TO THE LIM­ITS OF EN­DURANCE

Todd Samp­son is ad man, TV host, avid ad­ven­turer and 46 years old. If that wasn’t enough, he’s now taken on the task of push­ing his body to the most ex­treme lev­els of phys­i­cal­ity known to man. The ques­tion now is: why?

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY | TV - CATHY OS­MOND

In your new TV se­ries BodyHack, you try on the life of a cage fighter, an elite sol­dier and a stunt­man, among oth­ers. You’re ren­dered un­con­scious, doused in petrol, set alight ... Why would you sign up for that?

The show is based on the premise that the best way to un­der­stand peo­ple – and what they’re ca­pa­ble of – is to get in their shoes, walk a mile ... But I don’t start out by think­ing: “Wouldn’t it be great to be bit­ten by a bat that would kill me in 30 min­utes.”

These are not or­di­nary lives though, are they?

I wanted to do a show that was ad­ven­tur­ous and had a science an­gle – to mash those things to­gether. It’s its own genre in a way. I wanted to cover re­silience, so I thought: “Who are the best, most in­ter­est­ing peo­ple in the world who deal with re­silience daily?”

At the point you re­alised it was go­ing to be in­cred­i­bly tough, even dan­ger­ous, what did you say to your wife and chil­dren?

It all looked good on pa­per when we were start­ing out ... by the time I re­alised, it was too late. And I don’t tell my fam­ily be­cause I don’t want them to worry. The only episode I told them about was the MMA fight­ing be­cause my wife Neomie and my two girls [Coco, 9 and Jet, 7] do ju­jitsu. Coco wrote me a note to say “it’s OK” – I read it the night be­fore the fight and I broke down. I’ve cried more in the last year mak­ing this se­ries than I have in the past 10.

What was the most pun­ish­ing ex­pe­ri­ence?

The French For­eign Le­gion – they pushed me right to the brink of what I thought was pos­si­ble. Also, the no­tion of hunt­ing and eat­ing a ba­boon (with the Hadza no­mads of Tan­za­nia), hav­ing not eaten meat for 27 years, was men­tally chal­leng­ing. I made a deal with my­self that what­ever was killed, I would eat.

You started life as a wild Cana­dian boy in Nova Sco­tia. Is that where your ad­ven­tur­ous streak de­vel­oped?

I re­mem­ber as a kid walk­ing to school think­ing: “I want to ex­plore other worlds.” It might have some­thing to do with the small is­land I lived on, or the harsh en­vi­ron­ment. It wasn’t un­til I was an adult that I re­alised there are other worlds all around us – you don’t have to go far.

Af­ter win­ning a schol­ar­ship, you chose to study for an MBA. Why?

When I was younger my real in­ter­est was science. But I grew up in a fam­ily that didn’t have a lot of money; my father worked on the fac­tory floor of Coca-Cola, my mother worked at KFC and I thought the only way to make money was to do some­thing in busi­ness. But I am still that ad­ven­tur­ous kid.

As CEO of ad agency Leo Bur­nett Aus­tralia, you must have spent a fair amount of time be­hind a desk.

Yes, but I made time to get out there. We’re bet­ter peo­ple if we don’t give up one as­pect of our lives to fo­cus solely on the other.

You’ve climbed Ever­est. Aside from your BodyHack ad­ven­tures, what’s left?

I’m film­ing a se­ries for the ABC now on science and the laws of physics and how ex­tra­or­di­nary they are. I do a se­ries of ex­per­i­ments that bring physics to life.

The slo­gan T-shirts you wear on the ABC’s Gruen are a “thing” – did you know some­one on­line has col­lated screen grabs of ev­ery one since 2011?

I know, I ap­pre­ci­ate the sup­port but it scares me! The one I wore a cou­ple of weeks ago (“Tuck Frump”) ended up on CNN. I was com­pletely shocked.

BodyHack, TEN, Tues­day, 9pm

Todd Samp­son strapped on the gloves of an MMA fighter and hunted with Tan­za­nian tribes­peo­ple, but it was the French For­eign Le­gion that he says was the tough­est challenge of all his BodyHacks.

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