EXCLUSIVE interview with Quiz Show Question writer Adam Richard – Part I

The Fabulous Adam Richard

And here we are, with my first interview for 2017, and I’m delighted to say it’s with The Fabulous Adam Richard! For those who don’t know, Adam Richard is one of Australia’s favourite comedians, whose successful 20 year career encompasses stand-up comedy here and internationally, radio presenting, sitcom writing, TV acting, reality TV appearances, podcasting and much more besides. You can find all the details at his website.

But in addition to all of this, yet another feather in Adam’s cap is writing questions for game shows. To date, Adam has written questions for All Star Squares, (where he and I worked together) The Chase: Australia (which I’ve also written questions for) and Hard Quiz (which I haven’t – I must be slipping).

Anyhoo, Adam Richard, thanks very much for chatting to me today for www.HowToWinGameShows.com

SH: Over the years, how many quiz questions do you think you’d have written for TV?

AR: I couldn’t even tell you how many I’ve written this week! It’s over a hundred. This week, I mean. When I started on Season 1 of The Chase Australia, I was working four or five days a week, which roughly works out to about 200 questions. Now I’m just working one or two days a week, but factoring in all the shows I’ve worked on, I’m guessing I’d be into the tens of thousands by now.

SH: What’s the secret to writing a good quiz question?

AR: It’s such a juggling act! The questions on The Chase Australia, especially in the timed rounds, need to be really punchy. There are a lot of comedians writing for the show, I think mainly because the structure of a question and a joke are essentially the same – you work really hard at giving out enough information that the punchline or answer, in the case of a quiz show, is both obvious and surprising at the same time. You almost want people at home to go “Oh! Of course! I should have known they’d say that!” So, even if people are learning something from the answer, it should have its own internal logic. Also, boring is bad. Numbers and dates are boring, names are boring. I try to avoid writing answers that are a number or a name, unless it’s something that is an emotional touchstone (there’s always an exception to every rule!). I wrote a question on Hard Quiz which was “How many double A batteries go into a Nintendo Game Boy?”. That’s the kind of thing that can really fire up the happy and nostalgic part of your brain, remembering fun things from your childhood, trying to picture yourself jamming the batteries in the back of your favourite toy.

SH: Are there any topics or subject areas that you return to often, when you’re writing questions?

AR: I try to get out of my comfort zone, so I’m learning as much from the process as possible. I love digging into a topic about which I have not one clue, and trying to see if there’s something in there that can be made interesting in a question format. This is the great thing about Hard Quiz, the specialist topics that need to be prepared for each contestant. The first round questions need to be as broad as possible, while also staying on topic, and the final round needs to be crushingly hard, while also not alienating the audience by being too obscure. There needs to be something interesting happening in the reveal of the answer or the subversion of the expectation. It’s actually no fun for me regurgitating facts that are already in my head. I had a few “gimmes” when writing for Hard Quiz, like Sex and the City and Eurovision, where I just churned out stuff that was already in my head. Writing about the FIFA World Cup, that was fun. Trying to trip up a GP with questions about the human body, that is a challenge for me, that’s the fun part.

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And that’s where we’ll have to leave it for this week. Next week, as our discussion continues, I ask Adam about the questions he’s proud of, the questions that have been controversial and rules of writing questions…. and he reveals the one thing he NEVER does when he’s working.

But if you can’t wait until then for more Adam Richard fabulousness, you can follow him on Twitter, in the meantime – he’s @adamrichard

Until next week!

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