SH: Andy, thanks very much for speaking to me today.
AZ: A pleasure!
SH: What inspired you to try out for The Chase: Australia? Had you been interested in quizzing and game shows for a long time?
AZ: I’m a huge fan of trivia and quiz shows in general, and will more or less watch any quiz format available to me, even down to asking my wife to read me the quiz from the paper. I just really, really enjoy seeing if I know stuff, and then seeing if I can remember stuff. I certainly made it my business as a young kid to watch Sale of the Century whenever I could, which was pretty much every night, and was really excited to see a quiz show that relied on buzzer speed, question strategy and general knowledge than pure luck – after a hair-splitting, one question loss in the ‘fast money’ on Million Dollar Minute I was keen to have another serious crack at winning some cash, too!
SH: Can you talk us through the audition / interview process for The Chase: Australia?
AZ: From memory it was all pretty straightforward. I’d seen the ‘quiz show’ ads on air during the UK Chase screenings, and could tell – given it was an ITV studios production and by the style of the commercial – that it would likely be for The Chase: Australia, and so I went to the website to fill out the form. A short time later they were in touch on the phone for a quick chat and a short quiz – I felt confident I’d done OK, but they never tell you how you go in the audition quizzes! After that, we were asked to come in and meet in a group for a bigger audition, some talking to camera prep and a quiz game. At that point it was simply a waiting game to see if we’d get the call up…
SH: How long was it between the audition day and getting THE CALL that you’d been selected to go on the show?
AZ: I can’t quite remember, but it was perhaps a week or so. They said I’d be called up with dates soon after. A little later I was informed that I’d been chosen to take part in a special ‘Cup Day’ episode, which would be a two player version and would run for 30 minutes instead of the usual 60. This struck me as a GREAT idea, as I felt the odds would be more in my favour, but I can’t really say exactly why… We filmed my episode in the middle of September, and it aired November 2.
SH: What did you do by way of preparation for going on the show?
So yesterday afternoon, I was lucky enough to pop up on Hamish & Andy’s afternoon radio show, to talk about game shows, how to win them, and of course my eBook How To Win Game Shows. But if you know Hamish & Andy, you’d know that they don’t tend to do run-of-the-mill, ordinary interviews. They’re always after ways of making things a little more quirky, a little more competitive, a little more fun…
When we left off last week, Blair was outlining all the amazing travel opportunities that his win on Temptation had made possible. But, as you’ll see, his competitive streak is still alive and well. Once a trivia buff, always a trivia buff…..
BM: These experiences that I’ve had, I am really grateful for them. I regularly go to a weekly pub trivia – that has been running for over 20 years – that has a core group of about eight teams who regularly turn up, and I play as a solo team. It is a little bit of my own internal fight. It is me versus 40 other people.
SH: You’d give them a run for their money, I would think! What advice would you give to someone wanting to go on a quiz show?
BM: Enjoy the experience. Even if it is 20 minutes only on television, you’ve got an experience that millions of people in Australia would love to have, but will never have the guts to do it. Also knowing that you have already got past the selection process. You have already won in some way. If you want to prepare for it, get your mind going. My definition of intelligence is having an open mind, not a vacant mind. Because too many people in our contemporary society have vacant minds that get filled up with whatever garbage is pushed at them. Whether it’s a political spin line about being afraid of a ragtag bunch of religious fundamentalists who are fighting in a far off country who have no direct influence on this country, or who is cooking the best Crème Brulee under completely artificial conditions, whether sport is the absolute be-all and end-all… which I think is ridiculous. I think in a well-rounded life, sporting prowess or appreciation of sport is as valuable as the appreciation of music, of literature, of arts, of science, of faith, of politics. I think you have to have a balance. When I was in Ireland, I heard an Irishman mutter “I’ve always believed in the saying ‘everything in moderation’… including moderation.”
SH: (LAUGHS) That’s good! I like that.
BM: So that, to me, is the success of it. If your mind is opened and you can read widely and develop a sense of the curious. You want to be able to just keep your mind fresh. The internet is a fantastic gift, that you can sit there and just start WWILFing on! (“WWILF” is an expression Blair mentioned earlier. It stands for ‘What Was I Looking For?’ – SH) Get on and go round and round and just look for stuff….. and always back yourself. If you believe you can do it, then you are half way there. When Andrew Skarbec won the million on Million Dollar Minute… I really admired his fortitude to keep going.
SH: Yeah, that’s gutsy.
BM: I know that pressure. When you think that you’re filming five episodes in a day… by the middle of the afternoon, everyone’s getting tired and it is a special kind of stamina. I really appreciate the way people are able to do that. Hey, it’s been lovely to talk to you, Stephen.
SH: Oh, my pleasure, Blair. Thank you so much again.
There you have it. I’d like to thank Blair again for this great chat, and for giving so generously of his time. If you’re interested to see what Blair’s up to these days, you can follow him on Twitter, at @BlairmartinSEE, or check his website at www.seentertainment.com.au.
And speaking of websites*, here’s another one: howtowingameshows.com/products. That’s where you can get my eBook How To Win Game Shows, still at the price of $19.99 AUD.
*This has been another in my series of patented Ludicrously-Tangential-eBook-Plugs-At-The-End-Of-My-Weekly-Post, for your enjoyment and edification. I thank you.
Next week on www.howtowingameshows.com, my first book review in… well, quite a while. Until then!
In 2007, actor Blair Martin completed an incredible 8-night winning streak on the Australian game show Temptation, taking home a prize pool worth over $600,000 for his efforts. Over those eight nights – which were recorded over two separate sessions, two weeks apart – I wondered if Blair’s resolve to go “all the way” had ever wavered.
So I asked him.
BM: In my run on Temptation, Stephen, there was never really ever a thought of “No, no, no”. Even that second episode, the near-death experience. And I’m so glad that was at the end of the taping day because it allowed me to go away for two weeks and go back to my normal life. And I went back two weeks later and Jess (the contestant co-ordinator) asked me if I’d told anyone and I said “no, no, I signed an agreement”. And she looked at me and went “that meant not telling any of your journo mates”.
“I’m in the union with them – do you reckon I’m gonna tell them anything?” (LAUGHS)
I went “no, you’ve asked me to do something, and that’s it”. The closest I ever came to telling anyone? At the time in 2007, I had two cats and my next door neighbour would often look after them when I was gone. I was literally walking down the corridor of Brisbane airport to the departure gate on Sunday night and I rang and I said “I have to get back to Melbourne and I am on my way now. Would you mind looking after the boys when I am gone?” And she was like “yeah, sure… Melbourne?” And I went “Yeah, see you later!”
Even on Jeopardy!, my then-housemate made a comment about one of the episodes of Jeopardy! and said “the woman on tonight seems really good”. She won some smallish amount of money, and I just turned to him and said “she’s a f*****g amateur”. And he looked at me and said “You’re blitzing them, aren’t you?” And I just went “I can’t say anything”.
My favourite quote of Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart in the original House of Cards is “You might very well think that I couldn’t possibly comment”.
SH: (LAUGHS) Very good. The Temptation run; you were on for 8 nights, a grand total of $603,002 in cash and prizes. How did that make a difference in your life?
BM: A huge amount of difference. It allowed me to expand the work that I was doing as a performer. I could do things that I wasn’t able to do before, and the biggest one was travel. I had not ever been able to cross the equator and go to Europe, where I’d always wanted to go. A couple of years after Temptation, I went there quite a number of times and it was the best experience. I absolutely adore travelling. I love going to other places, because of the opportunity to see the differences – and the similarities – in all of the cultures.
I really thank Temptation for allowing me to realise my dreams. It’s an experience that financially helped an awful lot for a few years and it gave me freedom to explore things that I would have never had the opportunity to do and that exploration of who I am is particularly great. There’s a number of things that certainly lead on to being who you are. When you get put on the cover of a magazine declaring you to be one of ‘The 25 LGBT People To Watch In 2015’, you do realise that your life is a little bit different…
Sometimes you forget, because as I grew up, I was afraid to big-note myself; that great Australian expression; “Stop big-noting yourself”. Now I had heard that and I don’t decry my parents for saying it, because it was part of the culture, and it was a good thing to know. In one way, it’s like ‘just be careful that you don’t over-aggrandize yourself, because you don’t know what that consequence could be.’
The problem was that when you’re a sensitive child, it can impact on a child’s sense of self-worth and then you spend a lot of time thinking ‘I am really not very good, am I?’ And trying to do something which is good I will get criticized or punished for it. People look at me now in a way of saying “Oh my god, you always look so heroic”. To me there is a sense of wanting to be useful. Here is the Gandhi idea of “be the change you wish to see”, or Mandela’s ”It’s only impossible until it is done.”
SH: Blair, I wonder if that is a particularly Australian thing. I was brought up with a bit of that as well; “Yes, yes, acting’s all very fine and good as a hobby, but as a career? You’ve got to have something to fall back on”. All these beliefs we’re indoctrinated with, all about our limits, our limitations. When you step outside that, and dare to ask the question “Well, what if there weren’t limits?”, amazing things can happen. And they do – they happen every day.
And that’s where I’d like to leave it today, on that boldly positive note. And it is something I really do believe, by the way. From my own personal experience, there have been so many times in my life where I’ve been surprised at what I’ve been capable of achieving, simply by having the bravery / belief / stupidity to ‘Step Off The Edge’.
I highly recommend it. If the opportunity presents itself, I challenge you to ‘Step Off The Edge’ at least once this coming week. Find something you’re not sure you could manage, but that you’d like to do… and take that Leap of Faith in yourself. What’s the worst that could happen?
Just like I’m positive that there are still stocks of my very first eBook How To Win Game Shows, available right here… still at the introductory price of just AU$19.99 !
This has been an unpaid announcement as part of a series of ludicrously tangential eBook plugs at the end of my weekly post.
Written and authorised by S. Hall, Melbourne, Australia.
As this antepenultimate instalment of my Blair Martin interview begins, we spend some time chatting about how to improve your general knowledge. It’s no surprise that game shows in general – and quiz shows in particular – tend to be won by contestants with above average general knowledge. But how do you get an above average general knowledge? How do you bump your general knowledge up to that level? Here are Blair’s thoughts.
BM: At the time of Temptation, some of the press I did afterwards, I was asked about the storage of knowledge and how you do it. I said there’s been a term coined: “WWILF”, which stands for “What Was I Looking For?” You know on the internet where you go on to do something, and then you start getting dragged off into other areas? And I said “I’ve now got an answer for what I do with these things”. That’s how I get all these fascinating facts. I’ll go and look for something and then another something will drag me off and that branches off to something else. I am endlessly fascinated by facts.
SH: It pays to be naturally curious, I think.
BM: To be genuinely interested in things. There are only a few subjects that can completely blank me and I couldn’t be interested in them if you paid me… but I am sure if you paid me I could probably do something! (LAUGHS)
SH: Muster up some degree of interest, yes! On Temptation did you have an overarching strategy? Were you thinking “I’m going to go as far as I can, come hell or high water”? Or was there a cut-off point where you thought “oh, I’ll be happy with that”?
BM: I don’t think so because I was actually filmed over three days. I think the real horror would be sitting on seven wins and then having to come back for the next taping block two weeks later. So you’d have two whole weeks of hanging on tenterhooks; I just had overnight. (Before the final show) the Exec Producer said to me, “How did you sleep last night?” I said, “Not really.” She said “Me neither. We haven’t had a win since Tracy (Korsten, some seven months earlier)”. They were kind of hanging for someone and they were all a bit “we really hope you get there”, and I said “Oh, we’ll see what happens”. I don’t think there was any real desire to retire at any point, because honestly I don’t think there were any of the prizes, apart from the first night prize (a home entertainment system) – which I am sitting in front of at the moment – or the second night prize (a lounge suite) – which I am actually sitting on… Oh, there was a motorbike, but I thought “I can’t take the motorbike, because my father used to be a motorcyclist and when he started dating my mother in the fifties, my mother’s parents told him ‘you can only keep dating our daughter if you stop riding a motorbike!’” And that became another part of the contestant colour in that episode of Temptation.
In the end, it was like “Look. I’m here. I am enjoying this”. There is only one other close-ish episode, and that was that rather aggressive woman from Brisbane and honestly I enjoyed playing the Fast Money. And I loved being able to get to the end and see “can you get ten questions right in one minute?”
SH: That’s fun. People sort of forget that – It is challenging, but it is exciting, and fun. Even now, when I play just watching at home, against other shows like Million Dollar Minute – just playing along is a buzz; I love it.
BM: One of my early morning things is watching Eggheads. And there’s an endless sense of fascination in learning stuff.
SH: Yes, learning new things.
There you have it – CURIOSITY. While it’s a trait that may not be all that beneficial for cats, it’s absolutely essential for any aspiring quiz show winner.
And something else, my friends, that’s absolutely essential for any aspiring quiz show winner is… yep, you guessed it; my eBook How To Win Game Shows, which is available by clicking this hyperlink, and it’s still at the introductory price of $19.99 AU! And it’s even got a picture of cats in it, on Page 9.
In fact, it’s this picture;
Awww! Don’t they look …. well, a bit vapid and brainless, actually.
This week, Blair reveals a FANTASTIC tip for any aspiring Jeopardy! contestants! But first… When we left off last week, Blair had just narrowly won the second of his seven episodes of Temptation, by way of a tiebreaker; his opponent buzzed in early, and got the answer wrong…
BM: You can see the relief; “You’re kidding me. I’ve actually won this?” But when I came back two weeks later, I moved into that episode going “Right. You know what happened two weeks ago. We don’t do that again!” I was very hard with myself; “You focus!” and I am a big one for rituals and you will see that I always put my hands back on the buzzer the same way. And I am focused on Ed because we were told this during the briefing; it’s a good thing to learn to anticipate slightly, because Ed has got to still be talking, a word or two before he looks up and calls you by name. So even if you’re only half sure about it, there will still be a couple of words that can then pretty much clinch it, or not. So I learned to be focused on what was being said to me.
The same thing with Jeopardy! You can’t buzz in until the quizmaster’s finished reading the clue. What people don’t know is in the studio there is a light system. So there is a bank of red lights above the game board. When they are illuminated the circuit is open and you can buzz in. So what I would do with Jeopardy! – and they told us not to do this – they said “don’t try and read it off the monitor,” because everyone’s eyesight is different. I actually read off the monitor, so I had read the question or the clue before Tony Barber had finished saying it.
I had the buzzer in my hand and I would just go “yep, I know the answer to that” and I’d look to the top of the game board, wait until the lights come on, and then bang! Even if you anticipate it by a millisecond, you will lock yourself out. I think there was a lockout so you can’t keep buzzing and locking other people out. Yours is locked out and then someone else can get in. So during my time on Jeopardy!, people say “you were always so fast”. I was like “that’s how I did it”, because I was priming myself to see those lights. As soon I saw the light come on – light travels fast – bang!
Obviously on Temptation it was entirely different but it was listening to the question and going through. I can’t say how I know the answers to these things. What people did always say to me, Stephen, was “how do you know all that stuff?” I said “it is not a matter of knowing things, it is a matter of recall. It’s a matter of at that moment being able to recall the fact that is being asked for”. On one of the ‘Who Am I?’ questions, I buzzed in within 2 lines or something. You can even see on Ed’s face, like; “How the hell you know the answer to this now?” The answer was Natalie Portman. It is simple as a few weeks before I’d come across an article that mentioned that that’s not her birth name. She was actually born in Israel. Her father is a surgeon or something and had moved to New York for a career opportunity and she got into performing and she took her maternal grandmother’s name as her performing name, because her own surname was Herschlag or something like that. And that’s something where I went “that’s interesting. I wouldn’t have known that”. That was stored away in the memory bank.
SH: That real serendipity element comes into play time and time again, where it could be a fact that was learned a week ago – or something in passing that doesn’t seem like much at that time – but it all goes in there.
And that’s where we’ll have to leave it for this week. And speaking of “it all go(ing) in there“….
“All” the very best bits of HowToWinGameShows.com’s first two and a half years “have gone in” to my 208 page eBook How To Win Game Shows, which is available for download right here, still at the introductory price of $AU 19.99!
This has been the second in my series of deliberately – and ludicrously – tangential eBook-promoting blog post signoffs. Please check in again seven days from now, to see how I can twist the final few words of next week’s post to my own nefarious, self-promotional purposes….
In which my interview with Jeopardy! and Temptation champion Blair Martin continues, and in which we discuss mindgames (or would-be mindgames) of various competitors…
BM: In my run on Temptation, there was one woman from Brisbane who was particularly belligerent. I wouldn’t say passive-aggressive… but there was definite tension there and she was not going to let me beat her.
SH: Was she was doing a bit of trash talking, a bit of trying to psych you out?
BM: Because I only met her as soon as she walked on to the set, she just didn’t come across as being warm. She was in battle mode. But I did know that the young lady who I beat to become the champion, looked me at the end and said “that was really good. You go on and with the lot; I think you will”.
I felt obviously a little sad that I had beaten someone. She was the champ and I beat her but that’s the way the game is played. Someone has to win. You win fairly and you do it the best way possible.
SH: Absolutely. Watching your final episode, Ed Phillips said that during your run, in one game, you won by a tiebreaker. Was there a moment during your run that you thought “this is it, this could be the end of the road”? And was there ever a moment when you just thought “I’ll take this and go”?
BM: That episode with the tiebreaker is interesting, because it taught me what to do. It made me realise that I could lose this if I didn’t do what I had already done. That was the second episode. It was the last episode taped on the day and so I knew if I won that, I’d have to come back in two weeks. It was a very weird experience. In the studio audience were students from the high school of the chap who nearly beat me came from. The production staff said it’s a really weird vibe because normally, when we have school students in, they’re always going for the champion, cheering and carrying on. But as soon as we announced that “so-and-so went to such-and-such a high school, and we have students from that school in the audience today”, the whole vibe changed. Because the students were like “well, we really like the champ, but we’re cheering for the bloke who went to our school 20 or 30 years ago”. It was a weird backwards and forwards.
BM: You can actually see at one point, I blank, and you can see my eyelids flutter. It’s like that line in Star Wars: “I’m sorry sir, he seems to have picked up a slight flutter”.
Stephen Hall: (LAUGHS) I didn’t expect to hear a C-3PO quote today! Very good.
Hello, Happy New Year, and welcome to the third instalment of my interview with Jeopardy! champion, AND Temptation Grand Champion, Blair Martin. This week, Blair and I discuss his run on Temptation – the climax of which is pictured to the right – and he reveals a couple of Jeopardy! pearls of wisdom that the show’s production staff shared with him. If you remember, at the end of last week’s post, Blair had just fronted up to the Temptation audition in Brisbane.
Now, Dear Reader, read on….
BM: I got through and during the interview with one of the contestant co-ordinators, and she had also been the co-coordinator on The Einstein Factor; Karla Burt. She was lovely. And I know the co-ordinators of Jeopardy! back in ’93 when they were doing the auditions, after everyone had done the 50 questions, and when they were being marked, they’d play an episode of Jeopardy! for people to watch. They said to me after I taped my Jeopardy! episodes (which were in March and my first episode aired on April Fool’s Day!), they said to me “We are now playing your episode at the auditions”; while they’re marking the tests. “We just leave the room and say “we want you all to be like him’…”
BM: “… ‘Which is; you look in the camera, you interact with the host, you wager big amounts because that increases the interest from the audience, and you are fine”. (The show’s host) Tony Barber actually said in the production meeting between the two weeks “Blair’s an actor. It means that the lights are on and the camera is on and he is back on. When it’s not, he’s off”. When you are on those programs, to me… I treat it as a job. I have a job to do, which is look good, be presentable and make good television. That’s what we’re here to do.
SH: It is interesting what you say about the wagering and how it relates to Temptation, because I haven’t seen all of your run, but your final episode is on YouTube (and now also on the HowToWinGameShows Facebook page, here), which I watched in preparation for this. It seemed to me that your strategy was to buy in the Gift Shop and certainly not hold back, and you seemed to breeze through that final episode. The final score was 34 plays 25 plays 116. You seemed very relaxed. During your run on Temptation, did you often spend that big?