EXCLUSIVE interview with serial game show contestant Vicky Jacobs – Part I

How To Win Game Shows Vicky Jacobs

Vicky Jacobs

A brand new interview for you this week, with someone who’s “been there and done that” a number of times! Vicky Jacobs is a musician, musical director and vocal coach, but she’s also a serial game show contestant, having appeared as a contestant on at least five different game shows. In fact, it could even be said that game shows are in Vicky’s blood, being, as she is, the daughter of a genuine Sale of the Century champion. I was curious to ask Vicky about her diverse game show adventures, and whether she had any hard-won tips, drawn from her wide and varied experience.

And so I did. 

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SH: Vicky, welcome and thanks for chatting to me today for www.HowToWinGameShows.com

VJ: My pleasure!

SH: I’d like to start our chat today by hearing about your dad – you mentioned he was a Sale of The Century champion. When was that, and what did he win?

VJ: I think it was 1992. He’d won all the prizes except for the car and was playing for the car when he got beaten. It was the fifth episode they’d filmed that day and I think he was probably a bit tired and hungry by that stage. But we won heaps of cool stuff! It kept turning up at the house for months – all the game show classics: saucepans, luggage, ski gear, a home gym, a giant Garfield (still got it!) and we even got a family trip to Vanuatu… so not a bad couple of days work!

SH: How did your dad’s win change your family’s life?

VJ: I’m not sure I’d say it changed our lives significantly, but was definitely lots of fun while it was happening and a real talking point at school (I was in Year 8 at the time)!

SH: Was it your dad’s win that started your fascination with game shows? Or did you “catch the bug” later in life?

VJ: Funnily enough, Mum had actually done Sale of the Century first – she didn’t win her episode but did bring home some prizes so I think she probably gave the bug to all of us. Who doesn’t love free stuff?!  My whole family loves a game of Trivial Pursuit and are highly competitive, so it was kind of inevitable! 

SH: Which was your first game show appearance? Would that have been Greed, in 2001? How did you go during that appearance, and looking back now, was there anything you would have done differently?

VJ: I’ll start this story by pointing out that I was quite young and didn’t know much stuff in 2001. But essentially what happened was: I got a 50/50 question wrong which lost our team $100,000 and put us out of the competition. And that wasn’t the worst bit! The worst bit was being put in a room with them after I’d stuffed it up, while they filmed the rest of the episode. Small talk with strangers who hate your guts – not the funnest hour of my life! I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, as it was a luck-of-the-draw type situation: I simply didn’t know the answer. For anyone playing at home, the question was “Which of these is a currency: ‘punt’ or ‘kind’?”  I now know it’s ‘punt‘ !

SH: Then a few years later, you were a contestant on Temptation (the rebooted version of Sale of the Century). What advice and / or training did your dad give you, as you prepared to go on? After all, he’d been there and done that…

VJ: Dad told me to buy everything that was offered to me!  It was great advice for that particular competition. I was ahead for much of the game so I took everything that was offered. I got beaten in ‘Fast Money’, but when I did the maths afterwards, I still wouldn’t have won if I hadn’t bought, so it was excellent advice.

SH: And what did you end up winning on Temptation? Continue reading

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part VIII

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Russell.

This week, in the penultimate instalment of my chat with Russell Fletcher, we discuss the vagaries of ‘Sudden Death’, the often untapped power of the Family Feud audience, and the various versions of Family Feud around the world….

Now read on!

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RF: So we’ve had a couple of visits from Pam Usdan from America – I don’t know if Pam Barnes has talked about her?

SH: No. 

RF: Pam is one of the keepers from the flame from America. So I don’t know her exact role in producing the very first season of Family Feud in America… but I think she lives in New York, and she’s been just wonderful with her tips. She has come out here and she’s been very nice to me and she loves Grant. She travels the world looking after Family Feud. That’s her gig. 

SH: Wow. 

RF: 31 countries it’s in, currently. I asked her in front of the audience the other day, “what’s the most exotic countries?” And she went “Russia and Vietnam”. And it has different names in different countries. Like in England, it’s called Family Fortunes. And watching the American one on YouTube is really good because they get away with absolute murder. 

SH: You mean in terms of the kind of questions? Double entendres and stuff? It’s Steve Harvey, isn’t it?

RF: Yeah, yeah, and he’s so great. So funny. But Grant couldn’t ask those questions because he is a different type. He is a different archetype. Even though I would venture that Grant is now a comedian. I think he’s become really good. He does really funny physical stuff, it’s quick. He’s really trusting his instinct. He has really flourished on the show, I think. So, yes – I’d hate to think what some of the other versions… “If you get questions wrong in Russia, they take you out and shoot you! It’s in the rules…” 

SH: “You signed the waiver…” 

RF: “Tonight on Family Feud Kazakhstan, you could win goat!”

SH: If you are lucky. 

RF: “You could win goat for family!” 

SH: Well thank you very much, Russell! Fantastic answers, and lots of really helpful information, I think, for people interested in having a crack. 

RF: Yes, I think the other thing I would say is that people practice, they play the board games.

SH: Yeah, play along at home and –

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Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part V

Russell, with the 'Family Feud' audience

Russell, with the ‘Family Feud’ audience

So, Russell Fletcher (Family Feud studio audience host and warm up man par excellence) is talking us through a typical recording day on the Feud. So far, the contestants have auditioned, gained a place on the show, and made their way in to the studio, all pumped and primed and ready to play the game on national television, for the chance to win big bucks… and maybe even a car! And you can read about all the preceding steps that brought them to this point in my previous posts here, herehere and here.

So now the families have arrived at the studio, and they’re excitedly awaiting their 15 minutes of fame, some more graciously than others…

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SH: The families that are waiting to go on; do they watch the show in the audience, or is there a Green Room?

RF: Yes, there is a Green Room. 

SH: Do they mingle?

RF: Some of them do and some do not. Some of them are real prima donnas and some of them actually turn into real a***holes, which is really interesting. And that’s why we’re pretty fastidious about saying on the audition day “We are looking for people we want to work with”. And some families have been hilarious, sending us emails about their rider; you know, “we need 14 different types of cola, we need three dwarves massaging our feet…”  They are really, really funny. We do get lots of emails thanking us for the experience they’ve had. Because our team is totally professional but also incredibly relaxed and all about saying “:Guys, be playful, have fun, don’t over-think it”. It’s a game, and we are just trying to give everyone a really good experience. Some families are like Eyes-On-The-Prize Only and you go “Dude, it’s not worth it – you might win ten, you might win twenty”. I think our highest money winner has been thirty something, thirty thousand dollars…

SH: And that’s over three nights?

RF: Yeah, so it’s ten grand up for grabs every night. No one’s won more than $34,000. We have given away about, over the journey – and it’s been nearly 2 years now – 7 or 8 cars? Maybe more. I am not sure of the actual number. But it would be good to see a graphic of how many families we’ve auditioned, how many have got through that process and then how many families we have had on the show. I think they are trying to work that out, but keeping those statistics is quite complicated. You can shoot a bunch of episodes in the afternoon and then by the evening record session not know who you had on that afternoon because we meet so many people and some of them are quite unremarkable. And then there are some families who are quite remarkable – like they’re playful, they’re funny, they’re articulate but they are not false. They are just real and they have a good story. I always like meeting the salt-of-the-earth people. They are awesome. That is truly one of the delightful things about it. It’s ten thousand dollars which is a lot of money but it is not heaps of money – Stephen Hall, former game show winner – and how excited people get about getting through the show and then winning ten grand is actually really delightful because they get so excited! And it’s fun and they are grateful and they are thankful. It does actually confirm your belief in human nature. 

SH: That’s nice. 

RF: It is nice. 

SH: What time would a studio day recording finish?

RF: We try and record from 2:30 till about five. But we never get three episodes done in that time. It usually goes up until 5:30 and then we have a meal break and then we have another audience for two episodes in the evening. We hope to finish by 8:30 but generally go closer to 9:00. 

SH:  And the families that are in those final two episodes presumably have been there since 10 that morning?

RF: That is right. So it is a long day and they have to manage their energy. The producers are really good at coaching them and we kind of reinforce that as well a lot. Show business is about managing your energy and your expectations and then just turning up when your time comes. 

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Russell’s point about “managing your energy” here is worth repeating. As has been pointed out in previous interviews by various guests, studio record days are long. Really long. And there’s a lot of sitting around and waiting. Then, all of a sudden, you’re ON, and instantly expected to be performing at peak capacity. It’s a good idea to learn a few little relaxation techniques – even if it’s just sitting quietly somewhere and doing some deep breathing – and to make sure you bring some snacks. Such as muesli bars, or pieces of fruit, so that your blood sugar isn’t going up and down. Bringing a few snacks with you is a small thing, but if you’ve thought of it and your opponent hasn’t, then you will have a very, very slight edge before you’ve even gone on set.

And as we all know, every little bit helps….

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part III

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Russell Fletcher

As my chat with Family Feud warm-up person, and studio audience host, Russell Fletcher continues this week, the subject turns to those unexpected moments…

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SH: Do any moments spring to mind where contestants have really surprised you, either for better or for worse?

RF: Having done 470 episodes now, there are lots! People will say things that you don’t expect them to. Like they will make a salacious or rude comment, or a vaguely racist one. And you will just be going “I wasn’t expecting him to say that!” Fortunately it is not live to air and we will say, “Have another go”.

SH: Yes. “Any other thoughts, perhaps?”

RF: For instance, in the very first episode; “Name a yellow fruit”. BZZZ! “Orange?”

And I just go “Umm….” And because we have to have the contestants’ best interests at the core of what we do, we couldn’t put that in the episode. We just couldn’t do it.

SH: It’s a shame…

RF: It would be unconscionable. But what we did do was put it in all the promos for the show! But when it came to the day, it was edited out. And they did quite well. I can remember a really intelligent woman who was a doctor and the question was “Name an African animal you would see at a waterhole”. And “hippo” was up there, and “elephant” was up there, and she couldn’t think of any others and she said “platypus”. And that sort of thing happens all the time because people just don’t connect with the question, or they are having an out-of-body experience; they’re not in the moment, being able to think of different suggestions. The show is a combination of chat and answering questions and really surprising stuff comes out and sometimes it’s really touching, it is really nice. Just last week we had a Filipino family who were reunited after being separated for 33 years. They didn’t know each other existed because of parents’ divorces, etcetera. They had only been reunited three months earlier, they came and auditioned for the show and they got on the show and they’re still getting to know each other. That kind of stuff you just go “Whoa!” And there are people who’ve survived cancer and there’s people who have done amazing things, done stupid things, and they all open up to Grant, because they trust him and he gets them in a weak moment.

SH: But that stuff surely would be pre-screened, wouldn’t it? He’s not hearing this for the first time… 

RF: No. What happens is when they come to the studio, before we start doing anything with them, they are filling out forms; “Name your brush with fame”, “Name something you’re really good at”, “Name something you are embarrassed about”; those kind of questions are on the form and so when they actually make it to the show the writers go through that stuff and then check in with the families who’ve arrived at the studio. And then they go back and check it and then they’ll have a little discussion with Grant and he’ll have it on a card, in little bullet points. That could be about sporting achievements, being able to put their whole fist in their mouths, it could be they’re really good at Irish dancing, they could have met someone incredibly famous… but it was just in a lift. 

SH: But Grant would still get mileage out of even that; the anticlimactic nature of it… 

RF: That’s right. Grant has become so good at taking the piss, in the nicest kind of way. That’s the kind of stuff I find out on the spot, and I love playing with that kind of stuff. 

SH: Where it’s clear that the host isn’t laughing at them, but he is helping them to laugh at themselves.

RF: And sometimes we laugh at them…

SH: But they do too. That’s important. No one’s feelings are hurt. 

RF: The whole thing is about reading people and being able to take it in the direction you think that’s going to work. And that goes for both the audition and the recordings. 

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Next time, Russell reveals more about the mechanics of the record day, and breaks down how the audition process actually works on an audition day. Again, all greatly useful stuff to know, if you’re thinking of auditioning for the show.

Until next Tuesday, then!

 

My very first interview with a winner of ‘The Chase’ – Part II

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Last week, I posted Part I of my interview with 35-year-old digital producer, and winner of The Chase: Australia, Andy Zito. We discussed auditioning, preparation and training, and left off just as Andy was about to play the game, against the Chaser known as “The Shark”; Brydon Coverdale. This week, we move on to the nitty gritty of actually playing the game… 
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SH: It seems there’s some strategy involved in The Chase; knowing how much to risk and when. Were there any long discussions or arguments amongst your team over elements of strategy?
AZ; So in our edition the rules were slightly different. On a regular episode of The Chase, each player has a Cash Builder round, and then immediately wagers that cash (or accepts a higher / lower offer for great risk / advantage), hoping to bring back their cash to the team kitty. In our episode, Louise and I both played the Cash Builder rounds, then our combined cash amount was wagered against the Chaser, with us nominating Louise to face off on the board. We decided not to accept the higher offer because we felt our combined offer was so high that the risk wasn’t worth an extra $5k each.
SH: In the heat of battle, during the actual playing of your game, what moments – either good or bad – stick in your mind?
AZ: It seems, watching the show, that every single player in the Cash Builder round is shocked to see how much they’ve built, mainly because they seem to miss so many or say ‘pass’ so often. I felt exactly the same way. I came out with $12k, which seems to me to be about the average, and was pleased, but definitely had no idea I’d done well in that section! I also knew that – given I’d only be doing my Cash Builder round and the Final Chase – I’d have a good chunk of the episode to just take it all in and relax before the Final Chase. By the time we got to the Final Chase, I was ready for a buzz-off and it proved to be where I came good! A great, instant revelation in the Final Chase was that Louise had a tiny little auditory ‘tell’ when she didn’t know something, and given that you have to buzz in to pass, which means waiting long enough to see if your teammate will buzz in, I was able to buzz in to pass VERY quickly, which really helped us get as far along as we did. The best thing about playing with Louise was that our areas of knowledge complemented each other so perfectly, we really were pretty unbeatable across all topics!
SH: How much did you win, and what did you do with your winnings?
AZ: I took home half of our $34,000 prize, and have my $17k still sitting in my bank account! My wife and I have a tiny little bathroom fix up in mind, but really it’s more about buying time for us – a holiday, some time off, something like that.
SH: Now that you’ve “been there and done that”, do you have any advice for those following in your footsteps?

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My very first interview with a winner of ‘The Chase’ – Part I

andyz_chaseIn November 2015, 35-year-old digital producer Andy Zito was a contestant on the hit quiz show   The Chase: Australia. In a result that bucked the usual trend of the show, Andy and his teammate Louise Harper actually managed to beat ‘The Chaser’; in this case, Brydon “The Shark” Coverdale… taking home a cool $34,000 for their efforts. Andy kindly agreed to talk to me about his game show experience, for www.HowToWinGameShows.com.
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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?

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Tales from the ‘Jeopardy!’ Rabbi…

Hello! Well, after all the excitement and publicity of last week’s big announcement (rather odd to be so celebrated for something I haven’t actually done yet), it’s now back to business as usual here at HowToWinGameShows.com.

And this week, I want to share with you an article – or a series of four articles, really – by Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman, from Westchester, New York, about his experience as a contestant on Jeopardy!

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Alex Trebek with Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman on the set of ‘Jeopardy!’

The series is entitled My Jewish Approach to Being on Jeopardy. I found Rabbi Mitelman’s perspective fascinating. I’d never seen a faith-related approach to game show contestant preparation and performance before, but his approach is far from exclusionary; these articles are chock full of ideas that can be applied by absolutely anyone who’s serious about winning game shows.

The articles are chatty and engaging, but Rabbi Mitelman is clearly someone who takes game show preparation very seriously. In the first article, he gives three great essential principles for game show success, which also happen to be great principles for the wider world, and life in general, that have also served him well in his career, and his education. They are, in essence:

1. Control what you can – and realize you don’t know how much control you have

2. Pay attention to the small — and seemingly irrelevant — things

3. Remember that remembering requires effort

Then, in the second article: How I Prepared, he discusses studying, practising, test-playing / rehearsing and buzzer technique – all pillars of a solid preparation regime. he even recommends an app called Jeopscore which allows you to keep track of your score as you play along at home. (I think it’s an Android app. I’ve searched, but haven’t had a lot of luck finding it. Please let me know if you fare better!) There are links to other great Jeopardy! resources here too, such as The J-Archive, the Anki flashcard app, and this great article by Karl Coryat.

The third article (The Lead-Up) covers the nuts-and-bolts of the online test, the audition, and receiving The all-important Call; The Call that means you’ve been selected to be on the show. This article is really more anecdotal in tone than the previous ones – it’s mainly outlining that particular part of the Jeopardy! contestant journey… although there is a mention of another training app called Knowledge Trainer, which I haven’t tried, but it does look pretty good!

The final article in the series of four – The Day Itself – chronicles Rabbi Mitelman’s in-studio Jeopardy! experience, and as such, contains spoilers. Spoilers which I certainly won’t reveal here. To find out what happens, you’ll just have to go and read it yourself!

All in all, this is a really great series of articles for anyone interested in winning game shows in general, and winning Jeopardy! in particular. As we see so often, there is so much more to winning game shows than meets the eye, and the well-prepared contestant will have the edge over the unprepared contestant each and every single time. In this series of articles, Rabbi Mitelman outlines a series of tips and hints that he used, and that anyone contemplating an appearance on Jeopardy! would do well to consider.

It’s an entertaining read, it’s jam-packed with useful tips, and I recommend it highly. So thank you again, Rabbi Mitelman, for taking the time to chronicle your Jeopardy! experience so thoroughly – I absolutely loved reading it!

EXCLUSIVE interview with game show creator – and co-host – Brian Nankervis – Part III

101520_home_heroAs my chat with RocKwiz co-creator Brian Nankervis concludes this week, we look to the future…

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SH: Do you have any ambitions to create any more game shows? 

BN: I am very aware that I am doing something that I love. Music is sort of my first love, really. As for others I would like to do… I often thought I would like to do a kids’ quiz show. We have toyed with “why not do a PoliticsWiz or FilmWiz but it hasn’t happened because I have been so flat out doing this. 

SH: It’s all-consuming.

BN: The other thing that we have tried – and sadly not succeeded at – is to sell the format. We nearly did it, we got close for a while there, there was an American company who were talking about Jack Black doing my role and Joan Jett doing Julia’s role. We were going to go to New York and make a show at the Bowery Ballroom that they would watch and we would do the Friday night and then on the Saturday night they would do it. It just fell over. And I had a meeting in London with Fremantle, and they all like it and I would have thought England would translate well because they have a sort of pop quiz culture plus can you imagine the pool of artistes you can draw from… and a pool of contestants! We have had  lots of internationals; Billy Bragg, Steve  Earle, Judy Collins, Martha Wainwright… they all come on the show and they go “Oh my god, this is such fun!” Steve Earle, we have footage of him backstage at Bluesfest saying, “there is nothing like this in America, this would be incredible.” I don’t know why. 

SH: The informality of it, perhaps? 

BN: Maybe it is because we like it to be rough. I remember the night that J Mascis was on. J was in the middle of what was a very long story. Julia said “if you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?” And he said, “I often thought about writing a travel book about Norway.” It was bizarre and he took a long time getting around to it, but it was quite interesting. Half way through, the guy next to him decided that he could not stay on the set or he was going to wet his pants. So he got up and walked across the camera, the whole room stopped, Julia looked and then she just looked back at J, who hadn’t noticed, and was talking about the finer points of Norwegian cuisine. And we left it in. We left all that stuff in, because it’s funny and it’s real and I think people love it. 

SH: According to my research, you’ve presided over 170 episodes of the show – what contestant highlights and lowlights brings to mind?

BN: There’s been many, if you think about 170 times 6 is roughly a thousand or so contestants. I do remember a woman who came out and Julia said “what was the first record you ever bought?” and she said “a Tina Arena album”. There was just a little ripple throughout the production crew because we knew that about 4 feet or 5 feet from this woman was Tina Arena, about to come on. So Julia pushed her a little and said “Oh really? You really love Tina?” She said “in fact I got my PhD, I wrote a thesis on that album.” Julia is going “That is interesting, you really love Tina, don’t you? Let’s start. Who can it be now?” You could see this woman going “oh my god, this is my hero”. Sure enough… Tina Arena! Tina hadn’t heard, she didn’t know all of this preamble. It was just fantastic. That was great.

I do remember a guy we had on who was so excited to be on and I always warn them, I always say “look, get three or four in a row right but don’t dominate, don’t take over”. It was possibly because of this guy, he dominated to the point where the crowd turned against him. He just didn’t realise, because he was so in the moment and he just couldn’t help himself and it was horrible and he finally twigged and you can see he just had this heartbroken look on his face.

SH: Did he pull back when he realised?

BN: Yes, but it was too late. They were booing him. You could just feel it, the whole room temperature changed so I always make a big point of “just don’t take over”. There’s been a few.

SH: From your perspective, having seen as many shows and as many contestants as you have, what tips or hints would you have for anyone wanting to be a contestant on RocKwiz… or any game show?

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Exclusive interview with ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Temptation’ Champion Blair Martin – Part I

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‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Temptation’ champion Blair Martin

I’m pleased this week to post Part I of an exclusive interview I managed to record with Blair Martin, who’s an actor, compere, MC…. and two-time quiz show champion.

In 1993, Blair became an undefeated champion on the Australian version of Jeopardy!, and then in 2007, he won “the Lot” on Temptation, becoming the show’s sixth Grand Champion. As such, Blair and I had a lot to talk about…

And talk about it we did. See for yourself!

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SH: Blair, welcome to howtowingameshows.com.

BM: Thank you very much. 

SH: You’re a Temptation champion, but before that, you went on the Australian version of Jeopardy! In 1993, which was hosted by Tony Barber. Just by way of background, what was your life like before Jeopardy! in 1993?

BM: Very ordinary. I had been working for a major hotel in Brisbane; The Hilton… just did casual front-of-house work and I picked up the odd performing arts job. Street Theatre at that point was having quite a booming period because of Expo ’88. And from then on, everywhere in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, every event decided they needed to have roving characters, because everyone experienced that at Expo. So from about 1990 I did my first stint as a roving character and coming up with characters. 

SH: Were you always a general knowledge buff?

BM: I was always constantly reading – and not books per se, not novels. There was a magazine from England called Look and Learn. My mother would pick it up from the newsagent along with her copy of New Idea and Women’s Weekly. I would get this mag. It was the broadest range of general knowledge you could imagine. It had stories and graphics and graphs and maps of everything. Doesn’t matter what it was; history, science, culture and I devoured those. I would read them constantly, and to this day I still have facts and information that I know came from reading that particular magazine. In the seventies, Tony Barber was a big star because he hosted The Great Temptation. I remember watching that and learning from that. Obviously, I was barely fourteen or fifteen. So it’s a bit hard to think that some decades later I would be in the same position as those people I used to watch. But that’s where my original understanding of knowledge came from. 

SH: And then The Great Temptation morphed into Sale of the Century, which ran throughout the eighties. Did you ever try to get on Sale of the Century at the time?

BM: Yes I did. I think I may have still been at university at the time. I remember auditioning for it and never got the call. So when Jeopardy! came on air, I remember watching it and going “actually, this rewards you for being clever”. So I auditioned for that and I got pretty much fast-tracked on to it, because they’d started with Tony Barber saying “we really need smart people on this show”. Unfortunately smart people aren’t always the best television. They were trying something Australians were never familiar with, which was not having the news on at six or six thirty in the evening. Putting on a “game show”, (which people thought it was. Which it wasn’t; it was a quiz program), at six o’clock was a big risk… and obviously it didn’t work. Which is why it went off air within six months. It was only about two and a half, three months after I went on air, that the program ended.

SH: How far did you go on Jeopardy!, and what did you win?

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“I say, you say, weren’t you listening?”

Eighties Australian synthpop band Pseudo Echo, from their music video 'Listening'

Eighties Australian synthpop band Pseudo Echo, from their music video ‘Listening’

I say, you say
“Weren’t you listening?”
Now it’s too late –
You’re not listening.
I say, you say
“Weren’t you listening?”
Now it’s too late –
You’re not listening.

From Pseudo Echo‘s début single Listening, 1983*.

Hi.

This week, I’d like to revisit a point that Vin Hedger made in our chat last week…

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

VH: Predicting the question before they hear it and answering their question rather than the actual one.

This is something you see time and time again. Not just in quiz shows, but in all game shows requiring their contestants to answer questions. By “answering their question rather than the actual one”, Vin means the contestant has already “heard” a question that’s different to the one being asked; they’ve incorrectly anticipated where the question is heading.

The skill of active listening – of attentive, conscious listening – is a really valuable skill for any game show contestant to have. If you’re a good, active, anticipatory listener, then you’re already ahead of your opposition who almost certainly haven’t given any thought to the role that listening plays in game show success. So, how do you become a good active, anticipatory listener?

Firstly, I’d recommend you have a look at this great video – it’s from the fantastic TED Talks site. In this short video (just under 8 minutes), sound expert and keynote speaker Julian Treasure speaks about conscious listening, and gives 5 great tips that you can use to improve your conscious listening skills.

It all starts with thinking about listening as an active process. Listening is different from just “hearing”; listening is something that you actually do, not something that just happens to you.

I’m not going to tell you what Julian Treasure’s 5 tips are, because I want you to watch this video for yourself. But he’s a powerful, eloquent speaker, and his message is really worth hearing. So I strongly recommend investing 8 minutes of your time in watching – and really absorbing – this.

After you’ve taken Julian’s 5 tips on board, and have started practising them, there are other exercises you can do to improve your listening skills.

One good site I’ve found for listening-related exercises is:

http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/develop/cpd/listening-skills-exercises

Something to bear in mind, though – the exercises here are mostly group exercises, so you’ll need to find someone to help you with them. But again, it’ll be worth it – you’ll both reap the rewards!

So there are some general introductory ideas to get you thinking about – and working on –  your conscious listening skills. “That’s all very well and good, Stephen,” I hear you cry, as I listen perhaps a little too consciously, “but what about some game show specific listening tips? Hm? Hm? Or have you forgotten the name of your own blog?”

Alright, alright, smartypants; calm down – I’m coming to that.

Unbelievable. So, here are my top 5 game show listening tips. Bear in mind that you’ll get more out of these and be better able to put them into practice if you’ve done some of the homework above.

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