My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Mark Humphries – Part XI – The Conclusion

Hello and welcome to the final part of my EXCLUSIVE interview with Pointless host Mark Humphries.

Thank you for sticking with us all the way through this adventure, the first instalment of which went up here, way back on March 3rd. Seems like a lifetime ago now, doesn’t it?

Mark really opened up for this interview, and went in to all sorts of detail, and I’m very grateful to him for being so candid.

But you know what they say;

All good things…

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SH: So, after 184 episodes…. how did the show finally come to an end, and how did you process that? 

MH: I think I had a pretty good attitude about it; being a student of television, I think I had it in my head that eventually, everything ends. Nothing lasts; the things that have these long lives are the exceptions, not the rule. I reminded myself that this was just a kind of fluke; “You never expected to be hosting this show, so you’re just lucky that you even got this far.” I never, ever thought “Hey, I deserve this”; I never had any expectations that it’d be a long-running thing. I knew that the show was a risk. They did try to make it appeal to a wider audience. They changed it from the British version, but the concept of it still did require a little bit more thinking than Family Feud (the show’s predecessor in the same time slot). Family Feud very much rewards your first thought, whereas this – 

SH: Well, this flips that on its head, doesn’t it?

MH: Yeah. You need to dig deeper. And I do remember thinking “Are people going to be able to get their heads around this?” Obviously, I was aware of the ratings not being at the level that the network was hoping for…. That had been hanging over us for a long time, and so when it (the show’s end) finally did happen, I was not shocked. I was able to take that quite well. And I’d also been on a show before that had been cancelled, so I knew what that felt like. 

SH: Sure. 

MH: I was also lucky that by that stage I was already doing sketches for 7:30.

SH: Oh, that overlapped, did it?

MH: Yes, they overlapped. So I was fortunate in that sense; it wasn’t as though this ended and I didn’t know what the next job would be. It was a relief that when this ended, the following Wednesday I was back in at the ABC. So I think I took it all pretty well. The hardest part was that on the day that I found out, I was buying – 

SH: A diamond-encrusted Rolex?

MH: Close! I was buying a diamond ring for my wife, because it was our tenth wedding anniversary.

SH: Oh, wow!

MH: I’d never been able to afford a ring when we got married, so she’d had to wear my grandmother’s engagement ring. So I thought “I’m going to buy a proper diamond ring for my wife for our tenth anniversary,” and I committed to that and I was going to do that… and then I got the phone call (that the show had been cancelled) and I thought ‘Aaaargh! Can I still afford to buy this ring?’ But then I said to myself “Mark, you’ve committed to do this, you will make it work!” 

SH: Ah, you crazy old romantic!

MH: (LAUGHING) Yeah, yeah… But that was that,  and then I called Andrew (Rochford, Mark’s co-host) and we commiserated… actually I’m having lunch with Andrew today. 

SH: Oh, great!

MH: And I think we’ll probably commiserate again! But I think I took it fairly well… although I do miss it. But I think it helped that I went into it knowing that I was lucky, and that it probably wouldn’t last. 

SH: And that’s the perfect way to view it, I think. Was it last May that it finished up? 

MH: Yes, it finished last May, but we were told in February. Obviously it’s shot in advance, so it was back in February when they told us “Next week’s records will be the final week of records.”

In the end, I felt really proud of the show that we created. I think it evolved a lot, and I wish the show could have been judged on what it ultimately became. It was frustrating as well that we got cancelled before the second season started airing. Because in between the two seasons, we had a bunch of meetings where the producers said “Okay, we are going to look at every single element of the show and try and figure out how we can make it better. From the types of contestants we have on, to the types of questions that we ask, to anything we can do to make your jobs easier Mark and Andrew… Right across the board it was just “How can we make this the best show possible?” And I was really pleased with the changes that were made as a result of that process. But those episodes of the show didn’t air until after Channel 10 had already made the decision. So by then, they’d stopped advertising the show, and the little boost that I’d hoped we would get from that second season just didn’t come to pass. There’s a part of me that will always wonder what it would have been like if it was a weekly show at 9:00, and if it’d been allowed to run for the full hour, the way the British show does. That’s the other thing; we lost so much stuff on the cutting room floor; so much of the banter and the fun chat with the contestants. Because you just couldn’t fit it in; 22 minutes only allowed time for the gameplay and a tiny bit extra. 

SH: Yes, not much room for those extra little fun moments. Do you have any more game show related ambitions, Mark?

MH: You know, I kind of thought I didn’t… but I would say this; if they ever brought back Blankety Blanks…

SH: (LAUGHING) Yes, I’m listening!

MH: (LAUGHING) I’d certainly be interested in being part of that conversation! I really enjoyed hosting Pointless, but perhaps because of the way the show went, my name wouldn’t necessarily be in the running for future things! But I have thought “Well, what if there was a show that I could come up with?” 

SH: Yeah!

MH: I wouldn’t even necessarily have to host it… I just do like that kind of world; I like Game Show World! And yes, I guess I’d be very interested in revisiting it in the future in some way. And hey, if any network would like to consider rebooting Pointless…..

SH: Yes – just get in touch with me, and I’ll put you in touch with Mark!

MH: (LAUGHING) Well, I mean it worked last time! So let’s put the wish out there into the world – why not? 

SH: You bet! Mark Humphries, thank you so much for talking to me today. It’s really been fascinating and very personal too. Thank you for sharing so much and for sharing so freely – I really appreciate it.

MH: Oh well thank you for indulging me! And thank you for asking, because I love your website – I’m right in the target market for that! 

SH: Haha! Thank you!

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And there you have it. It was a real joy to speak to Mark, and I wish him all the very best in his future endeavours. To keep up to date with what he’s up to, you can follow him on Twitter.

We’ll see you back here next week…

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

Cheers,

Stephen.

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

Welcome to the penultimate instalment of my chat with Mark Humphries about his tenure hosting the game show Pointless. Last time, Mark told the story of how he was really emotionally affected by one contestant’s story during the taping of the show….

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MH: … And then in the very next episode, the winning contestants – two guys in their sixtieshad been lifelong friends, and as it turned out, one of them didn’t own a television. They had blitzed through the game, and when they got to the final round, the category was ‘Participants on Gogglebox Australia‘; we were looking for any of the couch people on Gogglebox Australia back then. I was thinking “Good luck with this – this guy doesn’t even own a television!”

So they gave their answer; “We’d like to go with these two names…”

I didn’t know any of the people on the show, so I said “Okay, away we go – let’s see if you’ve got a Pointless answer…”

And sure enough, they did! I was really surprised, and so I asked “How do you know that? You don’t even own a television!”

They said “Well, we actually went to school with that man – ”

“Oh right,” I say. “That’s great!”

” – and sorry to lower the tone for a moment, but last year he took his own life.” 

SH: Oh no! 

MH: And it just floored me. It’s something you’re just not expecting; you’re not thinking about anything like that, and I just burst into tears. Oh god, even just thinking about it now, I’m getting a bit… Sorry… 

SH: Oh, Mark… What a punch in the guts.

MH: Yeah, and so I had a little chat to those guys after the show, and the next day one of them actually found me on LinkedIn and sent me a really lovely message. But in a weird way it was kind of beautiful; the fact that their connection to him ultimately lead to them having this little celebratory moment. But that was something that never aired – because if it had, that would have created all sorts of issues. 

SH: Yes, yes – I understand.

MH: But as sad as it was…  

SH: It must have been very moving. People can surprise you. And people do surprise you. All the time. 

MH: Yeah. And after that happened, Andrew (Rochford, Mark’s co-host) was fantastic. 

SH: Right, that’s great to hear. Because I guess it must have felt very much like the two of you were in this together… I imagine the fact that you’re going through all this with a compadre must have been comforting?

MH: Yes. Andrew was a total rock, and those two episodes (this one and the one mentioned in the previous instalment) were the third and fourth episodes that we shot on that five-episode record day. And on top of that, I think it was our second or third record day in a row! So we’d done thirteen or fourteen episodes back-to-back, at that point. And Andrew turned to the producers – and I’ll always love him for this – he turned to the producers and said “you can’t put Mark back on after that. we have to call it a day.” Because I’d burst into tears in Episode Three and Episode Four on this one day! He was great, and everyone on the production was so understanding. And that’s why there are 184 episodes… (LAUGHING)…  instead of 185! 

SH: Really? 

MH: Yes! But it’s just something you don’t expect when you sit down to watch a game show, or indeed when you’re presenting one! You don’t expect the real-life elements to slip in like that.

You know, even though the show never had huge prize money, for some winning contestants, it meant the first holiday they were able to take together as a family. Or it meant they could afford the new fridge that they desperately needed. That was really nice; when it really meant something to people. You couldn’t help but be touched by that. It’s easy to dismiss the whole thing as ‘just a commercial game show’, but it was real people with real lives being, in some cases, really improved… even if it’s just in a small way. That’s actually what I miss about it the most. Giving the money away; the joy that that gave people. 

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I know I’ve said it before, but I just want to reiterate my gratitude to Mark for opening up so much, and being so candid about all the experiences that hosting Pointless brought his way. Very generous of him; thanks again Mark. Next time, we bring the whole thing thundering home, as we discuss how the show ended, how Mark processed all that, and what happened next!

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

 

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

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

Hello, and welcome  back to my EXCLUSIVE interview with Mark Humphries.

When we left off last time, Mark was saying that the highlight of the whole experience was getting to attend the Logie Awards (also known as AustralianTelevision’sNightOfNightsWhenTheBrightestClichesComeOutToShine).

BUT, as it turns out, that wasn’t the only highlight of his whole Pointless hosting adventure… ============================================================================

MH: The other highlight was finally having a decent income for a change! Because obviously there’s not a lot of money in what I had been doing (comedy sketches on the public broadcaster). And the shows that I’d been working on don’t run all year round; so there are months at a time where you are unemployed; there are lots of rocky periods with freelancing. And before I worked in TV, I worked in a warehouse so I’d never really had a proper job. It was nice to finally go “okay, I can breathe”; nice to get a little bit of breathing space. 

SH: Great. Because, yeah – it is commercial TV, so you’d expect it to be fairly well paid. And you did record 184 episodes, for goodness’ sake! 

MH: Yeah. I mean, it wasn’t crazy money, but it was enough to give me some breathing space. I’d have loved it to have run for years so that I could get the deposit for a house or something. It never quite got to that level, but it was nice to have some breathing room, because I was one of those people who was always about two weeks away from bankruptcy! So that was an upside.

But there was a downside too; the people who would go out of their way to make you feel terrible. The people who would Direct Message you on Twitter or Facebook to tell you they don’t like you 

SH: Really? 

MH: Yeah. I must say they were largely Family Feud fans, and I get it. (Family Feud was the previous show in the Pointless time slot). Grant (Denyer, Family Feud‘s host) was part of their lives for many years, and they loved that show. It was part of their routine… but it was insane, some of the stuff people would send.

SH: So how do you protect yourself from that? Because I guess it can take you by surprise, if you’re just unsuspectingly opening a message. I guess you could give yourself a blackout on Facebook and Twitter, but then you’d miss all the good stuff too, wouldn’t you?

MH: (LAUGHING) Yeah! I never got to read all the lovely comments! I did get to read all the lovely comments when the show was cancelled, though! How did I deal with it? Well, I guess the process of being in the public eye over a number of years has led to a gradual hardening of my skin.That’s  slowly built up. But yes, it was unpleasant and there were moments of frustration… but then I had been through some of that stuff before, in response to some political stuff that I had done. People had very strong opinions about some of that stuff.

Andrew Rochford was very good with any of that negativity stuff; he’s really good at compartmentalizing, and he was a great, great help to me. From a mental health standpoint, he was incredibly supportive and understanding. So I’m really indebted to him; I don’t think I would have managed to get through the process without him. In fact, there were actually a couple of episodes where I burst into tears during the filming. 

Continue reading

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!

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!