Hard Quiz returns tonight, ABC’s anti-quiz show in which snarky host Tom Gleeson is ready to fire off insults at his 4 contestants.
Gleeson, who has morphed his Hard Chat segment from The Weekly, into a half-hour quiz stresses that the contestants play along in the spirit with which he delivers.
“Most people shit-stir each other in the office every day. So I suppose there’s an element of that. Maybe they’re the joker in their office and they bring that onto the show,” he says.
“Whenever we explained the show to people they always seemed worried about it. Producers would be a little bit worried or you’d explain it to someone who works in TV.
“‘It’s going to be like Hard Chat but I’m going to be giving contestants a hard time,'” he told them.
“They’re like, ‘So you’re just going to pay out normal people?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah.’”
“I wouldn’t call them shrinking violets.”
The first 4 contestants are expert on the topics of Princess Diana, the Apollo Space Mission, Bank Notes of the World and the sitcom Friends.
But there are subtle shifts in the quality of contestants this year too.
“Some of them are pretty assertive and I wouldn’t call them shrinking violets. I wouldn’t say the tables have been turned so much but there has been an evening up in people’s confidence coming on the show,” he continues.
“People are just a little bit more brash. They’re well aware and I’m not going to be offended by anything so they’ll just throw out anything.
“People aren’t as delicate as like we like to make out, they can handle it. They have fun doing it and we’re all great friends afterwards.”
Applicants are also becoming more strategic when applying for the show too.
“Some people are trying to go a little bit more obscure because they feel like their field of knowledge doesn’t have to be that wide. So that’s interesting.
“We might massage their topic if it’s just so obscure that nobody would know what they’re talking about. We’re still making a TV show.”
And there’s been no shortage of smart-aleck contestants. The show had plenty of remaining Season 1 applicants still to choose from, buoyed by an influx for Season 2. Mixing up the topics and contestants is seemingly the biggest challenge.
“It’s sort of a bit of a science because you are trying to balance the personalities, the aptitude and the subjects. You try and tick a few boxes all at the same time,” Gleeson explains.
“What’s most important is trying to finding it a variety of personalities. In an episode I did just the other day I had one person on Smashing Pumpkins and another guy had Oasis. So that’s two bands in the one episode, but the two people couldn’t be more different.
“But in general we try to spread it.”
“I thought that I was the star of the show”
Indeed Gleeson admits he has come to understand it is the contestants who are the main attraction of the show.
“I think when I started the show I thought that I was the star of the show, because I was the host. But as time wears on, the more I realise it’s actually the contestants who are the stars of the show. It’s why people tune in. Whenever anyone stops me the first question is always, ‘Where do you get these people from?’” he says.
“They love that they have these weird interests, their quirky personalities, they want to know how we got them.”
“Don Rickles would have been a great host of Hard Quiz if he was still with us.”
Producers are currently looking at whether the show could be sold overseas, if another wry host could be found to front the format. Gleeson says there is some interest, but it is early days.
“I think in it would work well on something like comic Comedy Central. And the U.S. has the tradition of the Comedy Roast. Don Rickles would have been a great host of Hard Quiz if he was still with us.
“And in the in the UK I think there are many people who could host it. The main thing is having someone who can work live.
“If Jimmy Carr hosted it in the U.K. tell me it wouldn’t be a hit?”
Hard Quiz returns 8pm tonight on ABC.