Recently I was lucky enough to be part of the studio audience for one of Working Dog‘s TV projects Have You Been Paying Attention? (HYBPA?), shown Sundays 6pm on Channel 10. If you’re not up to speed, the show is currently in its second season.
The concept is simple: Host Tom Gleisner stands rattles off a bunch of topical questions that are related to news events during the last 7 days to five contestants. The contestants earn 10 points per correct response, but praise from the audience for an amusing punchline. At the end of the show, whoever scores the highest is awarded the HYBPA? trophy. It’s the most easiest and entertaining 22 minutes of comedy you can have to wind down your long week. Already a regular viewer, I confirmed my attendance and hightailed my butt to Channel 10 Melbourne for some free and classy entertainment.
I arrived at the Como Centre early for the call time of 5:05pm. You can’t really miss the entrance – just follow the signs with the Ten logo on it and you’ll see an entrance with HYBPA? Audience Call signs up. After meeting some very polite staff there and realised I was way too early, I went for a walk to explore the area, coming back about 20 minutes before call time.
A small group of people started to form around the lounge area. Various ages – from early 20s to early 60s. The elder couple started to chat about other free shows they’ve attended, such as a recording of Million Dollar Hot Seat during the week. They hadn’t actually seen an episode of HYBPA? and were going off the invitation they received through a “free stuff” website. The lovely lady said she had heard of the show and asked if it was anything similar to a former ABC/10 comedy news panel show Good News Week. Gleisner explains the differences between these game news show formats.
“I think the biggest feature we cling to with HYBPA? and point of difference is its topicality. We insist on doing it weekly, and whilst there have been news based quizzes before – many of them – often they do fall into the trap of recording a month’s worth of episodes upfront.
We found they often get a little bit disconnected from the genuine news, whereas with this show we really do, we’re writing questions right up to the day we record. So I think it’s topicality is perhaps the point of difference.”
(I can vouch for that, as I myself have attended a few Good News Week recordings in the past, which some episodes were recorded 1 – 2 weeks ahead. I’d always wonder how that show could stay up to date, it came down to what type of news would be long lasting and spoken about for weeks onwards.)
More audience members turned up a few minutes before we were all ushered inside to the third floor of Channel 10. Once upstairs, we were lead into a singular line down the hallway and had our names ticked off and received our name tags before being lead into a conference room where drinks and snacks were available for the taking and handed out by the staff. After a new minutes of mingling, Rockwiz and Pictures Of You host Brian Nankervis walked into the room to have a chat give us a rundown on what the recording would entail. After a few light-hearted jokes, Nankervis was more than happy to pose for photos before everyone had to turn off their phones – which is a stock standard in television audience land. We were politely ushered via stairs and lift to Level 5, where you walked past a few production booths – both visual and audio – as well as the writers room and green room, where we lined up in 2 rows, ready to be lead into the studio. It’s not just Tommy G who does the hard work…
“We have two researchers who assist in coming up with questions and putting them together, Rob (Sitch) and Santo (Cilauro) – my two colleagues – are also actively involved because they’ll have a look at the questions and think of ways to phrase them.
Plus segment ideas – like with everything Working Dog does, where Rob, Santo and myself, (Producer) Michael Hirsh, in this case – Jane (Kennedy) are all involved, even if not all of us are on camera.”
While we waited for the studio doors to open, Nankervis is still having stimulating conversations with the awaiting fans and the carers are keeping us amused. We then hear the deep voice of Michael Hirsh giving us the cue to walk in and careful where to tread just in case. The studio is lit up brightly with the stage set colours. The room is actually quite small – an optical illusion of a large room when on TV. There’s roughly 7 – 8 rows of seats, with flat screens, lights and microphones dangling securely from the ceiling. There’s also a blue neon sign attached to perspex hanging from the middle. As we take our seats, Nankervis chats to the audience more until he introduces Gleisner to the studio. Gleisner, genuinely friendly and open, probes the audience a little to see who has seen the show before or if they’ve been part of the audience, as well as a quick rundown on what the show is about. But how did the idea of the show come about?
There was the two special fill-in segments on The Late Show back in 1993 that came to mind, but it turns out, that’s not where it began…
“The idea came about from when we were filling in on a drive-time radio shift on Triple M in 2012 during the Olympics – Santo and Sam (Pang) in fact hosted that show. I came in each day for the two weeks we did the show with an Olympics quiz – five questions at them from the previous night, and it was such a fun and an effortless format… and then it was Rob Sitch who was actually away at the time, came back and heard it and said the fateful phrase ‘That would make a good TV quiz!’. That’s often the way things work with us at Working Dog – someone might have an idea, someone might recognise the idea, someone else might take the idea and knock it a bit sideways… it’s an often quite an organic process.
[HYBPA?] came out of that very short, simple radio quiz. We like the idea, so we piloted it in the following year. Nothing moves fast with us, and I think in the following year we mentioned it to Channel 10, and they were, you know… ‘you interested?’ – so we tried it out.”
About a minute later, a few bowls of jellybeans were handed out. Take a handful and pass around. I avoided the aniseed flavour like the plague, but took a bunch of lemon and vanilla flavours. Nankervis then spoke into his microphone and announced the contestants for the recording – Kennedy, Kate Langbroek, first time player Ronny Chieng, and regulars Ed Kavalee and Pang. Each rushed to their podium seats and had their lapel mics and make-up adjusted accordingly. They all wave hello and have a chat to the crowd, plus have tiny little pokes at each other – especially with Pang due to his constant winning rate of zero. The amusing seating arrangement of the front row being Chieng, Langbroek and Pang, Langbroek does highlight that she’s in the middle of an ‘Asian sandwich’ which brings the house down. So while Kavalee and Pang are regulars, how does the choosing of the other 3 contestants come about?
“We try to plan a couple of weeks in advance, especially with busy people – we can’t just drop / come down on the weekend at a moment’s notice. There’s no great science to it.
[When] planning for HYBPA? I, in fact, have distinct deja vu, back when we used to do Thank God You’re Here and The Panel – you know, ‘who will be on next week, how will be our guests’ – it’s the sort of thing you can only really feel if someone comes on and is a natural fit.
I think we decided on fairly early that Ed and Sam were wonderful and important bookends and having them there, they know how to play the game and keep it moving. They understand not just doing jokes, but also getting questions right. That’s a real safety net. It means you can roll the dice with people who have never done the show before and see how it goes from there.”
And with good cause. One of the audience members was so passionate and dedicated for Pang to win in this episode, that she made a certificate “Sam For Gold”, with a Kit-Kat wrapped in the middle. Pang was genuinely touched. With that – Kavalee ripped into him more.
While the setup continued, the camera and production crew did their thing – making sure the sound was perfect; the camera angles were great; the social media managers capturing the moments (Hey guys!!) and security on call in case someone did something naughty. But all was good from the benches.
After the countdown and cue in, the opening titles ran on the screens. We applauded, cheered and the show had begun. Gleisner did his hosting duties. You can see the episode here for a limited time on TenPlay. (Season 2, Episode 3). The first segment when shown on TV, usually goes for about 5 – 6 minutes. However, seeing it live, it went on for roughly 10 – 15 minutes long. This is because of the jokes that were made which sometimes are not suited for broadcast, or there was an overlap in the talking and is hard to edit. Sometimes a one-liner ends up turning into a whole conversation. That’s the beauty of the show – it’s improvised.
“It’s not scripted in any sense – I genuinely don’t know the answers that are coming.. as you can tell…
Gleisner was referring to what I had witnessed in the audience. On numerous occasions the genuine stunned look was on his face and was followed by a natural laugh demonstrates that it is all unexpected. Especially the joke that Langbroek made about her “pussy”. I can’t explain as it loses the translation to text and unfortunately it didn’t make the cut to the screen but it was a “had to be there” moment.
… especially I’m somewhat taken aback. We obviously let everyone know the general topics of the week. But if you’re appearing on the show, of course – you run over the news and you’d realise what type of questions that are likened to be asked.
How much they prepare – Ed’s a diligent comedy writer – I’m sure he’s got an armoury of things. Although sometimes we throw stuff at him and he pulls stuff out. He’s a great improviser too.
It’s a largely improvised show.”
During each break, Nankervis would bring out the lollies again and play a few games with random people in the audience. From math quiz games, to juggling balls, to doing fun hand game gestures that you would play with the kids with mild amusement – the winners were awarded with lollies or a showbag. I didn’t get to check to see what was in the showbag unfortunately. At one stage, he threw a few Starburst lollies into the crowd. One smacked the neon sign and made it flicker a bit… but no-one else in production saw.. *shhhhh!*
During one of the breaks, Kennedy‘s microphone had to be re-wired as her necklace was causing audio friction. As this is being fixed, Pang and Kavalee point out a quiet Santo Cilauro in the corner reviewing his notes. He waves to everyone and smiles. Afterwards, it got a little quiet, so Chieng randomly started to talk about some fun facts about the wild camels in Australia. Apparently Australia has the largest population of wild feral camels in the world.
He knows his camel facts. But if he could dish out the National Geographic of camels, who else would be great to talk random stories to the audience?
“It would be lovely to try someone visiting from overseas.. I think would be a great flavour. Obviously we’d have to make sure our questions weren’t to domestic. Sometimes when – I’m thinking a year or so ago – Will Ferrell was touring, promoting Anchorman 2, and he was working hard. He was in everything. Someone like that would be wonderful to have – the energy – he’s sort of a slightly different take for what you’d get from someone like him.
But there’s plenty of homegrown talent, like the Melbourne International Comedy Festival coming up in a couple of weeks, so we’ll be subjected to availability trying to drag in a few of those performers.”
The recording continues, until roughly an hour later it is completed. Just when we thought it was over, Gleisner gets word that the ‘big man’ is coming down to the studio. The big man – Working Dog Producer Phil Simon. He notes that there’s four parts that need to be re-tagged or questions re-recorded due to various issues. No-one is complaining – it’s more to watch and observe.
About 15 minutes later it is all over. The team thanks us for our support and hoped we enjoyed the Starburst and jellybeans. We’re taken out of our rows one by one, and are given a showbag each by the friendly audience and social media staff. I didn’t expect this, but it is a wonderful gesture:
The bag contains a bottle of Mount Franklin Sparkling Mineral Water, a HYBPA? pen, and a copy of Audrey Gordon’s Tuscan Summer Cookbook. No-one leaves empty-handed.. unless you pocketed some jellybeans.
I left the building knowing how much time, effort, production value and fun you can have being an audience member, now wondering how much champagne material of previous episodes now sit on the cutting room floor. A roughly 1 and 1/2 hour show trimmed down to 22 minutes.
To be an audience member:
- It’s FREE!
- You get fed nibblies and drinks!
- It’s FREE!
- You’ll have fun!
- It’s Free!
- Located in Melbourne – I live interstate and stayed in a motel about 20 minute drive which I got at a decent rate though those cheap hotel deal sites.
- It’s fr… you get the idea.
Just click on the link and fill out your details. They’ll do the rest. http://bit.ly/HYBPAaudience
Have You Been Paying Attention? ‘family friendly’ version is on Sundays 6pm on Channel 10.
But wait, there’s more.
- An extended ‘risque’ version plays later on Sundays at 10:30pm.
- Repeated ‘risque’ version replays Tuesdays 10:30pm on Channel Eleven.
- Repeated ‘family friendly’ version replays Saturdays 6pm on Channel Eleven.
Technically you can’t miss it.
Behind The Audience with Santo, Sam & Ed’s Total Football – coming soon!