Hello! Today, as my interview with The Fabulous Adam Richard continues, I wanted to drill down a bit into the working methods that have seen him churn out tens of thousands of quiz show questions over the years…
SH: What is something that you never do when you’re writing quiz questions?
AR: Social media. I have downloaded a browser plug-in that I set to yell at me if I try to open Facebook or Twitter or any of those things. You know those alerts come up, telling you so-and-so has liked your comment or some such, and before you know it, you’ve spent an hour down an unhelpful rabbit-hole of absolutely irrelevant crap. Every time I click on one of those, this browser plug in swears at me. Literally. Vile, angry language. It’s quite the motivator!
(Here is a link if you can handle your computer yelling profanities)
SH: What’s an example of a question you’ve written that you’re really proud of?
AR: Oh, so many! On Hard Quiz, it’s the ones that stump the experts. Especially if the expert is particularly smarmy and full of themselves. The first ever episode of The Chase Australia featured a question of mine that stumped even The Chaser herself!
I have tried to write a ‘Fanny Chmelar’ style question for The Chase Australia, but because of the timeslot, they’ve all been rejected, which is probably for the best. Did you know that an archaic term for an open-cut mine is ‘Glory Hole?’ I wrote it as a multiple choice “In which industry do people go to work in a glory hole?” Mining, Fishing, Theatre. It’s revolting, I know, but it is an actual true fact. You can’t argue with the truth… Well, you can if you are putting out a G-rated show.
SH: Are there any specific rules that you follow when you’re writing quiz questions?
AR: Keep it G-rated…
Follow the rules of the show! The Chase Australia has a very detailed style guide, and some very restrictive rules about length of questions and answers, which I adore. I love the language puzzle writing those entails, trying to rearrange a question to be coherent and fun in as few words as possible.
The first round of Hard Quiz, where people are able to steal points, I really enjoyed writing dog-leg questions, that seemed like they were going off in one direction, but in fact were headed somewhere else entirely, trying to trick people into buzzing in early. Like one about Eurovision, where it seemed like it was going to be an obvious one about which song ABBA won with, but instead was about which venue they won at! It was the ‘British seaside resort’ of Brighton, if you’re wondering, which then of course gives (the show’s host) Tom Gleeson leeway to make a joke about ‘British seaside resort’ being an oxymoron.
The fact that Hard Quiz is a comedy show as well as a game show means that all the writers have to do double time writing questions and gags. Tom writes both questions and gags himself. He’s incredibly hands on. I worked in the office at Hard Quiz, whereas I have done all my work on The Chase Australia remotely.
SH: Have you ever written any questions that turned out to be controversial?
AR: Questions that are wrong! The writers are just the genesis of the question, there are then verifiers who need to make sure the facts are correct. A couple of times a question has gotten to the studio floor and been challenged. On The Chase Australia, because there is cash on offer, there are lotteries and gaming rules that mean that questions must be absolutely correct – no grey area. At the ABC, while there is nothing of monetary value on offer, the editorial policies dictate that nothing can be broadcast on the ABC as a fact if it is not correct. There are a whole lot of checks and balances in place, but once in a blue moon, something slips through the net, and onto the floor, but nothing, that I know of, has affected the outcome of a show nor have they been broadcast.
SH: Have producers ever rejected questions that you’ve written? If so, why?
AR: See “Glory Hole”, above!
And on that note, we’ll wrap it up for this week. Be sure to check back here next Tuesday for the next glorious instalment!