As my chat with RocKwiz co-creator Brian Nankervis concludes this week, we look to the future…
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?
BN: Certainly with RocKwiz… find me before the show and convince me (and I am not that hard to convince) that you possess the level of rock knowledge that will possibly get you into the show and I will hand you a Wild Card, happily. If you get a Wild Card, that means you are one of 24 and then it is just a matter of being first to the buzzer. The buzzer work is pretty essential. we have a lot of people who say “I knew the answer; I just couldn’t buzz in first.” We have buzzers like a lot of other game shows that are on a program, whereby if I buzz and then if you buzz a second after me, your buzzer won’t come up. But of course they don’t know that and they bang them. And I say “no, you were just not fast enough”. I would say sometimes you would buzz first and just hope that you know the answer but if you don’t have the knowledge you’re not going to go that far. You’ve got to have the basic knowledge and you have to be comfortable and you’ve got to not get flustered by the lights or by the fact that you are sitting next to Judy Collins, or Billy Bragg or Paul Kelly. That can be a factor. Don’t touch them.
SH: Unless they invite you to.
BN: What else? Be respectful. Once we have selected our four contestants, we do a little read of the riot act. We say “Right. Don’t shout over each other, don’t dominate, be respectful, and be funny. In fact, be yourselves”.
SH: But maybe a “larger version” of yourself?
BN: That’s right. Exactly.
SH: Brian, thank you so much for your time. It’s been brilliant.
BN: Absolute pleasure.
And that’s where we left it. I’m very grateful to Brian for giving so generously of his time, and am also stoked to round off this post with the happy news that RocKwiz has been renewed yet again, for a special series entitled RocKwiz Salutes The Legends. It’s so great that this quirky, fun, entertaining show continues to go from strength to strength, both on TV, and in live venues all around the country. Speaking of which, RocKwiz’s next big live gig will be in Melbourne on Friday March 25th, and it’s called RocKwiz’s Really Really Good Friday. To see if the RocKwiz road show is coming to your area any time soon, be sure to check the RocKwiz Live site, right here.Tweet