My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Mark Humphries – Part VIII

Mark Humphries and Andrew Rochford at the 2018 Logie Awards

Hello! Last week, Mark and I discussed the extremely brief whirlwind of pre-production leading up to the show’s premiere…

But before he knew it, that part was all over, and he found himself in the thick of recording the episodes for real; episodes that, any day now, would be broadcast on national television, five nights a week…

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SH: So would you say you were very much ‘in at the deep end’? 

MH: Yeah. And I think that’s what I found a little bit difficult about when the show launched. You know, when it launched it was heavily promoted. There was an advertising blitz; they really went all out on it. 

SH: Yeah, they did. 

MH: So that when the first episode aired, I think about half a million people watched it. And they were all basically watching a guy on his first day at work in a new job. 

SH: Yes! I hadn’t thought of it like that.

MH: And that’s what you’re being judged by, nationally. That was quite difficult; I don’t think I was ready. And all those creases – that I ultimately like to think I ironed out – were very much on display in those early episodes. But you only get one shot at a first impression, and that’s the way it goes. 

I guess my one regret about the show is that I wish I’d been able to make the transition faster. Because I’d gone straight from two-minute sketches (which I would write and perform) and with those, it was just me, my co-writer and our editor. And then suddenly…

There’s 15 cameras on me

and there’s a live audience

and the taping of each episode goes for an hour

and you’re doing five of those, back-to-back, in one day

and in between them, you’re changing wardrobe

and trying to bolt down a meal 

and trying to get your head around the next contestants you’re about to meet; “These are the talking points, these are the categories that are going to be in the next round”, and I’m desperately trying to think of something funny I can say about this category, trying to come up with jokes. I usually like to script as much as possible, but in that environment it’s virtually impossible…

So there’s all those challenges and I’m also still working out the dynamic with Andrew (Rochford, Mark’s Pointless co-host), still working out our relationship. 

And I’m trying to work out dynamics with the various contestants as they come through, trying to spark something with them… 

SH: Yes, it certainly sounds like you had challenges coming at you from every side… How was your health, Mark? Were you okay with all of this?

MH: It was not great, not great. 

SH: It must have required a lot of concentration and focus… and stamina! You have to have your foot on the accelerator for a lot of the time. 

MH: Yeah, exactly. And then there was the additional challenge, once the show was launched, of all of the Family Feud fans being so angry! (Pointless was the replacement for Family Feud, in the same time slot). And then there were all the other people watching it for the first time who hadn’t seen me before, and they’re judging me and they don’t like me… I was smart enough not to go on social media and read through it all… But I should stress that not that everyone was like that

SH: No of course, but it can’t be helpful. 

MH: Yeah. 

SH: Okay, so to change tack, what was the best part of having all that sudden national exposure? You’re in prime time, you’re on at 6 PM, on a commercial network, five nights a week…

MH: The best part was one event – one night – and I will cherish it forever.  My dream, as a big TV buff, had always been to go to the Logies. That’s all I ever wanted. And I know that everyone has a love-hate relationship with the Logies (as do I), but I generally have a real affection for it. So getting to go to that, and being at the Channel 10 table with Sandra Sully and Natarsha Belling where Sandra’s running a sweep on who we think will win the Gold Logie that night… You know, we each put in $20 and fill out a little card…

SH: Oh yeah, that sounds like fun. 

MH: Yeah, and I got to meet Shaun (Micallef)! I’d never met Shaun before, and like so many people of my generation, I’d grown up watching Shaun and admiring him. He was lovely, and I got a photo with him… Just hobnobbing and walking the red carpet and doing the photo wall (see the pic at the top of this post!) And then going to the after party and dancing till 3 a.m…. It was an absolute delight. So if nothing else, I achieved my dream there! I’d say that was probably the highlight of the whole adventure.

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Ah yes, The Logies; AustralianTelevision’sNightOfNightsWhenTheBrightestClichesComeOutToShine! I have more than a passing acquaintance with them myself, and yes, it is a super fun night.

But I digress. Next time, Mark talks about the other biggest highlight of hosting Pointless, some of the lowlights, and a part of the whole process that really took him by surprise.

Until then, please stay safe, please stay healthy and please stay home.

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Mark Humphries – Part VII

Hello and welcome. Hope you’re staying safe, staying healthy and staying home.

When we left off last week, Mark had just been told he’d scored the Pointless hosting gig, and that he had just three days until the new job started!

And what a job it was…

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SH: From what I can gather, Pointless had a very gruelling schedule. I think you recorded 184 episodes over 2 seasons? 

MH: That’s right. 

SH: Once that juggernaut was up and running – and as you’ve said, you didn’t have much time to prepare – what was it like being in the middle of all that, so suddenly and so quickly?

MH: The upside was that I didn’t have time to be nervous, because it was all so quick! I did my last sketch at SBS on Monday and then I arrived at Channel 10 on Tuesday morning. And someone said to me “It’s not normally like this. Normally, we would have a month of pre-production; we’ve got a week and a half.” It was like “we’re just going to have to condense everything. We need to start measuring you for suits now.” And I’m like “Oh, okay,” and they measured me up and then wardrobe people went off and bought a bunch of suits, and I met the publicity people, who were asking me for quotes for the press release. I asked them if I could go away and write some funny lines, because I really don’t like generic press releases… “I’m excited to be here!” Of course you are – everyone’s excited to be doing stuff. So I went away with Andrew (Rochford, Mark’s Pointless co-host) and we wrote some gags, which was a really good thing to do. It gave us a chance to workshop and get to know each other a bit better. And then it was straight into rehearsals.

And during these rehearsals there was obviously a whole bunch of stuff that needed to be sorted – lighting, cameras, different ways of lighting the set, what does my complexion look like, which suits work best; all these technical elements – BUT the gameplay was different during that week and a half of rehearsals. The actual format of the game was different to what they ultimately settled on for filming, the following week. When we started, I think there might have even been an additional round.

We did a bunch of dummy episodes; firstly with production staff playing the roles of contestants, then we had some fake contestants come in to play the game, some of whom later went on to become real contestants. And one of the difficulties that we found very quickly was that the UK version has a running time of about 42 minutes and our version needed to fit into a commercial half hour (which is 22 minutes). I remember after one of the early rehearsal episodes, they said “Okay, we’ve just cut an episode together and this ’22 minute episode’ goes for 40 minutes!” So in addition to trying to get my head around the logistics of hosting a show, I was also hosting a show that was constantly changing in front of me. That was sort of alarming.

So everything was really rushed – I got the impression they just had struggled to cast the roles… (LAUGHING) I’d be quite comfortable saying I imagine the people they wanted originally weren’t available!

SH: Oh, come on now! 

MH: I just mean that it seemed we were cast quite late in the process. So by the time we started filming, a week later, I was still finding my feet. I haven’t gone back and watched the pilot – and I don’t think I ever will – but I know that there’s stuff in the pilot that I would ultimately stop doing. 

SH: Right. 

MH: Because I think early on, (LAUGHING) I made things sort of needlessly dramatic at some points. And I think once you’re comfortable with hosting, you can just sort of relax. But in the early episodes I was so high-energy and so nervous that it came through in ways that were probably quite annoying.

SH: This all sounds like the exact opposite of your earlier TV work, where you say you have these shows of short duration which weren’t subject to much scrutiny, which gave you plenty of time to find your feet and hone your craft, This whole experience sounds diametrically opposed to that. 

MH: I had never thought of that. that is 100% right. you’re spot on there. That’s exactly what happened – it was a completely different experience. 

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Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! Next week, Mark talks about reaching the end of that brief pre-production period, and being thrust into the spotlight, as he finds himself suddenly hosting a prime time game show, on national television, five nights a week. He also gives us a unique glimpse behind the scenes, as we discuss all the various demands placed on someone in that position….

Until then, then!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Mark Humphries – Part VI

Hello and welcome back.

The Story So Far… 

Mark’s already done one marathon audition (three to four hours) for the hosting role on Pointless. The producers have been impressed, and they’ve called him back for a second audition, on the show’s actual set, where they’ll test how he works with two different co-hosts. The first of these two potential co-hosts is a comedian who Mark was paired with in the earlier audition. Now read on…

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MH: I just had to be finished in time to get to the ABC by 8:00. So I did the audition with this comedian, and then they brought in Dr Andrew Rochford, whom I had never met. Because of my time constraints, we only could get through two rounds of the game in the audition; we didn’t even get to do a full episode. So we did the two rounds and I had to race out the door and I’m thinking ‘I’m never going to see any of these people again’… I’m making a fairly hasty exit, and as I’m walking down the corridor I hear a sad little voice call out “… Bye!” And it was Andrew, who I somehow hadn’t said goodbye to! “Oh I’m sorry!” I said. “Good luck, thank you, all the best for the future…”  And that was that. So Andrew and I had very little time together during the Chemistry Tests. But I guess they saw something there, even from just those two rounds. Because he has a very different energy to me; he’s obviously very intelligent, and has lots of information that he can provide but I think he’s a good contrast to me, in that I’m generally quite light… and Andrew’s a lot blokier than I am. I’m kind of dancing around the set, and he’s sitting there in his three-piece suit, channelling Dwayne Johnson in Ballers. 

SH: (LAUGHING) Oh, okay! And they obviously must have liked all of that… because they gave you both the gig! Do you remember where you were and how you felt when you got the news?

MH: Yes! I was on a train and I was absolutely stunned, I was amazed! I couldn’t believe it, and I assumed that I was being offered the sitting down role, because I’d done most of my auditions in that role, and that’s who I imagined I’d be on the show. But they said “No, no, no – we want you to be the standing up host!” And I was quite taken aback by that, quite startled. But not in a bad way, just because that was not the way I’d imagined it would go. And of course I said “Sure! Okay! Whatever you want!” and then they told me that the other role – the other person – was Andrew Rochford. And again, that’s not a reflection on Andrew, it’s just that we had so little time together. 

SH: Yes, and you’d had to leave the audition early, to get to work!

MH: And then I called my wife, and my parents, and my best friend – there were a few fun phone calls – but generally I kept it to myself. And then of course I had to tell my boss at SBS. Even though I’d already quit. It was a bizarre coincidence; I was coming up to my last week at SBS when all of this happened. And I needed to ask him to make Monday my last day because this whole thing was so rushed; they told me on Friday that I’d got the gig… and then they said “And we require you in at Channel 10 on Tuesday”!

SH: Wow, really? 

MH: Yeah! And my boss was very understanding and accommodating, which doesn’t always happen… so I’m grateful to him for that. He made Monday my last day in at SBS. 

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Whoa, what a rapid turnaround! Tune in next week, to find out all about Mark’s first week on the job, where he really hit the ground running, and what happened when the show premiered, so very soon after that…

Until next Tuesday… stay safe, my friends, stay healthy and STAY AT HOMEBe kind to others and please be kind to yourself.

Cheers,

Stephen 

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Mark Humphries – Part V

Hello, and welcome back!

When we left off last week, Mark had just begun his first audition for Pointless, and was generally feeling pretty philosophical about the whole thing…

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MH: I thought ‘this will be a great story to tell one day; that I auditioned to be a quiz show host’. I had nothing to lose, so I was just extremely loose and I think that helped. They tested me with a couple of different people. They had said that the audition was supposed to go for about an hour… but they kept me back there for three or four hours.

SH: Great! 

MH: Yeah, so I thought “that’s a good sign.” 

SH: That’s a very good sign! 

MH: But even though they did that, in my head I was just still helping them out with logistics, or helping them solve a few other problems. At the end of it, I was just shaking people’s hands and saying “Thank you, I’m never going to see you again, but it’s been lovely!” I do remember that they had various members of the production staff being contestants for the purposes of the audition. One of them was named Paul, and at one stage, he answered a question about the musical Les Miserables. And I could tell – being a fan of musical theatre myself – that there was a lot of knowledge behind the answer that he gave… and as I was leaving, I said to him “Hey Paul, can we be friends?”  (LAUGHING)… and we did! We subsequently became Facebook friends, and since then, have gone to a number of musicals together! And that was my first audition! 

SH: And do you know how many other people they were seeing for the role of the host and for the role of the co-host?

MH: I was only conscious of two other people. When I auditioned, they didn’t tell me who else was going for it. 

SH: Fair enough.

MH: I knew (newsreader) Chris Bath was in the mix but that was only by reading about it on TV Tonight. But I think there was some issue with the ABC that meant she couldn’t do it. But at the time, I had no special knowledge about who was being approached. Subsequently, there have been about five people who have said to me “I was approached about that!” 

SH: Now Mark, I wanted to ask you about ‘Chemistry Tests’…. they’re something that a lot of our visitors here might not know about. I wonder, could you explain what a Chemistry Test is? And did you do many Chemistry Tests with other potential co-hosts, before they decided on the combination of you and Andrew?

MH: A Chemistry Test is essentially a screen test where they see if you and the other presenter are able to hit it off; to see what sort of dynamic you have together and what your banter is like between each other. So they’re putting two people together to find out… Are they too similar? Are they too different? Are they affectionate or combative? Do they cancel each other out? Are they able to build on what the other person says and create a little bit of magic?

And yes; when I did these Chemistry Tests, one of them was with a comedian, so that was two comedy people thrown together… 

SH: I see. 

MH: … And I thought we had a really good rapport, and that there was a nice, light fun energy to that. I also auditioned with someone who’d been a quiz show champion, so he was extremely knowledgeable. But with the dynamic there, a lot of the time it was me laughing at what he was saying because he was very, very entertaining. He was very verbose, though, so it was quite difficult to get a back-and-forth going, because he would tend to go on quite a long run. But I still found working with him very entertaining, very amusing. So they were the two at my first audition, but then I got a callback… and Channel 10 said “We would like to see you on the show’s actual set”. And in that second audition, I did two more Chemistry Tests, and one of them with was with the comedian who I’d previously auditioned with. 

SH: Right.

MH: But I was on a deadline; at that time, I was doing a weekly segment on the ABC and I had to be there at 8:00. And as potentially as rewarding as this audition could be, it was still an unpaid audition! And so at the time, when it came down to what was more important, the paid gig at the ABC took priority ….

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WILL Mark have to cut the audition short?

WILL the producers judge him harshly for this?

IS Mark about to compromise his chances of scoring one of THE BIGGEST GIGS OF HIS CAREER?

Well, no.

But if you’re interested in learning all the finer details, be sure to check back here next Tuesday.

Until then, then!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Mark Humphries – Part IV

Hello and welcome to the latest instalment of my interview with Pointless host Mark Humphries, and this week, we get into the nitty-gritty of how he came to be in that position….

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SH: In early 2018, the rumours started that an Australian version of the English game show Pointless might be in the works. Can you tell us about your first learning of it, and what happened next?

MH: Sure. Well, back in 2016, I used to watch the UK version of Pointless when it was shown on the ABC and I loved it; I just thought it was the most clever concept for a quiz show. And I found myself one day tweeting ”If they ever make an Australian version of Pointless, I would love to host it.” Around the same time, I went on an ABC radio show called The TV Club where you could recommend a show that you enjoy, and of course I recommended Pointless. And I said on air “if they ever make an Australian version of Pointless, I would love to host it”. Then… fast forward to 2018, and I read on TV Tonight that Channel 10 and Endemol Shine are going to make an Australian version of Pointless. And then I thought – well, I don’t really know what I was thinking – but I remembered my earlier tweet and so I retweeted myself, saying “Hey, the offer still stands @Channel10 @endemolshineAU.”

It was tongue-in-cheek; I knew full well that these accounts are moderated by people, and it’s not like the Executive Producer of the show is looking at the Channel 10 Twitter account. I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere…. but by the same token, I just thought I’d put it out there and see if it would fly with the people who were following me. And there were quite a lot of responses that were really positive; “Yeah, that’s a great idea!”and so on. And then maybe two weeks later I was in at work at SBS, and I got a message saying “Someone from Gogglebox wants to talk to you.” And I thought ‘Gogglebox? That’s a bit weird; why would someone from Gogglebox want to talk to me?’ And then I thought ‘Hang on – who makes Gogglebox?’ So I looked it up, and it was Endemol Shine (the production company who would soon be making Pointless)! I rang the number and it was David McDonald (the director of Gogglebox and Pointless) who ‘d called me. He said “I said I was from Gogglebox because I didn’t want to raise any flags with your employer… but I’ve got this tweet here saying that you’d be interested in hosting an Australian version of Pointless. Were you being serious there or satirical?” And I said “Oh no, I was being very serious”, and then we chatted for about 10 minutes about the show and I consciously referred to a number of things about the show, and elements in it, to let him know what a big fan I was…

SH: That you knew it inside and out…?

MH: Yes. And then he said “Would you be interested in coming in for an audition?”

And I said “Yes, but my one condition is that I must have a laptop on the desk that serves no purpose, and that is not switched on. Or perhaps even plugged in.”

And he said “Yes! Exactly!”… which may seem like a small thing, but I reckon that a lot of people who would have been approached for that show wouldn’t have seen it before and I think that knowing details like that helped to show how keen I was. The other condition I had was that I wanted the prize money to be really, really low; almost offensively low. And I think that kind of stuff helped them to think ‘Okay, this guy knows what we’re dealing with here’. 

SH: You’re in tune with the spirit of the thing.

MH: Yeah, and I think that also helped when we came to do the initial audition, which was in a hotel in a sort of conference room. There was a very makeshift set with butcher’s paper and a wheel that had numbers on it. And because I knew the show quite well, I was able to be quite relaxed for the process – I wasn’t stopping and saying “oh what happens here?” And furthermore, because I knew I had no chance of getting the gig – because I was nobody; I was just making these little 2-minute satirical sketches over on SBS’s secondary digital channel – I was able to be really relaxed.

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WILL Mark nail the audition?

WILL he get the big gig?

And WILL he be awarded the role of the show’s host, or its co-host?

Be sure to tune in next week, Dear Reader, to discover the answers to all these questions, even though you already know them. Duh.

In other news, Mark’s appearance in the GRAND FINAL of Celebrity Mastermind went to air on Saturday, and he performed….. well, I don’t want to spoil the result for you, just in case you haven’t seen it, and want to catch up on it right now, at SBS On Demand…

Suffice it to say, all of us here at HowToWinGameShows.com (i.e: me) offer our (that is, my) most heartfelt congratulations or commiserations to you, Mark; whichever are more appropriate.

And we’ll see you back here next Tuesday!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Mark Humphries – Part III

Welcome back.

When we left off last week, Mark was just about to tell me about his first experience as a game show contestant…

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MH: I was in Year Six, so I must have been 11 years old. it was a show called Super 6 which was on Foxtel;  it was a kids’ game show.

* Here’s a sample of Super 6 that I found on YouTube. Unfortunately, it’s not Mark’s episode, but you get the idea..

MH: I obviously watched a lot of kids game shows as well. Including A*mazing, which I firmly believe should be brought back as an adult game show; I think it would be really smart of a network to pick up A*mazing and do an adult version capitalising on the generation who grew up on that because it was so beloved. And I know that (the show’s host) James Sherry did have a Facebook page a few years ago called ‘Bring Back A*mazing‘…. Sorry, I’m getting distracted. You can see how nerdy I am about this sort of stuff! 

SH: No, I love it! You’ve come to the right place! 

MH: So I was on this show called Super 6 which was hosted by Scott McRae who had been the host of Vidiot after Eden Gaha, if I’ve got my timeline correct… So my school submitted some entries and I got through. I was on a team of six and I had to do a quiz round which was on the buzzer. I won my round, which meant that another team member had to do a challenge to win 50 bonus points And her challenge was that she had to eat SAO biscuits and then whistle, within 45 seconds 

SH: Which is very difficult, because they’re so dry…. 

MH: … And she didn’t go so well so we didn’t win. But I do remember that each episode had a Celebrity Umpire. And for our episode, the Celebrity Umpire was ‘Vulcan’ from Gladiators!

SH: Wow! 

MH: Which was thrilling and terrifying. Because we were told not to speak during the recording and for some reason I started up a conversation with one of my teammates… and ‘Vulcan’ glared at me, put his finger to his lips and gave me the death stare, as if to say “SHUT UP!” That shook me to my 11 year old core.

SH: (LAUGHING) Yeah, that would have you waking up screaming.  

MH: (LAUGHING) Yeah. So that was my experience of quiz shows, although I was in the audience for a taping of Randling. But I guess I watched pretty much everything that was in the genre that was on television, now that I think about it. Win Roy & HG’s Money…

SH: Which I think was based on Win Ben Stein’s Money, wasn’t it?

 MH: Yes it was.

SH: So you’re a long time game show fan – apart from your appearance on Super 6, were you ever attempted to be a game show contestant again?

MH: Not really; I’m very interested in the things that I’m interested in, but I don’t have a great broad general knowledge. BUT… I am about to go and do an episode as a contestant on Celebrity Mastermind. 

SH: Oh, fantastic!

MH: So I will hopefully be good at my chosen topic, but once it opens up to general knowledge I will, no doubt, crash and burn. 

SH: That’s the spirit.

MH: (LAUGHING) Yeah! 

SH: What’s your special subject? 

MH: ‘The musicals of Stephen Sondheim from 1957 – 1987’.

SH: Wow – 30 years!

MH: Yes, which is pretty much the bulk of his output. But I did want to narrow it down a bit to make it easier for the question writers. But I’m pretty happy to be asked anything about him. 

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And, as luck would have it, Mark’s episode of Celebrity Mastermind actually just aired here in Australia on Saturday (14/03), and (NOT EXACTLY A SPOILER ALERT) let’s just say the show hasn’t seen the last of him… 

In case you missed it, you can watch it right now, right here, on SBS On Demand. 

See you next week!

Seven years old today!

Well, here we are at the seven year mark!

When I nervously started HowToWinGameShows.com, way back in 2013, I really wasn’t sure if there would be enough material on this subject to sustain a blog like this for any reasonable length of time. As it turns out, I kinda think there has been.

I’ve done 327 posts over the past seven years (this being my 328th), and interviewed loads of game show contestants, game show winners, game show producers, question writers… and hosts! I hope you’ve managed to glean some useful information from our discussions.

I’ve reviewed various books and TV shows (there are more of these reviews to come!), and I’ve related many behind-the-scenes experiences from the various game shows I’ve worked on. There are more of these on the way, too!

Along the way, I’ve written my first book – the cryptically titled How To Win Game Shows – and self-published it on Amazon. All of which was quite a learning curve in and of itself. As I’ve mentioned here before, a second HTWGS book is on the way, and my goal is to get it written and published by the end of the year.

In short, I guess what I’m trying to say is… yes, there is enough material on this subject to sustain a blog like this. And, much more importantly, there’s enough interest to sustain it….

Interest from you.

And for that, I’m very, very grateful.

So I’d like to sincerely thank you for your interest and for your support, and of course for your visits. I really, really appreciate it all, and will never take it for granted.

And now

In case you didn’t know, my current interview guest Mark Humphries will be competing in TONIGHT’s episode of Celebrity Mastermind, which you can watch on SBS, if you’re here in Australia. So why not tune in, and get behind Mark?

I know I will be – good luck, Mark! 

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Mark Humphries – Part II

That’s Mark on the left there, with his ‘Pointless’ co-host Andrew Rochford on the right.

Welcome to the second instalment of my interview with Mark Humphries. And when I left off last week, Mark and I were discussing how the relationship between TV shows and their audiences has changed; how, if you didn’t like a show back in the 90s, you weren’t able to just ring up the host and tell them so!

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SH: Yes, thinking about watching TV back then, it’s such a foreign idea, isn’t it? Not only to have the ability to provide that instant feedback… but to have the audacity and entitlement to want to provide – and not hesitate in providing – that instant feedback

MH: Yeah! But I came to accept that when you’re part of someone’s routine, and you are in their home… you are, weirdly, a very distant family member; you’re part of the furniture. And people get familiar with certain people and then that’s taken away from them. I do get it. But I also think there’s something to be said for reining in your rage, and targeting the right people… 

SH: Yes – sometimes ideas should just remain ideas. 

MH: (LAUGHING) There should be a cooling off period with tweets! Okay, so you’ve written a tweet, now maybe walk away for 10 minutes, have a think about it, and if you still want to send it… then go for it! 

SH: Speaking of ‘being part of the furniture’, when you were growing up, were there game shows that you loved and always tuned into?

SH: Absolutely. I loved $ale of the Century. I used to watch John Burgess on Wheel of Fortune, and I clearly remember when John stopped hosting it and it was taken over by Tony Barber. And I remember I also used to watch Tony on Australian Jeopardy, which I really enjoyed. But speaking of John Burgess, I remember a couple of other milestones; firstly of course when he went and started doing Catch Phrase and changed from being known as “Baby John Burgess” to being known as “Burgo”… and also he shaved off his moustache. Monumental changes! I remember it being quite earth-shattering at the time. And I used to watch Burgo’s Catch Phrase, and it was quite clear that they ran out of actual catchphrases after about four nights. And it ended up just being “objects” or “words” or “things you might say”. And I also watched Burgo’s Pass The Buck

SH: Pass The Buck? I’d forgotten that one. That it didn’t last very long, did it?

MH: I think that only lasted a season or so. I also had very fond memories of (host) Rob Brough’s curls on Family Feud…

These are the curls Mark’s referring to here.

Then later of course it was hosted by John Deeks. I used to love Larry on The Price Is Right… Now that I think about it, I watched a heck of a lot of game shows!

SH: Yeah, you did!

MH: … and The Weakest Link, Shafted with Red Symons – 

SH: You watched Shafted? Really?

MH: (LAUGHING) Yes, I watched Shafted. I was actually speaking about Shafted yesterday, after not having spoken about it for years. That show would just not fly today. Did you watch it? Do you remember it at all? 

SH: Watch it? I wrote it!

MH: What? 

SH: Yes, yes – I worked on Shafted for the ENTIRE six weeks. That was an early job; writing questions and little gags for Red. There will be a blog post about that whole adventure here at a later date, but I haven’t got around to writing it yet. But I must confess, I’m surprised that anybody remembers Shafted. 

MH: Oh, I remember it well, and one of the things that stood out about it was that I don’t think you could do that show today, because of the element of betrayal that occurs in the final round. I think people would go absolutely ape**** on social media, and would find the contestants and track them down… there’d be so much online bullying of anyone who had lied in that final section. I mean, I thought it was a great concept, and also quite anxiety-inducing. I felt quite sick each time someone shafted another person. But I just think that today people would be absolutely destroyed by the response to it.

SH: Mm, fair point.

MH: And I was actually on a quiz show – 

SH: Oh, brilliant – that was my next question!

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… But you’ll have to wait until next week to hear the answer!

I was just about to write “Sorry for being such a tease”… but then I thought ‘Nah’; you know the drill; that’s just what I do here.

Until then, remember that you can follow Mark on Twitter. 

… Oh, and you can follow me on Twitter too, if you feel like it.

Until next week, then!

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Mark Humphries – Part I

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… 

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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.

SH: Economical!

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.

SH: Great!

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!

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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! 

O Canada! O Game Shows!

Something a little bit different this week. I just wanted to draw your attention to an interesting new six-part documentary series all about – you guessed it – Canadian game shows! It’s called The Search For Canada’s Game Shows, and you can watch all six 22-minute episodes right here, on the Search For Canada’s Game Shows website. (www.CanadasGameShows.com)

It’s a really engaging and amusing series, with loads of archival footage, and interviews from some of the major players in the Canadian game show… erm… game. 

In fact, one of the people they interviewed for the series is our old friend and occasional guest blogger Mr Ryan Vickers! And I’m happy to say that if all goes well, he’ll be sharing the details of his involvement here in his next guest post, in the not-too-distant future.

It’s a well made series, and while it’s a great primer on game shows in that part of the world, there are lots of interesting tidbits in there about the genre in general. 

So there you have it – this week’s recommendation: The Search For Canada’s Game Shows; all four episodes streaming now, at www.CanadasGameShows.com

You’re welcome!