As my chat with Family Feud warm-up person, and studio audience host, Russell Fletcher continues this week, the subject turns to those unexpected moments…
SH: Do any moments spring to mind where contestants have really surprised you, either for better or for worse?
RF: Having done 470 episodes now, there are lots! People will say things that you don’t expect them to. Like they will make a salacious or rude comment, or a vaguely racist one. And you will just be going “I wasn’t expecting him to say that!” Fortunately it is not live to air and we will say, “Have another go”.
SH: Yes. “Any other thoughts, perhaps?”
RF: For instance, in the very first episode; “Name a yellow fruit”. BZZZ! “Orange?”
And I just go “Umm….” And because we have to have the contestants’ best interests at the core of what we do, we couldn’t put that in the episode. We just couldn’t do it.
SH: It’s a shame…
RF: It would be unconscionable. But what we did do was put it in all the promos for the show! But when it came to the day, it was edited out. And they did quite well. I can remember a really intelligent woman who was a doctor and the question was “Name an African animal you would see at a waterhole”. And “hippo” was up there, and “elephant” was up there, and she couldn’t think of any others and she said “platypus”. And that sort of thing happens all the time because people just don’t connect with the question, or they are having an out-of-body experience; they’re not in the moment, being able to think of different suggestions. The show is a combination of chat and answering questions and really surprising stuff comes out and sometimes it’s really touching, it is really nice. Just last week we had a Filipino family who were reunited after being separated for 33 years. They didn’t know each other existed because of parents’ divorces, etcetera. They had only been reunited three months earlier, they came and auditioned for the show and they got on the show and they’re still getting to know each other. That kind of stuff you just go “Whoa!” And there are people who’ve survived cancer and there’s people who have done amazing things, done stupid things, and they all open up to Grant, because they trust him and he gets them in a weak moment.
SH: But that stuff surely would be pre-screened, wouldn’t it? He’s not hearing this for the first time…
RF: No. What happens is when they come to the studio, before we start doing anything with them, they are filling out forms; “Name your brush with fame”, “Name something you’re really good at”, “Name something you are embarrassed about”; those kind of questions are on the form and so when they actually make it to the show the writers go through that stuff and then check in with the families who’ve arrived at the studio. And then they go back and check it and then they’ll have a little discussion with Grant and he’ll have it on a card, in little bullet points. That could be about sporting achievements, being able to put their whole fist in their mouths, it could be they’re really good at Irish dancing, they could have met someone incredibly famous… but it was just in a lift.
SH: But Grant would still get mileage out of even that; the anticlimactic nature of it…
RF: That’s right. Grant has become so good at taking the piss, in the nicest kind of way. That’s the kind of stuff I find out on the spot, and I love playing with that kind of stuff.
SH: Where it’s clear that the host isn’t laughing at them, but he is helping them to laugh at themselves.
RF: And sometimes we laugh at them…
SH: But they do too. That’s important. No one’s feelings are hurt.
RF: The whole thing is about reading people and being able to take it in the direction you think that’s going to work. And that goes for both the audition and the recordings.
Next time, Russell reveals more about the mechanics of the record day, and breaks down how the audition process actually works on an audition day. Again, all greatly useful stuff to know, if you’re thinking of auditioning for the show.
Until next Tuesday, then!