‘You May Be Right’…. or maybe not. Part I.

Something a little bit different for you this week. A reminiscence about a game show that I was involved with…. and that, for quite a while, I had completely forgotten existed!

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In July 2006, I was living in Sydney, when I was approached by Denis Spencer, who was my boss when I worked on Deal Or No Deal. His production company was developing a new game show for Channel 7 based on a Swedish game show called Doobidoo. Back then, after the recent runaway success of Spicks and Specks (a light-hearted, panel-based quiz show about music trivia) on the ABC, Channel 7 wanted a similar show. This new show, after a number of other suggested titles, was named You May Be Right, and Todd McKenney was signed to host it. Following his success as a judge on Dancing With The Stars, he was now part of the Channel 7 family. It was devised as a panel game show, with two panels of three celebrities facing off against each other, over various rounds of pop culture trivia questions, tasks and stunts. The job Denis offered me – “head writer” – saw me helping to come up with various games for the show and eventually, writing all of the show’s scripts on an ongoing basis.

Now, dear reader, because this happened so long ago, I’m afraid my memories of it are slightly fragmented. So here, in no particular order, is a grab-bag of

7 Memories From The Making Of You May Be Right…

YMBR MEMORY #1

I remember one of the show’s producers (who shall remain nameless*) being very enthusiastic, gung-ho, and aggressive, and quite foulmouthed in his everyday conversations.

One of the games was to guess the identity of a “mystery celebrity”, who was in the studio, but not visible to the players. While we were workshopping the best way to present this game, the aforementioned foul-mouthed producer had the following idea;

“So, we disguise their voice, right? And we can’t see them, right? Because they’re in an outdoor dunny! In the studio! And we just see their shoes! And the panels ask them ‘Yes / No’ questions, and when the panel successfully guesses who they are, right, we hear the dunny flushing, and then the celebrity comes out, doing up their pants! It’ll be f***ing hilarious! Everyone will piss themselves laughing!”

An outdoor dunny. Exactly where that producer’s idea belonged.

Okay, four things…

  1. Classy. Very classy.
  2. How many celebrity guests did he think would be jump at the chance to be presented this way on national television?
  3. Call me a naysayer, but what if it turns out not to be as funny as you think it is? Even 30 seconds is an awfully long time for a TV audience to be looking at an outdoor dunny…
  4. With ideas like this, so confidently expressed, how did you get to be a producer so high up the ladder? YOU?

In the end, wiser heads (I.e: absolutely everyone else’s) prevailed, and eventually the mystery celebrity was hidden inside a crate. I came up with the name for the game; Crate Expectations. Alright, alright. I’m not proud of it.

YMBR MEMORY #2

Meeting Pauline Hanson. Yes, I met Pauline Hanson as part of this whole experience.

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Developmental As Anything – Part II

 Hello!
When I left off last week, I’d been approached by an executive at a production company to help them with a format for a new 5-night-a-week game show. It was to fill the all-important time-slot of Lead-In To The News. They’d pitched a concept to a network, the network had shown some interest, and now that original concept just needed to be expanded and refined. The production company had engaged me for two development days, I’d been sent the material, and was looking forward to heading into their offices, and brainstorming with their creative team. Now read on…..
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Soon, the day came, and I made my way to their premises. No one at reception or in the office seemed to know who I was, or quite why I was there. So I explained, and then the executive in question showed up. He seemed surprised that I hadn’t brought my laptop, and offered to go and find me one, if I wanted one. I told him I was happy with just my old fashioned pen and paper. He and I went into a rather drab, windowless meeting room.

The meeting room was sort of like this. Only not as nice.

We had a quick chat, ran through the notes he’d sent me, and he showed me where the kitchen and toilet were. He said he had to go to a meeting, but he’d be back soon, and then left me to my own devices. “Go out for a walk if you want – do whatever works for you…”

And then he left.

Right. Not quite what I was expecting, but I got to work. I worked solidly for the next four hours, and when he came back around lunchtime, I was eating (I’d brought lunch from home) and working when he arrived. I presented what I had for him so far. He liked what I’d done. He made a lot of positive noises, but then said “Oh, didn’t I tell you? It needs to be an hour, not a half hour.”

Ah. No, that fact had somehow slipped through the cracks.

Never mind, good to know…. I was able to tweak what I had done, and I found it invaluable to pitch my ideas to him; to bat them back and forth, and really test them. Together, we worked out how and why some ideas worked, and how and why some ideas didn’t. It was fun, there was real progress being made – two heads were most definitely better than one, and we were firing off each other. This was good, really good!

And then he had to go off to another meeting. So I was left alone again. He returned another three or four hours later, and again, I took him through what I’d done. And again, he was happy. Together, we decided that I’d knock off, go home, write up all the notes from today, and email them to him. So that’s what I did.

So, what, exactly, did I do for them, while I was by myself for around 8 hours in that soulless meeting room (without giving away any details, as per the terms of our Non-Disclosure Agreement)?

Well……
– I devised a workable format for the hour-long version of the show
– I devised an overall structure for the series
– I wrote 5 sample questions (with answers) in various, very specific formats and styles
– I provided 3 pages on the finer details of elements of the game (Question categories, casting, etc)
– I supplied 38 suggestions for a title for the show
– I supplied 8 suggestions for hosts for the show, and
– I supplied 51 suggestions for co-hosts for the show
I wrote up my notes, emailed them to the executive, he thanked me, and sounded me out about which days I was free next week, for the second development day. But I couldn’t see what more there was to cover. What they wanted me to do, I’d done – it simply didn’t require two days. And so, when he sent a response thanking me and signing off with the words “speak soon”, I knew that we wouldn’t.
And indeed, we haven’t. So, what happened next?
Well, I haven’t heard a thing since then. ALTHOUGH, a couple of weeks ago, I did read an interview with the head of that particular network, in which she said that they were looking for something to fill that all-important time-slot of Lead-In To The News. Which makes me suspect that they’ve passed on this particular project.
Or maybe they haven’t – what do I know?
Anyway, watch this space, and I’ll keep you appraised if there are any further… well, developments.

Developmental As Anything – Part I

A slight change of pace this week (and next week); I’m relating an anecdote from my behind-the-scenes game show life. It’s not to do with being a game show contestant, or How To Win Game Shows per se, but I do hope that it’ll give you an interesting glimpse behind the curtain. See what you reckon…..

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So, a couple of months ago now, I was contacted by a development executive from an established and well-known Australian production company. He had seen HowToWinGameShows.com, and he was aware of my reputation, and my CV, and was contacting me to see if I’d be interested and available to help them develop a new game show concept. They had the concept already, and had pitched it to an Australian television network, who’d shown some interest… but the production company just needed to flesh it out more and expand the idea, before presenting it to the network again.

Now, I have been involved in this sort of thing many times before.

I helped to change the long form format of Deal Or No Deal for Australian television, into the half-hour format that then was adopted in many, many territories all over the world… but that’s another story, for another blog post. I also helped develop a game show pilot for the ABC (that never saw the light of day) called Pressure’s On*, and I helped create the comedy game show What’s Goin’ On There?**, back in my community television days.

I auditioned to host a game show – that never saw the light of day – called On The Line.*** And I auditioned to host a game show that DID see the light of day, called Letters And Numbers.**** And I also auditioned to host another one that also saw the light of day, called The Chase Australia.***** Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Oh, and I auditioned to host AD/bc too. And Sleuth 101.

I also helped to develop many of the games in Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation.****** I’d contributed questions for 1 vs. 100,******* All Star Squares******** and The Rich List,********* and I’d written The ConTest********** and Shafted.***********

Granted, some were hits and some were – yeesh! – misses, but you can see that I do have a lot of runs on the board on this department.

So when this executive approached me, I was quick to accept. And after I’d signed the production company’s ‘Consultant Producer Agreement’, and the deal had been done – thanks to my agent – we were all set to go, for two days of development meetings / brainstorming sessions / workshops. I was looking forward to this – it would be fun! A couple of days of throwing ideas around, bouncing off other creative game show television people, and coming up with – or at least refining – a brand-new game show. All care, no responsibility. I was just a television brain for hire; paid to play. Nice work if you can get it!

So after I’d signed, scanned and sent back the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) they sent me, they were all clear to send me the document outlining the concept.

A Non Disclosure Agreement being signed, yesterday. NOTE: That’s not actually my hand.

The producer also called me and explained the concept a little further over the phone, so I’d be primed with all of the basics we’d need for our brainstorming sessions the following week. They were looking to create a five-nights-a-week stripped game show, in the all-important time-slot of Lead-In To The News. That’s what the network wanted.

After hearing / reading about the general concept of the show, I have to say… I liked it! And I thought it could work really well as a fun, five-night-a-week late afternoon half-hour game show. I was greatly looking forward to the first brainstorming session with their creative team.

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WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?

Will the brainstorming sessions go as planned?

Will Stephen have any usable ideas?

Will sparks fly with the production company’s creative team?

Will the original format remain intact?

Will the show get commissioned by the network?

For the answers to all of these questions, and many more, tune in NEXT WEEK, for the thrilling conclusion to Developmental As Anything !

* That’s also another story, for another blog post.

** And so is that.

*** And that.

**** That is too.

***** That, too, is also another story, for another different, separate blog post.

****** Look, you know where I’m going with this.

******* 1 Vs. 100? Yep, that’s another one.

******** That is too.

********* All Star Squares? Nope, not gonna do a blog post about this one. No way, man.

********** I’ll do one about this one, though.

*********** And this one. By the way, I was joking about not doing one about All Star Squares; I reckon I will.

Probably.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with ‘Hard Quiz’ question writer Gerard McCulloch – Part II

Last week saw the beginning of my two-part interview with writer / comedian / actor / MC / audience warm up man / game show question writer for Hard Quiz and Family Feud; Gerard McCulloch. And although we’re used to seeing everything run perfectly smoothly on our favourite game shows when they go to air, the process of getting them there can sometimes be a bit bumpy. Not just from the perspective of the host, the contestants and all the technicians working on any show, but from the perspective of a show’s question writers, too….

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SH: Have you ever written any questions – on any shows – that turned out to be controversial?

GM: I follow the Hard Quiz Twitter hashtag as it goes to air, and read the occasional ‘correction’ from viewers. I check every query, and luckily they rarely stand up to scrutiny. A few people disputed our assertion that every Australian postage stamp features a year, but not a denomination (i.e.; value). It’s true – concession stamps for seniors show no value, but years of issue appear, often hidden in microprinting. Someone delightfully emailed the ABC a scan of a ‘Fairy’ stamp, declaring that it didn’t show a year. I told her to look under the toadstool.

I think this is the stamp Gerard’s referring to. Look at under the right side of the toadstool, just where it overlaps the border.

GM: Some of our other Hard Quiz contestants were taken aback by how tangential to the expert topic some of our questions get. It’s true that part of the fun we have with the notion of the ‘hard’ quiz is that the questions can get ridiculously obscure. But at the time of recording, the show had not yet gone to air, so it’s understandable that some guests may have felt miffed at the licence we took. It’s a brilliant moment when a contestant still knows the answer. I would hope that in subsequent seasons, contestants will have seen the show, and know a bit more about what they’re in for.

SH: Have producers ever rejected any questions that you’ve written? If so, why?

GM: All the time! “Seen it before”. “Too easy”. “Too hard”. “It was on The Chase last week”. “Too similar to one that’s already in production”. “Too long”. “Too complicated”. “Too obscure”. “Not suitable for the viewing demographic”…  Having questions rejected is part and parcel of being a question writer.

SH: How did you come to be working on the 2014 Australian reboot of Family Feud?

GM: Apart from the questions, all shows need a writer to work on the ‘hostings’, which are the mundane things like introducing the contestants, throwing to the commercial breaks and plugging the show coming up, as the credits roll. Some hosts stick to these these scripts and some don’t, but it usually falls somewhere between the two. They’re mainly reminders to make sure everything happens in the correct order and nothing is forgotten. I filled in on that role for a couple of weeks while my friend Ray Matsen took a holiday, and had so much fun with (host) Grant (Denyer) and the excellent team behind the scenes there that they let me stick around and write questions. Writing Family Feud questions was a bit of a dream come true – I used to love watching the show in its earlier versions when I was a kid. I’ve also filled in as the audience warm-up act there too. I’m hoping the show sticks around until I’ve slowly performed every role in television there. Maybe I could be the lighting guy next.

SH: What specific skills are required to write questions for Family Feud?

GM: The ability to think out of the box. The more original the question, the greater the chance it hasn’t been done before. Questions involving un-provable matters of personal opinion (like appropriate behaviour on a date) are more fun than lists like ‘food starting with B’. Having said that, it’s been a while since they called… maybe too many of my questions got ba-bowwwwwwed.

SH: Are there mistakes or common errors that you see people repeatedly make on Family Feud?

GM: Giving answers that in no imaginable universe could possibly be relevant to the question! It’s funny to see what people come out with under the pressure of the lights and the time limit.

SH: And finally, do you have any specific tips or hints that you could give someone wanting to go on Family Feud?

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Interview with ‘Hard Quiz’ question writer Gerard McCulloch – Part I

Hello, and welcome to my latest EXCLUSIVE interview for HowToWinGameShows.com.

Gerard McCulloch is a writer, comedian, MC, audience warm-up man… and many, many other things besides. In his 20 years in the television industry, he’s written for genres ranging from sketch comedy (SkitHOUSE) to satire (The Weekly with Charlie Pickering), and from award shows (The ARIA Awards, 2002, 2003, 2004)… to telethons (2005 Tsunami Telethon).

But today, I’m talking to him about his work writing for game shows. In this arena, Gerard’s written for Hard Quiz, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader and Family Feud, among others. I’m really keen to get his perspective on what it takes to put these shows together, and to find out if he has any tips for aspiring contestants. So, here goes! =========================================================================

SH: Gerard McCulloch, thanks very much for talking to me today for HowToWinGameShows.com! When it comes to your game show career, most recently, you’ve been writing for the ABC TV show Hard Quiz. What were the fun parts of that gig, and what were the more challenging parts? 

GM: The fun parts were working with a bunch of good mates to develop a whole new format, especially one that wasn’t just a quiz show, but a comedy show built around (host) Tom Gleeson’s persona. The most challenging part was working out exactly how the game should flow, the points applicable at different stages, the ideal number of contestants – we went through many trials of different scenarios before landing on the one we went with.

Every game show has a ‘game computer’, which is the brain that coordinates the images, sounds, questions, answers and scores. This was the first time I’ve sat in on the development of a game computer, and I have a new-found appreciation for how complicated the mechanism is that makes every game show run smoothly.

The second most difficult part related to our show being one that revolved around each contestant having a speciality topic. Maintaining equivalency of ‘an easy question’ or ‘a hard question’ across topics as diverse as Seinfeld to British Field-Marshals was very tricky. And then there was the challenge of appealing to the TV audience playing along at home when dealing with some very obscure topics.

SH: What do you think is the secret to writing a good quiz question?

GM: The perfect quiz question should make those trying to answer it feel like they should know the answer, even if they don’t; and it should be intriguing enough to make those who don’t know the answer curious enough to hear it. In the case of a show like Hard Quiz, if it can inform and entertain at the same time, that’s a big win.

SH: What’s an example of a question you’ve written that you’re really proud of?

GM: Question: I’ve got a forequarter on my 4-burner. What am I doing? Answer: Barbecuing. This was a buzz-in question for Hard Quiz’s People’s Round, where we test the experts on the stuff that normal people know. It’s virtually a riddle. Most Australians would know what a ‘forequarter’ (as in a forequarter lamb chop) and a ‘4-burner’ are, but the reward went to the first contestant to decode the wordplay. Anyone at home who couldn’t figure it out would hopefully enjoy hearing the answer when it came.

SH: As a question writer, what common mistakes do you see contestants making when answering quiz questions on Hard Quiz?

GM: In buzz-in rounds, contestants often buzz in early, and wrongly anticipate the rest of the question. But that’s the risk of buzz-in rounds in any game show – if you leave it a split second longer, you may lose out to someone who guesses correctly.

SH: Back in 2007, you worked on the Australian version of Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? How did you find that experience, in general?

GM: I realised that kids these days learn very different things in primary school than what I learned back in the day! I was amazed by how much information I had forgotten, or never knew in the first place. Of course, whenever I felt that way, I knew it would be good fodder for a question.

SH: I’ve always wondered; if the premise is that all the answers could reasonably known by a 5th grader, how were the questions’ difficulty levels determined? Did you consult the official Australian primary school curriculum?

GM: Yes, we used the Australian primary school curriculum. It varied a little between states and schools, but if we could determine that the ‘average’ student at a given level would have learned that topic, then it was fair game.

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… And that’s where I’ll leave my interview with Gerard this week. Next week, in the second and final part of our chat, we discuss his work on Family Feud, and he has some really great tips for anyone wanting to appear on that show. In the meantime, though, if you’d like to find out more about Gerard and what he’s up to, you can head on over to his home on the web, and he’s also on Twitter, under the handle @DrJavaBeans.

Oh, and if you’re in Australia, and you’re interested in appearing on Series 2 of Hard Quiz, they’re currently looking for contestants! All the details are right here.

So good luck, and I’ll see you back here next week!

 

EXCLUSIVE interview with Quiz Show Question writer Adam Richard – Part V – The conclusion

The Fabulous Adam Richard

This week, I wrap up my interview with The Fabulous Adam Richard, and I couldn’t let him go without asking about another game show-related string to his bow…

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SH: And finally, in addition to all of this, you also served as one of the two team captains on the 2014 reboot of the popular music quiz show Spicks and Specks. How was that experience?

AR: Glorious. Best job I’ve ever had. I have said this many times, but the axing of that show was a blessing. I would have sat there for 20 years and loved every second of it. It challenged me as a performer, and I really felt like I did the best performance work I’ve ever done on that show. The audience and management were resistant to it before it started, so it always felt like pushing a dung heap up a hill. I have really enjoyed the last couple of years, and I would not be doing what I am doing without that show ending. In fact, it was one of the Spicks and Specks producers, Dan Warner, who asked me to come onto the staff at The Chase Australia in the first place.

SH: Did your experience as a question writer give you an edge there?

AR: I hadn’t written questions for about ten years when I started on Spicks and Specks as a team captain, but having done the show in the preceding seven seasons as a guest, as well as being involved in several episodes of the ABC’s Tractor Monkeys, I had a good sense, as a player, of what worked and didn’t work in a question. You learn from just spewing out facts, that numbers are boring, names are boring. The question needs to have its own little story. The multiple choice round on The Chase Australia is a great opportunity for stories – as is the final round of Hard Quiz. When you’re on a panel show, you’re always looking for a way to get a joke, or anecdote, into the game, and an interesting question will open the door to that. If you’re on a show and you’re not in a timed round, don’t be afraid to throw in a fun fact about how you knew that, what it reminded you of. They always record more than they need, and if you look stupid, they’ll just cut it out, and it will be like it never happened! Oh, if you could only see the horrific things that I have said on TV knowing that they would never ever make it to air! Don’t be afraid of having fun – as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the game. It should be really obvious when you’re allowed to, and if you’re not, then Tom or Andrew or Eddie or Grant will make very sure you don’t derail the game.

SH: Adam Richard, you’re a multi-faceted, multi talented man, and I wish you every continued success in all of these various areas. Thanks very much for your time today!

AR: Thank you Hally Bejawley!

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I’m so grateful to Adam (or Richo Bagitcho as I call him) for his time, and for being so generous in sharing so comprehensively his thoughts, tips, and stories. Thanks again, Richo Bagitcho!

And you can find The Fabulous Adam Richard online at http://adamrichard.com/ and on Twitter, at  https://twitter.com/adamrichard.

EXCLUSIVE interview with Quiz Show Question writer Adam Richard – Part IV

The Fabulous Adam Richard

As my chat with The Fabulous Adam Richard continued, there was one question that I simply couldn’t leave out…

========================SH: From your perspective as a quiz show question writer, are there any other tips, hints or pieces of advice you’d give to aspiring quiz show contestants?

AR: Quiz shows don’t just cast for intelligence. If you are boring, you won’t get on, no matter how much you know. You don’t have to be funny, and you don’t have to be a gregarious ‘life of the party’ type of person, just don’t be dull. If you are shy, don’t worry, we all are. Even the most famous people who are great public speakers are often overcompensating for being shy. Just be yourself. Don’t mumble, or be too self-deprecating (what you continually say about yourself, you can end up believing after a while) and most of all, don’t think you have to be someone you’re not. Just be the person you are when you’re with friends and family. Pretend the casting people are all people you know. Aunt Jenny and that cousin’s husband you always talk to at barbeques.

SH: But your question-writing career hasn’t just involved writing questions for TV. Another related venture – that you and I both worked on – was writing questions for the Australian version of the board game Cranium, back in 2001. What are your memories of that?

AR: I remember it was quite silly! Most of us had been working on All Star Squares, where alleged celebrities hung out in a giant noughts and crosses board. I remember carrying on with Catherine Deveny at a meeting where we were coming up with those performance-based questions. There’s a part of Cranium where you play charades, and I remember cackling as we tried to act out a sausage roll. The actual writing part was fairly isolated, as these things naturally are, but remembering that first day, where we played the game and stuffed about in a meeting room, that kept me ploughing through the actual writing of the questions.

SH: Do you ever play the Australian version of Cranium with friends? And win? And if so, do you tell them that you already knew all the questions?

AR: When I was doing the breakfast show at Fox FM in Melbourne, we had a Cranium promotion where a family of listeners won a night playing the game with me! I remember that being a fun night. I think I ended up just ‘hosting’ the game, asking all the questions, making sure people stuck to the rules, rather than participating. Also, making merciless fun of people trying to do charades as a sausage roll. It really is hilarious.


SH: In addition to all of this behind-the-scenes stuff, you’ve also appeared many times
onscreen in game show / reality shows; shows such as Celebrity Splash!, Hole In The Wall, and Celebrity Dog School (!)  After these experiences, do you have any tips for any aspiring reality show contestants out there?

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EXCLUSIVE interview with Quiz Show Question writer Adam Richard – Part III

The Fabulous Adam Richard

As my interview with Adam continues, he reveals some great tips that will be really helpful for contestants appearing on The Chase, and on quiz shows in general. But first, we discussed the business of writing questions a bit more…

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SH: What do you like about the job of writing quiz questions?

AR: I learn so much! I folded a lot of the interesting facts I learned into a stand-up show last year. Like the fact that bubble wrap was invented as wallpaper. (You’d never get your bond back!) That Australian Rules football was codified before soccer or rugby, making it the oldest football code in the world. I am INSUFFERABLE at parties. I interject with all sorts of bizarre facts. I just played a video game set in the pirate era, in the Caribbean (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag), and most of the characters were actual historical characters and there were many real events that you play in the game, so of course, I went on a pirate question binge. All of your life can become a question if you are interacting with anything other than social media. Nobody can answer questions about what dish your friend instagrammed a photo of at Nobu last week.


SH: What don’t you like about the job of writing quiz questions?

AR: It’s very time consuming. Staying in the office until well after 10 PM, even later on shoot days, or writing at home until 2 AM (which I did yesterday). Working from home in general is difficult. Prioritising work over the laundry or going to the shops to get stuff for dinner because you have a deadline looming. If I smell and I’m hungry, you know I’m late with a deadline.

SH: As a question writer, what common mistakes do you see contestants making when answering quiz questions on TV?

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EXCLUSIVE interview with Quiz Show Question writer Adam Richard – Part II

The Fabulous Adam Richard

Hello! Today, as my interview with The Fabulous Adam Richard continues, I wanted to drill down a bit into the working methods that have seen him churn out tens of thousands of quiz show questions over the years…

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SH: What is something that you never do when you’re writing quiz questions?

AR: Social media. I have downloaded a browser plug-in that I set to yell at me if I try to open Facebook or Twitter or any of those things. You know those alerts come up, telling you so-and-so has liked your comment or some such, and before you know it, you’ve spent an hour down an unhelpful rabbit-hole of absolutely irrelevant crap. Every time I click on one of those, this browser plug in swears at me. Literally. Vile, angry language. It’s quite the motivator!

(Here is a link if you can handle your computer yelling profanities) 

SH: What’s an example of a question you’ve written that you’re really proud of?

AR: Oh, so many! On Hard Quiz, it’s the ones that stump the experts. Especially if the expert is particularly smarmy and full of themselves. The first ever episode of The Chase Australia featured a question of mine that stumped even The Chaser herself!

I have tried to write a ‘Fanny Chmelar’ style question for The Chase Australia, but because of the timeslot, they’ve all been rejected, which is probably for the best. Did you know that an archaic term for an open-cut mine is ‘Glory Hole?’ I wrote it as a multiple choice “In which industry do people go to work in a glory hole?” Mining, Fishing, Theatre. It’s revolting, I know, but it is an actual true fact. You can’t argue with the truth… Well, you can if you are putting out a G-rated show.

SH: Are there any specific rules that you follow when you’re writing quiz questions?

AR: Keep it G-rated…

Follow the rules of the show! The Chase Australia has a very detailed style guide, and some very restrictive rules about length of questions and answers, which I adore. I love the language puzzle writing those entails, trying to rearrange a question to be coherent and fun in as few words as possible.

The first round of Hard Quiz, where people are able to steal points, I really enjoyed writing dog-leg questions, that seemed like they were going off in one direction, but in fact were headed somewhere else entirely, trying to trick people into buzzing in early. Like one about Eurovision, where it seemed like it was going to be an obvious one about which song ABBA won with, but instead was about which venue they won at! It was the ‘British seaside resort’ of Brighton, if you’re wondering, which then of course gives (the show’s host) Tom Gleeson leeway to make a joke about ‘British seaside resort’ being an oxymoron.

The fact that Hard Quiz is a comedy show as well as a game show means that all the writers have to do double time writing questions and gags. Tom writes both questions and gags himself. He’s incredibly hands on. I worked in the office at Hard Quiz, whereas I have done all my work on The Chase Australia remotely.

SH: Have you ever written any questions that turned out to be controversial?

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EXCLUSIVE interview with Quiz Show Question writer Adam Richard – Part I

The Fabulous Adam Richard

And here we are, with my first interview for 2017, and I’m delighted to say it’s with The Fabulous Adam Richard! For those who don’t know, Adam Richard is one of Australia’s favourite comedians, whose successful 20 year career encompasses stand-up comedy here and internationally, radio presenting, sitcom writing, TV acting, reality TV appearances, podcasting and much more besides. You can find all the details at his website.

But in addition to all of this, yet another feather in Adam’s cap is writing questions for game shows. To date, Adam has written questions for All Star Squares, (where he and I worked together) The Chase: Australia (which I’ve also written questions for) and Hard Quiz (which I haven’t – I must be slipping).

Anyhoo, Adam Richard, thanks very much for chatting to me today for www.HowToWinGameShows.com

SH: Over the years, how many quiz questions do you think you’d have written for TV?

AR: I couldn’t even tell you how many I’ve written this week! It’s over a hundred. This week, I mean. When I started on Season 1 of The Chase Australia, I was working four or five days a week, which roughly works out to about 200 questions. Now I’m just working one or two days a week, but factoring in all the shows I’ve worked on, I’m guessing I’d be into the tens of thousands by now.

SH: What’s the secret to writing a good quiz question?

AR: It’s such a juggling act! The questions on The Chase Australia, especially in the timed rounds, need to be really punchy. There are a lot of comedians writing for the show, I think mainly because the structure of a question and a joke are essentially the same – you work really hard at giving out enough information that the punchline or answer, in the case of a quiz show, is both obvious and surprising at the same time. You almost want people at home to go “Oh! Of course! I should have known they’d say that!” So, even if people are learning something from the answer, it should have its own internal logic. Also, boring is bad. Numbers and dates are boring, names are boring. I try to avoid writing answers that are a number or a name, unless it’s something that is an emotional touchstone (there’s always an exception to every rule!). I wrote a question on Hard Quiz which was “How many double A batteries go into a Nintendo Game Boy?”. That’s the kind of thing that can really fire up the happy and nostalgic part of your brain, remembering fun things from your childhood, trying to picture yourself jamming the batteries in the back of your favourite toy.

SH: Are there any topics or subject areas that you return to often, when you’re writing questions?

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