My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 2

Hello and welcome back. When we left our chat last week, Yogesh and I were discussing how much easier it is to learn facts about things that you’re actually interested in…


SH: Personally, I enjoy learning about culture, movies and arts and all that sort of stuff. But sport I don’t care about. And so if and when I have to learn stuff about sport, it’s much harder to make it go in… because I’m not going, “well, what can I learn next? What can I learn next?” I’m just going, “Here we go again…”

YR: Yeah, it is fun. Certainly, it’s interesting. Again, another thing I learned about as an academic was the phenomenon of ‘Interesting-ness’, but just at a commonsensical level, when two things that don’t seem like they’re related turn out to be related, that’s interesting, right? Something goes off in your head, and honestly, it’s inherently pleasurable. Which is not something that is talked about much in this culture because American culture is very anti-intellectual. I sometimes say it takes the attitude that Victorians had toward certain kinds of pleasure, and shifts it to the pleasure of learning.

SH: Ha! Yes, it’s similar in Australia. The amount of attention sport gets in this country… sportspeople are treated like gods and artists and performers and writers and actors are way, way, way, way down the level of priorities. People will have quasi-religious conversations about sport; sportspeople are the gods of our country. And as someone who’s not sporting and is more interested in more intellectual pursuits, it’s just… c’est la vie. That’s the way it is in Australia.

YR: Yeah, I mean, I like many sports, I follow them. I admire people who are good at them. But there was a certain point where I realised that my perspective was always going to be coloured by the fact that I put in the work to become, at one point, among the top 20 in the world, in an activity. And in any sport, if I were among the top 20 in the world, the amount of reinforcement and rewards I’d get from it are entirely different from what I get in the field of quizzing. I mean, first of all, the thing I am good at is literally called “trivia”. And often called “useless knowledge”. And sure, there’s a debate to be had about the extent to which it is useless. But then you compare it to throwing a ball up in the air and having it come down…

SH: I know! I KNOW! “Oh, you’re good at kicking and catching a ball, are you? Here, have a few million dollars…”

YR: Yeah. And now suddenly, the question of what is “trivial” doesn’t really seem all that ambiguous.

SH: (LAUGHING) Indeed, indeed. I’m in a conversation with my friend, and he’s watching the footy on TV out of the corner of his eye, and in the middle of our conversation, he suddenly yells at the screen, because one of the men running around on the grass didn’t catch the ball that the other man running around on the grass kicked to him. And I just think, “Hey, I’m right here! We’re having a conversation!” But the men running around on the grass throwing and kicking the ball to each other overrule absolutely anything else that’s going on.

YR: Yeah. I mean, it’s unavoidable to get sour grapes accusations thrown at me, but it is absolutely the case that like there isn’t anywhere close to the reward of being among the best in the world at quizzing as there would be in sport.

SH: Right. If you’re the 20th best golfer or the 20th best tennis player in the world, you’d be showered with endorsements and riches and all the rest of it.

YR: Right. But I don’t want to stop there, though. Because I don’t want to undersell the negatives that have come into my life as a result of working as hard as I have, to become as good as I have. In terms of people stereotyping you and taking your narrative away from you, starting with the myth that you just have a “photographic memory”. I put a lot of my effort into earning multiple degrees in psychology, including studying the psychology of memory. So I can say, as an academic, that that is not a thing, that’s not a real thing.

SH: Right.

YR: But what I can also say, as a person of colour, is that that is inevitably deployed to diminish your achievements. Because to wonder why is someone so curious about the world, so passionate, so able to see connections … it stirs an insecurity in certain people. Especially people who feel that, because they are white and you are Asian, then by definition you are less creative and more robotic than they are.

And this stirs some unpleasant self-reflection in those people, which can easily be cut off by saying, “No, no, no; they’re not more passionate, more creative, more committed to learning than I am. They’re just like robots. They just have a larger memory capacity, like a CPU.” And it diminishes who you are as a person. It causes people to assume you are uncreative, no matter how much you demonstrate otherwise. And I used to think that was the worst of it… until I started facing the literal, racist exclusion that I faced in pub trivia. And the ways in which the people responsible were never held accountable at all.

On my blog, I alluded to repeatedly the experiences that I had with racism, including most notably sitting in a pub in Portland with some friends. A friend had come in from out of town and invited me to join him. Sitting there quietly, just having fun, trying to have a nice evening while answering the questions, playing the quiz.

And the owner of the company got in his car, drove 20 minutes to the centre of Portland, came in, came into our group, and summoned me outside. And informed me that I was banned from playing all of his company’s games. And some of my white friends understood that this man’s report of what happened later would be different from the way he actually behaved. I’ve been through enough of these interactions to know that that’s how it works. And so they came outside and they witnessed everything; they witnessed him not being able to provide a genuine rationale for banning me, they witnessed his stumbling attempts to put together a rationale that ultimately involved just lies. Including also banning a white friend of mine who was a very meek and non-disruptive person. But he insisted that my friend had also done a bunch of stuff to deserve being banned just so that he could dodge the criticism that he was racist. Because he was like “Well if I am racist, why am I also banning this white guy?” 

SH: What did he say that he was banning you for?

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with quiz champion Yogesh Raut – Part 1

Yogesh Raut on the set of ‘Jeopardy!’ with ‘Jeopardy!’ host Ken Jennings.

When it comes to quizzing credentials, surely it’s hard to beat Yogesh Raut. He holds three Masters Degrees in three disciplines. He’s been a quiz show enthusiast and expert for decades, writing and competing in pub trivia, Scholastic Bowl state championships, collegiate quiz bowl, the Trivia Championships of North America, the World Quizzing Championships, and more. He’s done it all. He produces the podcast Recreational Thinking, he runs the blog The Wronger Box, which is a cornucopia of fascinating facts, regularly updated, and he made news in January this year following his run on what is probably America’s favourite TV quiz show – Jeopardy!


SH: Yogesh Raut, Welcome to!

YR: Thank you.

SH: When were you first bitten by the quiz bug? Or what initially piqued your interest in the world of quizzing?

YR: I told a story to local media about how when my brother was two grades ahead of me in school, he started playing Scholastic Bowl. I wasn’t eligible. I was at a different school, different grades, but my father put me in the front row of his matches with a clipboard and a notepad and told me to just write down all the answers I knew. And after two straight years of doing that, I finally got to middle school myself and got to play and in my first game, I answered the first seven questions correctly, and the coach of the opposing team called a timeout to try to break my rhythm. But then when we came back, I got the eighth one.

I think it’s a good metaphor for after multiple decades of trying to get on Jeopardy, and of honing my skills in many, many, many different formats across many years, and proving what I was capable of, whether it was in Quiz Bowl, whether it was the World Quizzing Championship, the Quizzing World Cup, Connections Online Quiz League, all of these things… finally getting a chance to do it in front of an audience, rather than just having my own private little notepad where I’m like, “Look! I knew all that!”

I thought that was a very good metaphor. It seems people were offended by it. And I don’t really understand why. Other than that they just don’t want to accept that the role of Jeopardy within the quizzing ecosystem is, for elite quizzers, NOT the Olympics, the testing ground; it’s not the thing that determines how good they are. I now realise that there’s a fairly large contingent of people who don’t want to accept that Jeopardy isn’t the Olympics. And they don’t like the attitude of “Well, I proved myself in the Olympics – now I’m coming on this reality show and hoping to make some money.”

SH: Right, right. So, Jeopardy is a mainstream and very popular show, but the world of quizzing is a lot more than just that. Is that the idea?

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My EXCLUSIVE interview with the voice of ‘The Price Is Right’, ‘Wheel of Fortune’, ‘Family Feud’, ‘Deal Or No Deal’, and more… Mr John Deeks! Part V

Those pesky Whammies from ‘Press Your Luck’

This week, Deeksie’s back for the penultimate chunk of our chat about his career and game shows in general.

And there’s one oft-forgotten game show in Australian television history, that I used to watch and enjoy more for its goofy camp value than anything else….


SH: One game show of the many you’ve been involved with, which only ran for a year here, was Press Your Luck. I remember watching Press Your Luck

JD: Ah, the Whammy!

SH: That’s right! “No whammies! No whammies!” It ran from 1987-1988, and it was hosted by your old pal from The Price Is Right, Ian Turpie. 

JD: Yes, I used to have to go down Clarendon Street to put all his bets on for him, at the TAB.

SH: Oh, did you? Okay, alright.

JD: Yes, that was part of my role.

SH: Essential.

JD: Essential. Anyway, so back to me… (laughter)

SH: Yeah that’s right! That’s why we are here. So… Press Your Luck.

JD: Press Your Luck was a technically challenging show because, a bit like The Price Is Right, there were a lot of technical mechanics in it; things moved, things happened in it, there were screens, there were split-second buzzers, there were animations being played over the top of live vision… I didn’t think it was as good (as Price). So Press Your Luck wasn’t really a stayer. I mean, I’ve done so many pilots over the years….

SH: Oh yeah?

JD: … And most of them are still friends. Boom-tish, thank you very much. But no, I have done a lot of pilots and thinking about the amount of shows that have come and gone, there have only been, Stephen, about 5 great game show formats in the world. I can list them. There’s Wheel, there’s Feud, there’s Jeopardy!, which never worked in Australia.

SH: Yeah – Jeopardy is a bit more like $ale of the Century, isn’t it?

JD: Yeah. But look, if we were in the states, all the shows that I’ve been working on would still be running, probably, in syndication.

SH: Yes of course. And there’s the Game Show Network, and America’s population is 20 times ours, and so on.

JD: Yes. But the common thread with all the contestants… what I tell them all is the word “Natural”. Be yourself, don’t try and put on another personality, don’t try to beat the host at their own game because the one thing people hate – whether it’s producers or people at home – is a smartarse. And occasionally we’ll find someone who we think is a bit ‘left-of-field’, and we’ll put that person in the mix, to make things interesting. Because when you’re at home, watching these shows, you sit there and you judge, judge, judge, judge.

SH: “I like her”, “I don’t like him…”

JD: And that’s why Eddie talks to the contestants on Millionaire Hot Seat, and you find out about them all. “Oh, you’ve just build a mud brick house, have you?” All that kind of stuff. So it’s empathetic, it’s the character of the person, it’s the attachment that you have to get with them.


Next week, as my chat with Deeksie concludes, we hear about his Favourite Game Show Host of All Time, and his thoughts on the future of game shows. 

Until then, take care, and remember that impassioned plea, that heartfelt entreaty, that emotion-charged call of all those valiant Press Your Luck contestants who went before us; those words which will forever echo through The Corridors of History…

“No Whammies! No Whammies! No Whammies!”


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

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!


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 ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Temptation’ Champion Blair Martin – Part VIII – FINAL Jeopardy!

Blair-Winning-Reaction-DSC_This week, my interview with Jeopardy! champion and Temptation Grand Champion Blair Martin comes to a close.

When we left off last week, Blair was outlining all the amazing travel opportunities that his win on Temptation had made possible. But, as you’ll see, his competitive streak is still alive and well. Once a trivia buff, always a trivia buff…..


BM: These experiences that I’ve had, I am really grateful for them. I regularly go to a weekly pub trivia – that has been running for over 20 years – that has a core group of about eight teams who regularly turn up, and I play as a solo team. It is a little bit of my own internal fight. It is me versus 40 other people. 

SH: You’d give them a run for their money, I would think! What advice would you give to someone wanting to go on a quiz show?

BM: Enjoy the experience. Even if it is 20 minutes only on television, you’ve got an experience that millions of people in Australia would love to have, but will never have the guts to do it. Also knowing that you have already got past the selection process. You have already won in some way. If you want to prepare for it, get your mind going. My definition of intelligence is having an open mind, not a vacant mind. Because too many people in our contemporary society have vacant minds that get filled up with whatever garbage is pushed at them. Whether it’s a political spin line about being afraid of a ragtag bunch of religious fundamentalists who are fighting in a far off country who have no direct influence on this country, or who is cooking the best Crème Brulee under completely artificial conditions, whether sport is the absolute be-all and end-all… which I think is ridiculous. I think in a well-rounded life, sporting prowess or appreciation of sport is as valuable as the appreciation of music, of literature, of arts, of science, of faith, of politics. I think you have to have a balance. When I was in Ireland, I heard an Irishman mutter “I’ve always believed in the saying ‘everything in moderation’… including moderation.”

SH: (LAUGHS) That’s good! I like that.

BM: So that, to me, is the success of it. If your mind is opened and you can read widely and develop a sense of the curious. You want to be able to just keep your mind fresh. The internet is a fantastic gift, that you can sit there and just start WWILFing on! (“WWILF” is an expression Blair mentioned earlier. It stands for ‘What Was I Looking For?’ – SH) Get on and go round and round and just look for stuff….. and always back yourself. If you believe you can do it, then you are half way there. When Andrew Skarbec won the million on Million Dollar MinuteI really admired his fortitude to keep going.

SH: Yeah, that’s gutsy.

BM: I know that pressure. When you think that you’re filming five episodes in a day… by the middle of the afternoon, everyone’s getting tired and it is a special kind of stamina. I really appreciate the way people are able to do that. Hey, it’s been lovely to talk to you, Stephen. 

SH: Oh, my pleasure, Blair. Thank you so much again.


There you have it. I’d like to thank Blair again for this great chat, and for giving so generously of his time. If you’re interested to see what Blair’s up to these days, you can follow him on Twitter, at @BlairmartinSEE, or check his website at

And speaking of websites*, here’s another one: That’s where you can get my eBook How To Win Game Shows, still at the price of $19.99 AUD.


*This has been another in my series of patented Ludicrously-Tangential-eBook-Plugs-At-The-End-Of-My-Weekly-Post, for your enjoyment and edification. I thank you.

Next week on, my first book review in… well, quite a while. Until then!

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

Cover Boy - CopyIn 2007, actor Blair Martin completed an incredible 8-night winning streak on the Australian game show Temptation, taking home a prize pool worth over $600,000 for his efforts. Over those eight nights – which were recorded over two separate sessions, two weeks apart – I wondered if Blair’s resolve to go “all the way” had ever wavered. 

So I asked him.


BM: In my run on Temptation, Stephen, there was never really ever a thought of “No, no, no”. Even that second episode, the near-death experience. And I’m so glad that was at the end of the taping day because it allowed me to go away for two weeks and go back to my normal life. And I went back two weeks later and Jess (the contestant co-ordinator) asked me if I’d told anyone and I said “no, no, I signed an agreement”. And she looked at me and went “that meant not telling any of your journo mates”.

I’m in the union with them – do you reckon I’m gonna tell them anything?” (LAUGHS)

I went “no, you’ve asked me to do something, and that’s it”. The closest I ever came to telling anyone? At the time in 2007, I had two cats and my next door neighbour would often look after them when I was gone. I was literally walking down the corridor of Brisbane airport to the departure gate on Sunday night and I rang and I said “I have to get back to Melbourne and I am on my way now. Would you mind looking after the boys when I am gone?” And she was like “yeah, sure… Melbourne?” And I went “Yeah, see you later!”

Even on Jeopardy!, my then-housemate made a comment about one of the episodes of Jeopardy! and said “the woman on tonight seems really good”. She won some smallish amount of money, and I just turned to him and said “she’s a f*****g amateur”. And he looked at me and said “You’re blitzing them, aren’t you?” And I just went “I can’t say anything”.

My favourite quote of Ian Richardson as Francis Urquhart in the original House of Cards is “You might very well think that I couldn’t possibly comment”.

SH: (LAUGHS) Very good. The Temptation run; you were on for 8 nights, a grand total of $603,002 in cash and prizes. How did that make a difference in your life?

BM: A huge amount of difference. It allowed me to expand the work that I was doing as a performer. I could do things that I wasn’t able to do before, and the biggest one was travel. I had not ever been able to cross the equator and go to Europe, where I’d always wanted to go. A couple of years after Temptation, I went there quite a number of times and it was the best experience. I absolutely adore travelling. I love going to other places, because of the opportunity to see the differences – and the similarities – in all of the cultures.

I really thank Temptation for allowing me to realise my dreams. It’s an experience that financially helped an awful lot for a few years and it gave me freedom to explore things that I would have never had the opportunity to do and that exploration of who I am is particularly great. There’s a number of things that certainly lead on to being who you are. When you get put on the cover of a magazine declaring you to be one of ‘The 25 LGBT People To Watch In 2015’, you do realise that your life is a little bit different… 
Sometimes you forget, because as I grew up, I was afraid to big-note myself; that great Australian expression; “Stop big-noting yourself”. Now I had heard that and I don’t decry my parents for saying it, because it was part of the culture, and it was a good thing to know. In one way, it’s like ‘just be careful that you don’t over-aggrandize yourself, because you don’t know what that consequence could be.’

The problem was that when you’re a sensitive child, it can impact on a child’s sense of self-worth and then you spend a lot of time thinking ‘I am really not very good, am I?’ And trying to do something which is good I will get criticized or punished for it. People look at me now in a way of saying “Oh my god, you always look so heroic”. To me there is a sense of wanting to be useful. Here is the Gandhi idea of “be the change you wish to see”,
 or Mandela’s ”It’s only impossible until it is done.” 

SH: Blair, I wonder if that is a particularly Australian thing. I was brought up with a bit of that as well; “Yes, yes, acting’s all very fine and good as a hobby, but as a career? You’ve got to have something to fall back on”. All these beliefs we’re indoctrinated with, all about our limits, our limitations. When you step outside that, and dare to ask the question “Well, what if there weren’t limits?”, amazing things can happen. And they do – they happen every day. 


And that’s where I’d like to leave it today, on that boldly positive note. And it is something I really do believe, by the way. From my own personal experience, there have been so many times in my life where I’ve been surprised at what I’ve been capable of achieving, simply by having the bravery / belief / stupidity to ‘Step Off The Edge’.

I highly recommend it. If the opportunity presents itself, I challenge you to ‘Step Off The Edge’ at least once this coming week. Find something you’re not sure you could manage, but that you’d like to do… and take that Leap of Faith in yourself. What’s the worst that could happen?

Be positive!

Just like I’m positive that there are still stocks of my very first eBook How To Win Game Shows, available right here still at the introductory price of just AU$19.99 !

This has been an unpaid announcement as part of a series of ludicrously tangential eBook plugs at the end of my weekly post.

Written and authorised by S. Hall, Melbourne, Australia.  





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

blair-martin - Copy

Blair Martin, whose Twitter handle is @blairmartinSEE

As this antepenultimate instalment of my Blair Martin interview begins, we spend some time chatting about how to improve your general knowledge. It’s no surprise that game shows in general – and quiz shows in particular – tend to be won by contestants with above average general knowledge. But how do you get an above average general knowledge? How do you bump your general knowledge up to that level? Here are Blair’s thoughts.


BM: At the time of Temptation, some of the press I did afterwards, I was asked about the storage of knowledge and how you do it. I said there’s been a term coined: “WWILF”, which stands for “What Was I Looking For?” You know on the internet where you go on to do something, and then you start getting dragged off into other areas? And I said “I’ve now got an answer for what I do with these things”. That’s how I get all these fascinating facts. I’ll go and look for something and then another something will drag me off and that branches off to something else. I am endlessly fascinated by facts.

SH: It pays to be naturally curious, I think.

BM: To be genuinely interested in things. There are only a few subjects that can completely blank me and I couldn’t be interested in them if you paid me… but I am sure if you paid me I could probably do something! (LAUGHS)

SH: Muster up some degree of interest, yes! On Temptation did you have an overarching strategy? Were you thinking “I’m going to go as far as I can, come hell or high water”? Or was there a cut-off point where you thought “oh, I’ll be happy with that”?

BM: I don’t think so because I was actually filmed over three days. I think the real horror would be sitting on seven wins and then having to come back for the next taping block two weeks later. So you’d have two whole weeks of hanging on tenterhooks; I just had overnight. (Before the final show) the Exec Producer said to me, “How did you sleep last night?” I said, “Not really.” She said “Me neither. We haven’t had a win since Tracy (Korsten, some seven months earlier)”. They were kind of hanging for someone and they were all a bit “we really hope you get there”, and I said “Oh, we’ll see what happens”. I don’t think there was any real desire to retire at any point, because honestly I don’t think there were any of the prizes, apart from the first night prize (a home entertainment system) – which I am sitting in front of at the moment – or the second night prize (a lounge suite) – which I am actually sitting on… Oh, there was a motorbike, but I thought “I can’t take the motorbike, because my father used to be a motorcyclist and when he started dating my mother in the fifties, my mother’s parents told him ‘you can only keep dating our daughter if you stop riding a motorbike!’” And that became another part of the contestant colour in that episode of Temptation.

In the end, it was like “Look. I’m here. I am enjoying this”. There is only one other close-ish episode, and that was that rather aggressive woman from Brisbane and honestly I enjoyed playing the Fast Money. And I loved being able to get to the end and see “can you get ten questions right in one minute?”

SH: That’s fun. People sort of forget that – It is challenging, but it is exciting, and fun. Even now, when I play just watching at home, against other shows like Million Dollar Minute – just playing along is a buzz; I love it.

BM: One of my early morning things is watching Eggheads. And there’s an endless sense of fascination in learning stuff.

SH: Yes, learning new things.


There you have it – CURIOSITY. While it’s a trait that may not be all that beneficial for cats, it’s absolutely essential for any aspiring quiz show winner.

And something else, my friends, that’s absolutely essential for any aspiring quiz show winner is… yep, you guessed it; my eBook How To Win Game Shows, which is available by clicking this hyperlink, and it’s still at the introductory price of $19.99 AU! And it’s even got a picture of cats in it, on Page 9.

In fact, it’s this picture;

Three little kitten isolated on white

Awww! Don’t they look …. well, a bit vapid and brainless, actually.









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

hqdefault (1)This week, Blair reveals a FANTASTIC tip for any aspiring Jeopardy! contestants! But first… When we left off last week, Blair had just narrowly won the second of his seven episodes of Temptation, by way of a tiebreaker; his opponent buzzed in early, and got the answer wrong…


BM: You can see the relief; “You’re kidding me. I’ve actually won this?” But when I came back two weeks later, I moved into that episode going “Right. You know what happened two weeks ago. We don’t do that again!” I was very hard with myself; “You focus!” and I am a big one for rituals and you will see that I always put my hands back on the buzzer the same way. And I am focused on Ed because we were told this during the briefing; it’s a good thing to learn to anticipate slightly, because Ed has got to still be talking, a word or two before he looks up and calls you by name. So even if you’re only half sure about it, there will still be a couple of words that can then pretty much clinch it, or not. So I learned to be focused on what was being said to me.

The same thing with Jeopardy! You can’t buzz in until the quizmaster’s finished reading the clue. What people don’t know is in the studio there is a light system. So there is a bank of red lights above the game board. When they are illuminated the circuit is open and you can buzz in. So what I would do with Jeopardy! – and they told us not to do this – they said “don’t try and read it off the monitor,” because everyone’s eyesight is different. I actually read off the monitor, so I had read the question or the clue before Tony Barber had finished saying it.

I had the buzzer in my hand and I would just go “yep, I know the answer to that” and I’d look to the top of the game board, wait until the lights come on, and then bang! Even if you anticipate it by a millisecond, you will lock yourself out. I think there was a lockout so you can’t keep buzzing and locking other people out. Yours is locked out and then someone else can get in. So during my time on Jeopardy!, people say “you were always so fast”. I was like “that’s how I did it”, because I was priming myself to see those lights. As soon I saw the light come on – light travels fast – bang!

Obviously on Temptation it was entirely different but it was listening to the question and going through. I can’t say how I know the answers to these things. What people did always say to me, Stephen, was “how do you know all that stuff?” I said “it is not a matter of knowing things, it is a matter of recall. It’s a matter of at that moment being able to recall the fact that is being asked for”. On one of the ‘Who Am I?’ questions, I buzzed in within 2 lines or something. You can even see on Ed’s face, like; “How the hell you know the answer to this now?” The answer was Natalie Portman. It is simple as a few weeks before I’d come across an article that mentioned that that’s not her birth name. She was actually born in Israel. Her father is a surgeon or something and had moved to New York for a career opportunity and she got into performing and she took her maternal grandmother’s name as her performing name, because her own surname was Herschlag or something like that. And that’s something where I went “that’s interesting. I wouldn’t have known that”. That was stored away in the memory bank.

SH: That real serendipity element comes into play time and time again, where it could be a fact that was learned a week ago – or something in passing that doesn’t seem like much at that time – but it all goes in there.


And that’s where we’ll have to leave it for this week. And speaking of “it all go(ing) in there“….

All” the very best bits of’s first two and a half years “have gone in” to my 208 page eBook How To Win Game Shows, which is available for download right here, still at the introductory price of $AU 19.99!

This has been the second in my series of deliberately – and ludicrously – tangential eBook-promoting blog post signoffs. Please check in again seven days from now, to see how I can twist the final few words of next week’s post to my own nefarious, self-promotional purposes…. 

Until then!





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


Blair’s winning moment, from Blair’s winning episode of ‘Temptation’ !

Hello, Happy New Year, and welcome to the third instalment of my interview with Jeopardy! champion, AND Temptation Grand Champion, Blair Martin. This week, Blair and I discuss his run on Temptation – the climax of which is pictured to the right – and he reveals a couple of Jeopardy! pearls of wisdom that the show’s production staff shared with him. If you remember, at the end of last week’s post, Blair had just fronted up to the Temptation audition in Brisbane.

Now, Dear Reader, read on….


BM: I got through and during the interview with one of the contestant co-ordinators, and she had also been the co-coordinator on The Einstein Factor; Karla Burt. She was lovely. And I know the co-ordinators of Jeopardy! back in ’93 when they were doing the auditions, after everyone had done the 50 questions, and when they were being marked, they’d play an episode of Jeopardy! for people to watch. They said to me after I taped my Jeopardy! episodes (which were in March and my first episode aired on April Fool’s Day!), they said to me “We are now playing your episode at the auditions”; while they’re marking the tests. “We just leave the room and say “we want you all to be like him’…” 

SH: Nice. 

BM: “… ‘Which is; you look in the camera, you interact with the host, you wager big amounts because that increases the interest from the audience, and you are fine”. (The show’s host) Tony Barber actually said in the production meeting between the two weeks “Blair’s an actor. It means that the lights are on and the camera is on and he is back on. When it’s not, he’s off”. When you are on those programs, to me… I treat it as a job. I have a job to do, which is look good, be presentable and make good television. That’s what we’re here to do.

SH: It is interesting what you say about the wagering and how it relates to Temptation, because I haven’t seen all of your run, but your final episode is on YouTube (and now also on the HowToWinGameShows Facebook page, here), which I watched in preparation for this. It seemed to me that your strategy was to buy in the Gift Shop and certainly not hold back, and you seemed to breeze through that final episode. The final score was 34 plays 25 plays 116. You seemed very relaxed. During your run on Temptation, did you often spend that big? 

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


Two time quiz show champion Blair Martin


My interview with Blair Martin continues this week, as Blair opens up this instalment with his thoughts on how we Australians (sadly) often regard those amongst us who put ourselves on the line, take a risk and ‘have a go’….


BM: With Jeopardy!, I remember looking back at some of the footage and I’m thinking “God, you can be a smug bastard”. Something came up; “who was Moses’ brother?” In Jeopardy!, it’s phrased as an answer and you have to give it as a question. The look on my face was like “Oh really? How easy is this?” I just gave this nice answer* and Tony Barber was quite impressed. He said, “My goodness, your knowledge is really broad. It’s phenomenal.” I was like “Yeah, you know”…

Although I did try not to come across as too ‘up yourself’, because coming from a very middle class background, provincial city in the middle of Queensland… that very Australian thing; we cut the tall poppy down. And I was always bullied at primary school, and then I went to high school and the same thing happened there. Because I was the one doing school musicals and was the library monitor, and all that. And you know, you’re not a real person, are you? You’re something like a strange creature. 

SH: You’re not a “blokey bloke”, yeah.

BM: So trying not being too up myself when I’m doing quiz programs.

SH: So Jeopardy! was 1993. You came away from that with $76,000 and a new TV?

BM: Yeah! I used that television right up until Temptation gave me another one! (LAUGHS). Who’d have known my TVs for the last 25 years would come courtesy of quiz shows?

SH: After that, had you always thought that you wanted to have another crack at quiz show competition?

BM: It has always been an interest of mine. I think the Jeopardy! experience gave me a bit of a profile. So after Jeopardy! in my work as a performer I had an opportunity to offer to clients; “if you want a quiz format for your entertainment that’s a little bit better than your pub trivia, that’s actually hosted by someone who’s actually won one of these, who likes writing these questions…” I think that the trick with writing questions is you can’t make them too hard. You can be as oblique as you like, and people will be like “that’s fascinating, but why?” You want to give people enough of an opportunity to think they can win this and that they know the answer and of course, we love hearing teams argue! When they’re giving their answer they go “I told you that was the right one!” It’s great and it adds a bit of challenge. So I was doing that, and then Who Wants to be a Millionaire appeared, and there was the Channel 7 similar version to that hosted by Frank Warrick, where you had to ring up the call number, and I never got invited to audition for either of those programs. So I really wasn’t interested. There was The Weakest Link as well. I just thought “I don’t like the format of The Weakest Link.”

SH: It’s pretty nasty, isn’t it?

BM: Even though I’ve had friends who had appeared on it, I still think it rewards mediocrity, because if you’re clever you’ll get shot down – or just used – by the less clever people and then all of a sudden they will vote you off. I just disliked it. I thought it was pretty awful. Then Temptation came along, and I thought “why not?” 

SH: Did you watch Temptation from the start, in 2005? 

BM: Yes and no… and I will have to say with the deepest amount of shame and regret, I never saw you on it.

SH: (LAUGHS) You don’t have to have deep shame and regret about that!

BM: I was like “Stephen Hall, the actor? I didn’t know he did that!” It’s a bit like Matt Parkinson. He did his stuff on Sale of the Century… but there was a little something else before Temptation; I was on the very first taping of The Einstein Factor. And I thought that was a tremendous program. Being ABC, there is no money in it but it was great fun and I ended up being beaten by the woman who went on to win the Einstein Factor that year, which was 2004. I did say to her “you will go on to win this”… and yes, she did. The next year, when Temptation came around, I applied. It was 2005 and I was having dinner with some friends and one of them said “I’m going up to Channel 9 tomorrow morning. I’m auditioning for Temptation.” I thought “I’ve sent them an email for that and they’ve never responded. Oh, I know how these things work, I’ll just go up”. Totally brazen! Gate-crash the audition, basically. Two weeks after that, I got an email saying “we will be back in Brisbane on such and such date in November”. 

SH: “Actually, it turns out I am already there!” 


SPOILER ALERT: If you hadn’t already worked it out, Blair’s gatecrashing of the Brisbane Temptation audition was a success – he did get on the show. So their November email to him was already redundant. Next week, Blair and I discuss the lead up to his Temptation experience, and what he did by way of preparation. In the meantime, you can catch up with what Blair’s up to these days at his website, or by following him on Twitter. But for now, until next week – which also happens to be next year – I’ll say goodbye, and thank you so much for all your support in 2015!



* And for those playing along at home, Moses’ brother was Aaron.