As my interview with Adam continues, he reveals some great tips that will be really helpful for contestants appearing on The Chase, and on quiz shows in general. But first, we discussed the business of writing questions a bit more…
SH: What do you like about the job of writing quiz questions?
AR: I learn so much! I folded a lot of the interesting facts I learned into a stand-up show last year. Like the fact that bubble wrap was invented as wallpaper. (You’d never get your bond back!) That Australian Rules football was codified before soccer or rugby, making it the oldest football code in the world. I am INSUFFERABLE at parties. I interject with all sorts of bizarre facts. I just played a video game set in the pirate era, in the Caribbean (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag), and most of the characters were actual historical characters and there were many real events that you play in the game, so of course, I went on a pirate question binge. All of your life can become a question if you are interacting with anything other than social media. Nobody can answer questions about what dish your friend instagrammed a photo of at Nobu last week.
SH: What don’t you like about the job of writing quiz questions?
AR: It’s very time consuming. Staying in the office until well after 10 PM, even later on shoot days, or writing at home until 2 AM (which I did yesterday). Working from home in general is difficult. Prioritising work over the laundry or going to the shops to get stuff for dinner because you have a deadline looming. If I smell and I’m hungry, you know I’m late with a deadline.
SH: As a question writer, what common mistakes do you see contestants making when answering quiz questions on TV?
AR: Jumping in early. On The Chase Australia, the questions are specifically structured to prevent this. Hence all the comedians writing questions. The most relevant information is loaded up at the back end of the question, like a joke, where the punchline is last. Nothing is to be gained from going early. All the questions are exactly the same length in the timed rounds, and Andrew’s delivery is concise and clear, so you’ll lose money going early and getting it wrong. If you are still thinking a second or two after the question is finished, just pass.
Same on Hard Quiz. We lay traps for the early buzzers, and the cost of going early is high (an early answer stolen from the expert is also worth a lot more – it’s a big gamble). A lot of contestants booked for the later shows on Hard Quiz came to the tapings of the earlier episodes, and saw that the first round was full of dog-leg questions, and as a result they were very cautious during the taping of the later episodes.
Know the show! That is the worst mistake you can make. Thinking “all quiz shows are the same, so how hard can it be?” Do your strategic research of how the show works as much as you would research your general knowledge.
SH: Is it helpful for a contestant to try and think like a question writer? And if so, how do you teach yourself to think like a question writer?
AR: There is only one answer. I haven’t worked on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire or Family Feud, where the contestants talk through the answer, trying to show their working out, but on The Chase and Hard Quiz, there is ONE ANSWER ONLY. Searching through your vocabulary for a synonym will not work, because we have structured the questions to eliminate any ambiguity. There might be a clue in the early part of the question, like a ‘starting with the letter’ or ‘rhyming with’ or things like ‘from the Ancient Greek.’ If a question is ‘what noise does your stomach make during peristalsis?’ that could be tummy rumbles or stomach gurgling or pre-farts or any number of answers, but if the question is, ‘From the Ancient Greek is what term for the noises your stomach makes during peristalsis?’ that can ONLY be borborygmi. (This is an onomatopoeic Greek word, which is meant to sound like a tummy rumbling!) If there is any chance of ambiguity, there will be a qualifier in the question. Remember, there are very strict rules on quiz shows that give out money. There will only ever be one answer.
And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. Next week, as our chat continues, we’ll discuss other aspects of Adam’s career, including writing questions for the Cranium board game, and his time on reality TV shows… and Adam will reveal even more great tips for aspiring quiz show contestants!
Until then, then!