Hello and welcome to my latest exclusive interview for HowToWinGameShows.com! This time, it’s with Mark Humphries, who hosted the Australian version of the English game show Pointless, here in Australia on the Ten Network from July 2018 – May 2019.
Mark was very generous with his time, and it was a wide ranging – and at times, very revealing – discussion. We covered the whole process of his becoming involved in the show, we talked about the ups and downs of hosting it, and we discussed the various reactions to the show at length. But before all of that, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with Mark’s work, I asked him to bring us up to speed with his story before game shows came calling…
SH: Mark Humphries, thanks very much for talking to me today for HowToWinGameShows.com! For those visitors outside Australia, could you give us a brief rundown of your career prior to your time as a game show host?
MH: Yes, sure. So I got my start on TV in satirical news comedy. And the first show that I was on was called The Roast, and it started out as a daily two-minute news comedy show.
MH: (LAUGHING) Yes, barely a show ! But because it was two minutes, and it was on ABC2, and it was on in the very sexy time slot of 7:28 PM, it was a thing that allowed us to make mistakes; to get it wrong, and we did that for a year. And then we got renewed, fortunately, and then the show ballooned into a massive 10 minutes per night. And that time slot was thrilling as well; sometimes it was 10 past 8, sometimes it was 8:07, sometimes it was a quarter past 8, so you could tune in and already have missed the bit that I was on. So I had three years on that show; sort of very, very low profile and out of the way… just getting my flying hours up, really; honing my skills. Because satirical comedy wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do; I’d always wanted to write comedy for television, but I was more interested in sitcoms.But I was just lucky that I – and the rest of the team – were given enough time to develop our skills, so that when the show did eventually end, at the end of 2014, The Guardian newspaper had just started up in Australia and their website picked up the segment that I used to do on The Roast. So they commissioned us to keep that afloat for half a dozen special online videos.
MH: And then after that I was approached by The Feed from SBS2… and Stephen, I should point out that it’s very important to me to always be on a secondary digital channel. Not the main free-to-air channel…
SH: (LAUGHING) Yes, of course – aim for the top!
MH: And The Feed wanted 2 – 3 minute comedy news pieces, so over there again I was able to make more mistakes!
SH: But it’s very valuable to have a chance to do that professionally, but without being subject to loads of scrutiny and pressure.
MH: I am such a huge supporter of shows like that. Shows such as Hungry Beast, and more recently Tonightly, where new talent – new writers and performers – can get the experience and become the valuable contributors of the future. If we don’t have those shows, you can’t just expect everyone to work for free and make stuff on YouTube, and hope that that somehow transitions into a career. In terms of career paths, I’m not a stand-up, and where do people like me (who have no interest in doing stand-up comedy) go? So I was so lucky in that sense.
Anyway, somewhere along the way we started to find a rhythm in terms of making new sketches and a couple of them got a few shares And so I started to develop something of a reputation as a satirical writer comedy performer. I was at The Feed for two and a half years, but I got kind of burnt out
SH: That was quick!
MH: (LAUGHING) Yeah! But by that stage, it had been years of producing daily news comedy… And I think even reading the news every day takes a toll; I don’t think it’s good for you. I don’t think I could ever be a journalist!
SH: No. Good point.
MH: And putting out creative work every day and knowing that it will be seen by an audience and especially on Twitter, where they are all just waiting to tear you a new one. Because they’re certainly out there, and that was a lesson I learned again with the whole Pointless thing; it was quite a bumpy transition because people really loved Family Feud (Pointless‘s predecessor in the same time slot). And suddenly it’s “Who the f*** is this guy?!”
But back in the day, it never would have occurred to me, if I was watching $ale of the Century, after an episode finished, to ring up Glenn Ridge and say tell him he’s f****** s***.
SH: (LAUGHING) No, that wasn’t really an option back then, was it?
MH: (LAUGHING) … which I don’t believe, by the way!
And nor do I!
That’s where we’ll leave our chat for this week. Next week, we will shift gear and move into game show territory, but in the meantime, you can follow Mark on Twitter here… and I also heartily recommend the 8-episode original podcast that Mark did for Audible.com.au; it’s called Riot Act, and it’s brilliant.
See you next week!