More than second banana

rwOn the Hey Hey reunion he returned, albeit briefly, as ‘Raymond J. Bartholomeuz’ -the poet laureate who had his television start on Red Faces.

But Brian Nankervis is many things: writer, performer, producer and even audience warm-up man.

He was happy to don the Raymond J. beret once more, given the sense of occasion.

“The vibe in there was amazing. There was a great sense of excitement, and a really great sense of old friends coming together,” he told TV Tonight.

“There were lots of faces that you knew and you’d think ‘Who was that person? Oh that’s right we worked on that show.’ There were lots of crew members who had worked on other projects and a couple of crew from Thank God You’re Here.

“The other thing everyone was saying was how easy it seemed and how familiar everyone was. I thought it seemed really smooth. Daryl was incredibly calm and relaxed.”

After the show many of the cast answered questions from the audience, as they had done after every show before. WIth such a die-hard audience, this time it went for some 40 minutes.

Nankervis had been a performer at the once-glorious Fitzroy comedy venue, The Last Laugh, appearing in the stage version of Let the Blood Run Free (before its later pick-up as a TEN comedy series) when Raymond J. was born. One night when the fictional St Christopher’s Hospital had a telethon, the characters had to present a bit of a party piece.

“Jean Kittson, Peter Rowsthorn and Linda Gibson were all seasoned performers who could draw on a bag of tricks and I was this primary school teacher who had fallen into theatre and comedy, and I did what I knew which was poetry.”

Wednesday night was not Nankervis’ only television appearance this week. Tomorrow night he returns to SBS with the seventh series of RockWiz, alongside host Julia Zemiro.

Nankervis co-created the music trivia show with producers Peter Bain-Hogg  and Ken Connor.

The decadent Gershwin Room at St Kilda’s Esplanade Hotel has been home to the show for 5 yrs, with occasional visits to bigger abodes including The Palais Theatre and even the Myer Music Bowl.

Nankervis has multiple roles on the show, both on and off-screen.

“I’m called the second banana,” he laughs. “But I’m happy with that. I’m one of the producers so I make lots of phone calls, ring artists, talk to managers, write the scripts with my co-writer Michael Ward. We do a rough outline of the script, then I complete it, and we have a team of question writers –our ‘Brains Trust.’ We get together every couple of months and they all bring 25 questions to the table.

“On the night I do the warm-up and select the contestant, which is a very important part, because it’s casting. The freakier the better, the more eccentric the better.”

Comedian Julia Zemiro, who is in demand for hosting gigs across the country, eases the audience member into becoming an instant panellist alongside visiting musicians.

“In a way that’s where Julia absolutely shines because she has to handle 6 people, 4 of whom have potentially never been on a stage or under bright lights before. In fact they’ve probably spent a good part of their lives in their bedrooms looking at records. And yet, they’ve been waiting their whole lives for this moment.

“She’s incredible with them, because they don’t always understand microphone technique or delivering a joke. They’re not familiar with performing, so she’s great with them.”

Nankervis says the show focusses more on music than the comedy element of Spicks and Specks. He says the live music, particularly from independent artists, helps give the show its point of difference.

“We use a lot of independent and a lot of obscure artists. We always try to have one of the two, and a reasonably well-known, if not household, name. And SBS has never really said ‘You can’t have that person.’ It’s remarkable. They trust us.

“This week it’s Andrew Stockdale from Wolfmother and Holiday Sidewinder, a gorgeous young girl from an up and coming band called Bridezilla. Next week it’s Jimmy Keays and Bertie Blackman, an independent lass who is the daughter of the artist Charles Blackman.”

RocKwiz returns 9:20pm Saturday on SBS ONE.


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