My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Ian Rogerson – Part IV – the conclusion

Hello, and welcome to the final instalment of my chat with the host of All Star Squares, Mr Ian Rogerson! To put you in the mood, here’s a blast of that crazy theme tune…. 

We’ve covered Ian’s memories of hosting the show fairly extensively in Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this conversation, so I figured there was pretty much only one thing left for me to ask him…

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That was then…

SH: Now, I know All Star Squares was 21 years ago, so… what have you been up to since then?

IR: (LAUGHING) Working! I mean, radio’s been something I’ve done for 40 years. So I’m now at the age of very-very late 30s.

SH: (LAUGHING) Yes!

… This is now!

 

IR:

I’m not desperate to go out and get myself a gig right now, but invariably things come up.

SH: And I know that you and your wife Nicole are both very heavily involved with Autism Awareness Australia. Would you like to tell us a bit about that?

IR: Yeah. Our son Jack is autistic and we had to go through the journey – which started when he got diagnosed, finally – of living with a disabled person. But it’s amazing the difference you can make if you get the right therapy and spend a lot of one-on-one time with your child. We’ve been very lucky and you know Jack’s 24 now, rockin’ around… I think he’s drinking my beer, I’m not sure.

SH: Well someone is!

IR: Someone is. But he’s got a job and everything and so that’s worked out quite well. But the advocacy of it is something my wife has really driven because of who she is; she’s that kind of person. She’s a real advocate for it and I think they’re a real force for good and certainly a voice for the autism community, particularly the parents.

SH: And they’re at AutismAwareness.com.au.

IR: It’s a not-for-profit; it’s just basically there to advocate.

SH: Great.

IR: So, I guess that’s really it from me, as far as All Star Squares is concerned. It’s an interesting little footnote, isn’t it? I hope they resurrect it one day, because it’s actually a great game show.

SH: It is. When it’s done right, it’s just really entertaining and silly; one of those shows that you just let wash over you.

IR: Yes. When the chemistry all comes together on the show, it’s fantastic fun. I think there were some days where we were doing that show, we really all had heaps of fun and I think the audience was enjoying it too.

SH: Yeah, for sure. Perhaps one problem with the format is that you do have your regular celebrities who you can count on, but then for the guest celebrities, you get a mixed bag of athletes, actors, singers, whoever’s doing the promotional rounds… and some of those people were just rabbits in the headlights when it came to answering the questions. Sometimes we really had to rely on our regulars do the heavy-lifting.

IR: Yes, I think you guys – the writers – were doing the big work before the show back in the Green Room… just trying to get those people to loosen up.

An “Additional Material” credit! Whoo-hoo!

SH: Yeah because when it came to the guests, you just got who you were given, and they were not all necessarily naturals in that situation….

IR: You’d always be so happy when Lano & Woodley turned up.

The glorious Australian comedy double act Lano & Woodley, who appeared on the show (both crammed into one square!) several times.

SH: Hallelujah! Yes!

IR: And all the pressure would be off.

SH: Exactly! Well, thank you so much, Ian. This has been very enjoyable indeed and thanks again for taking the time to have a chat with me!

IR: My pleasure Steve. I mean, if you ever come to Sydney or if I ever get down there, we must catch up. It’d be great to see you.

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Aww, right back at ya, Big Fella! I’d just like to thank Ian for being so generous with his time, and remind you that he has a website here, he’s on Twitter here, and of course, you can find Autism Awareness Australia at www.AutismAwareness.com.au/

And that is where we leave that late nineties, late afternoon curio All Star Squares…

Aaall…. All Star Squares! Hey thanks I-an, for all the

MEM’RIES YOU’VE SHARED!!

I’ll see you next Tuesday

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Ian Rogerson – Part III

Ian Rogerson

Hello and welcome to the penultimate instalment of my chat with Ian Rogerson, who hosted All Star Squares, on Australian TV back in 1999. I worked on the show as a question and gag writer, and I’ve written about my experiences on it here before, but it was great to learn that Ian remembers it with such fondness too….

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IR: The whole show was so much fun. We’d sit there in the Green Room between shows with Tim Smith and Michael Caton… and I just remember lots of jokes.

SH: Yeah, it was very convivial! I remember Tim Smith in particular; going through questions and gags with him and just laughing a lot and him always wanting to make it better, as funny as possible. What a lovely bloke. Those were very happy memories.

The great Tim Smith.

IR: Yeah, I think in another timeslot the show might have worked. Who knows?

SH: You never know. Do you have any specific memories of any of the contestants?

IR: Did we give a car away once?

SH: We might have.

IR: I think we did.

SH: I think we did!

IR: It was a while ago, but I seem to remember that it wasn’t a huge car….

SH: No…

IR: I remember the live studio audiences really enjoying it as well. I really can’t remember too many of the contestants and that’s only just because of time, I think.

SH: Yeah.

IR: But the bizarre thing was that after it all finished, Channel Seven repeated the show over the next two summers.  But maybe that was just in Sydney.

SH: I don’t know; I don’t recall that happening down here in Melbourne. As we said, it wouldn’t have been a cheap show. The celebrities you mentioned, I think you’re still friendly with a few of them. Is that right?

IR: I’ve known a lot of those people from years previous. There are firm friendships; Tim Smith… and Michael Caton, I saw just last week. We both scream at the television over American politics.

SH: (LAUGHING) Oh good. It’s good to have that in common; that’s lovely. When it was on, did you find you were thrust into the spotlight? Did you find you were being recognized?

IR: Look, I’d already been through it in the eighties. I’m really not after the spotlight; I’m more of a cabinetmaker than a television show host. But I always wanted to host a game show, purely so that if something happened on a plane and somebody yelled out, “IS THERE A GAME SHOW HOST ON BOARD?” I could say, “Yes, I’m a Game Show Host – step aside.” I wanted “Game Show Host” on my passport.

SH: (LAUGHING) That’s good – you’ve achieved that goal!

IR: Look, as you know really well Steve, gigs come up… and you do them!

SH: Sure. Because… why not?

IR: Yeah and also, they might even pay you some money! AND give you some free chocolates.

SH: Yeah, “delightful Duc d’O chocolates” indeed! Now, the show didn’t last as long as we might have liked; what were your memories of its ending, and how did you process that at the time?

Continue reading

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Ian Rogerson – Part II

Hello, and welcome to the second instalment of my exclusive four-part interview with game show host Ian Rogerson about the whirlwind of activity at 5:30 on weeknights way back in 1999 that WAS All Star Squares.

Now let’s dive straight back in, with Ian’s candid thoughts on the show’s appeal….

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IR: In hindsight, I think the show was just on the borderline of almost being interesting. It had all the basics of the game show, plus some writing that goes in there and the false questions and the real questions…. But because it was a network game show, there were areas where you couldn’t really push the boundaries.

SH: Oh, for sure. And it was a 5:30 time slot, so it had to be family-friendly. The parameters were sort of…

IR: Relatively tight.

SH: Not exactly “broad”, for sure.

IR: Yeah. But we had a lot of pretty funny people in there. I mean… you, Kim Hope was funny, Tim Smith and there were a lot of people who were prepared to go a little bit around the edges, but it never really got a chance to develop… because it only ran about six months. I think it was in the wrong time slot. I may be misremembering here, but I was always under the impression it was going to go on at seven o’clock or six thirty.

SH: Oh, that’s interesting.

IR: … Originally. And then it was sort of like “Oh… 5:30”. And that’s an expensive show to run at 5:30.

SH: It really is. When you got the gig, what was your initial reaction? I imagine your previous work had prepared you pretty well for it. Were there any new skills or techniques you had to learn?

IR: Look, by far the hardest hurdle I had with that show is the fact that I was going a little grey (LAUGHING) and I said to them “You’re cool with the grey hair, aren’t you? That’s not a deal breaker, is it?” And they went, “Oh no – it IS a deal breaker.”

SH: Wow!

IR: I had to dye my hair, and I hated that! Because I’m not that kind of guy. I just like to be natural; if I’ve got grey hairs, I’ve earned them. But they weren’t going to have a bar of it. So, I was never happy with my hair for the full six months, which is off-putting when you’re a game show host.

Exhibit A.

“Aaaaaall, All Star Squares! They made Ian Roger-son DYE HIS GREY HAIRS!”

Johnny (Jonathan Coleman) and I had done Have a Go in 1988, which was basically a game show, so I knew all about recording five shows in a day and then having those episodes stripped through the week… So, I just thought ‘All Star Squares is going to be fun’, and it was a lot of fun! A lot of fun. But it was just so quick and then they killed us.

SH: Yes. I have very fond memories of it, but as you say, it was an expensive show and that’s such a crucial time slot for them, leading into the news….

IR: Yeah, and I don’t think we ever cracked it; we never got higher than second place (in the ratings).

SH: Yeah. What aspects of hosting the show – if any – were uncharted territory for you?

IR: I had no idea how tall the pyramid they were putting me on was going to be!

SH: Oh, that’s right!

IR: Yeah, I remember the set very clearly; the squares were huge. And that would have cost a lot of money to bump that in and bump that out of the studio every weekend. But also, my position was elevated on this really tall pyramid. I was having delusions of grandeur out there at one stage (LAUGHING).

SH: I’d forgotten that! Were you level with the second – or even third – level of the grid?

IR: I think I was across from the second level. You know I had vultures circling me at various times. I got nosebleeds if the pressure dropped (LAUGHING).

SH: Elevated like a lifeguard, or a tennis umpire – yeah.

IR: That’s right! So, when people would run notes up to me, it was like coming up the mountain to bring me a new set of questions.

SH: Do you have any specific memories of things that might have gone wrong during the show?

IR: I know that my wife came down one weekend and we went to the Flower Drum restaurant and drank so much white wine on the Friday night…. I was actually lying on my dressing room floor the next morning, feeling seriously hungover, thinking “How am I going to do five shows?” Of course I got up and did them, but I still can’t remember those five shows.

SH: So ‘Doctor Showbiz’ kicked in? You somehow found the necessary adrenalin?

IR: Yes. But I’ve never touched white wine since. And then, when my wife was in the audience that day, the warm-up guy Michael Pope used to throw chocolates out into the audience….

SH: Yes?

IR: He got Nicole, right in the middle of her forehead!

SH: Oh dear!

IR: Wham! Nicole never forgot that; she still brings it up occasionally.

SH: “Delightful Duc d’Os” were maybe not quite so delightful for Nicole…

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I must confess, the show’s sponsorship arrangement with the Belgian chocolatier Duc d’O was a certainly a fond memory for me*, although I certainly do empathise with Nicole; all the “finest ingredients”, “pronounced boldness” and “pure Belgian craftsmanship and expertise” in the world don’t mean much when the box is hitting you full force in the forehead.

Ah… Showbiz, eh?

See you next week.

* Because, you know, free chocolates.

My EXCLUSIVE interview with Game Show Host Ian Rogerson – Part I

Ian.

Hello, and welcome to my latest HowToWinGameShows.com EXCLUSIVE interview! And today, we’re wandering down Memory lane, all the way back to 1999, with the host of All Star Squares; it’s that stalwart of the Australian entertainment industry; broadcaster, columnist and all-round lovely bloke… Ian Rogerson!

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SH: Ian, thank you so much for joining me today for HowToWinGameShows.com!

IR: My pleasure!

SH: For our overseas visitors… you didn’t start out as a game show host; for many years before All Star Squares came calling, you had a long and successful career on commercial radio and TV, as part of the comedy double act ‘Jono & Dano’ (with Jonathan Coleman).

IR: I used to refer to myself as “one third of ‘Jono & Dano’.”

SH: (LAUGHING) Did you really? That’s very modest of you. How did you two meet and start working together? And when did you know that your chemistry was really going to pay off?

IR: I’d been working at Triple J in Sydney for about a year. One Saturday night they brought this guy in and said, “Do you know him?”
And I go, “No.”
“You watch Wonder World (the kids’ TV show Jonathan was on at the time), don’t you?”
“No.”
“Well look, we’re just trying him out, just operate the panel – don’t worry about it. We just want to see what he’s like.”
And I thought ‘yeah, okay, fair enough’. And then in comes Coleman, who blathers on for about 20 minutes… I just basically had to interrupt him! And that was the beginning of a ten-year relationship.

SH: So, it wasn’t organic, it wasn’t by accident, or because you both moved in the same circles… it was sort of pre-fabricated by the station?

IR: It wasn’t even that! We just ended up doing the rest of that show together. And that’s where that sort of chemistry came across. They said, “Okay – you guys are doing Saturday nights now.” And that was it.

SH: Wow that’s interesting! I had no idea. Then after Triple J (which is a subsidiary of the ABC, our public broadcaster), when did you go to commercial radio?

IR: About mid 80s. ‘84 I think. Most of it’s a blur, to be brutally honest…

SH: Sure.

IR: I was having a lot of fun. Sorry, I was very busy – very busy.

SH: That too.

IR: In ’84, the Triple M people came and offered us more money than I’d ever seen, so it was like, “Okay, let’s do that!” So, I ended up working there for a few years and got a TV show with Channel Seven. We ended up doing a tonight show (Late Night With Jono & Dano); one of the world’s worst tonight shows, although we did win the ratings on the last day of the show.

SH: Why do you call it that? Surely it couldn’t have been that bad.

IR: We were idiots (LAUGHING). We weren’t serious; we were just idiots. And I think we were such fans of the David Letterman show, we realized the only place we could watch it come in live was off the satellite in at Channel Seven. So I suspect we were partly doing the show so we could watch the Letterman Show during the week, when it came through at about midday!

SH: You were in it for the perks!

IR: (LAUGHING) Yeah, it was fantastic. And then at the end of the 80’s, Johnny went off to England, I went back to Triple J when they set it up as a national network and worked there until about the mid-90s and then I did bits and pieces; a series of interview shows in America, and stuff like that… I then came back and then All Star Squares came my way in 1999.

SH: So how did that come to be?

IR: They were auditioning for it and that’s where I met the producer Tony Skinner; he was a lovely man. I liked Tony. He really knew game shows, and he was a game show guru. So, they were doing auditions and it got down to Larry Emdur and me. Which is also the name of my new sitcom.

SH: (LAUGHING) Larry Emdur & Me! Wow – the original odd couple! I’d pay to see that.

IR: And I ended up getting the gig, so that’s where I got to meet you.

SH: Indeed. When you auditioned for it, had you seen either of the previous Australian versions, hosted by Jimmy Hannan? There was Celebrity Squares (1975 – 1976), and there was Personality Squares in 1981. Were you familiar with the show and the format at all?

IR: Yeah, it really goes back to Hollywood. I think it was a 60’s show originally, wasn’t it? Hollywood Squares, that was it. The format was a no-brainer, it was just a case of how you fill up those squares and who you get. I thought that you had to have some regulars; so the people who are coming back to the show are going to know and feel comfortable with it. So, they were the Michael Catons, the Tottie Goldsmiths and the Tim Smiths… Everybody was “Smith” on the show, for a period of time!

SH: Why didn’t we get Ron Sexsmith? That’s my question!

IR: (LAUGHING) Exactly!

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And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. Next week, Ian and I discuss the physicality of the show’s set, the vagaries of time slot programming, and the one thing that the network warned him was definitely “a deal breaker”….

In the meantime, if you’d like to follow Ian on Twitter, you can! He’s at https://twitter.com/ian_rogerson

Also in the meantime, if you’re curious to learn more about All Star Squares, there’s also my three-part PatentedHowToWinGameShowsBehindTheScenesReminiscences of the show, RIGHT HERE.  

See you next week!

P.S. Ron wasn’t available.

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