend, so really I was whisked away to a change room where I met the only other contestant from my episode, Louise. We were given some time to chat, run through the way the show works and brought up to speed on the slightly different rules that would be in effect for our short 2-player edition. I’d met a couple of the contestant producers before (on another game show!) and had a good rapport with them, so we were all quite comfortable hanging out, and after a very small – and quickly allayed – hiccup over concerns from Louise that perhaps the 2-player edition was a bit too different for comfort, we got on with the game. Our game plan was really ‘let’s see how we go’ – we discussed whether we’d aim to take the higher offer from the Chaser, but then also decided we’d officially make that call based on our earlier game play.
SH: Were you made aware of which “Chaser” you’ll be facing before the show? Or is the first time you see them when you’re on the set, and they’re revealed during the show?
AZ: Nope, he came out in his reveal and that was the first time we’d seen him.

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SH: Which “Chaser” were you hoping you’d be going up against, and why?

AZ: I actually hadn’t given it much thought, but I did know that ‘The Shark’ was a sports journalist, which, in my mind made him a good target for my pop culture / entertainment knowledge. A positive way to think of it, perhaps, but it did seem to end up being the case!

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… And with that, the game was afoot! Next week, as my 2-part interview with Andy concludes, we discuss how the game panned out, quiz show strategy, managing energy and expectations on record day, and, for some reason, the long-running American comedy show Saturday Night Live. See you then!

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