No regrets: Why I go on TV quiz shows

ABOVE: Kyogle’s Odette Nettleton, left, on The Chase.

Odette Nettleton

My mother was an avid watcher of quiz shows.

Growing up I’d watch Sale of the Century every weeknight with her, and after I grew up and moved away she and I continued to watch quiz shows, separated by a state border. Millionaire, The Einstein Factor, Hard Quiz, The Chase; my clever mother watched them all and knew many of the answers.

In 1983 she bought the original Trivial Pursuit board games and we played as a family. I absorbed those cards, and would look at all of the questions when I was reading just one of them to another player.

I had applied to appear on The Einstein Factor in the early 2000s, but wasn’t accepted (I chose the Harry Potter books as my special subject, which was really too popular for me to expect to be chosen to go on the show).

My mum passed away in early 2019. I wrote and delivered her eulogy, and I spoke of her intelligence and love of quiz shows (as well as all the other amazing qualities she possessed).

I regretted never having appeared on a quiz show while my mother was alive so I decided to apply to go on Hard Quiz.

I selected the Mitford Sisters as my special subject, with the idea that nobody else was likely to have chosen such an obscure topic, which I hoped would give me a better chance of appearing on the show.

I submitted my application in March of 2019, went to the audition in Brisbane in June 2019, and filmed my episode in December of 2019. I then had to keep the secret of the result of the show until it aired in February 2021. I had been told that the Big Brass Mug would be shipped to me after the show aired, but it arrived in early 2020 so I had to hide it at the back of my cupboard and hoped my offspring wouldn’t go looking for Christmas presents and find it.

When I applied for Hard Quiz I also looked at the requirements to audition for The Chase. At that time, they wanted applicants to send in a video, among other requirements, and it all felt like too much effort so I didn’t bother.

In July 2022, on a whim, I decided to check the audition requirements again, and this time it was much more straightforward, so I applied and then went to bed.

A week later I had a call from one of the casting producers who asked me to do a phone interview, then a Zoom interview. A week later I was informed that I was filming in mid-August in Sydney.

I convinced a friend to come with me and we found budget fares to Sydney (carry on only, to save money) and a budget hotel in central Sydney which was well located, extremely quiet, and included free toast for breakfast.

The first night, walking back to our hotel from dinner, we spotted a neon sign that read PSYCHIC.

“Ooh, let’s get a reading!” my friend said.

We opened the door and 80s music came drifting up the stairs.

“It’s not a clairvoyant, it’s a cocktail bar”, I said. Turned out the cocktail bar was even better than a psychic reading.

Filming took about four hours, and they had filmed two other episodes that day already.

I met the other contestants and found out that the other woman on the show and I had a mutual friend, which was a lovely coincidence. The two men contestants and I had all said that our favourite Chaser was Goliath (I like him as he was previously a comedian in a duo called The Empty Pockets in the 1980s, and my mum and I had watched him clean up Sale of the Century in the 1990s). I figured that we must be getting Goliath, since so many of us had chosen him. But we ended up with The Governess. All of the Chasers are very clever, but The Governess is next level.

I was incredibly nervous before filming Hard Quiz. I knew how very obscure and difficult the questions would be on everyone’s special subjects, and I was madly studying all of my Mitford books (various biographies, letters between the sisters, dodgy documentaries on You Tube asserting that Unity Mitford secretly had Hitler’s baby).

As I was filming five days before Christmas, I was unable to convince any of my friends to come with me, so I was alone and panicking. This all came out in weird nervous giggling during the filming, something I don’t normally do.

I was only slightly nervous before filming The Chase.

I prepared differently for this show – I watched previous episodes and gathered data on how many questions I could answer correctly and how many I got wrong. I didn’t worry about studying, as I figured that I knew what I knew, and it was unlikely that a whole lot of random new information would stay in my brain if I tried to cram.

I did get nervous when I realised I was in the final round and there was a possibility I could share $28,000 with my co-contestant.

The first question in the final round was

“What is the longest river in Egypt?”.

At the words “longest river” my brain immediately filled in the gaps with “in the world” so I stupidly said “The Amazon”, the first question I got wrong that day.

In the end, two normal people were not enough to beat The Governess, and I came home empty handed.

I’ll keep my eyes open for other quiz show opportunities and I’ll definitely have another go.

Odette is a Kyogle based comedian.

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