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The beat goes on

As RocKwiz returns to our screens after a sevenyear absence, co-creator Brian Nankervis muses to Siobhan Duck on the power of nostalgia and what to expect in the new season


IT all began with a dusty old cassette player in Brian Nankervis’ classroom.

Long before he kept score on RocKwiz, Nankervis was a teacher whose weekly musictheme­d quizzes proved so popular that his old students are still talking about them decades later.

“I went to a 50th birthday party on Friday night and one of my favourite students of all time was there, a woman called Joanna, who is about 50 herself, and I taught her in grade four,” he recalls.

“And we had a laugh about some of the former students and the games and she said: ‘Whenever I watch RocKwiz I think: we used to do that!’ We used to have quizzes every Friday that everyone liked so much that it was often still going on the Monday.”

Keen to do some overseas travel, Nankervis took a second job as a waiter at the Last Laugh comedy venue. It was there that he discovered that his ease in front of an

audience and quick quips didn’t just hold him in good stead in the classroom – they also struck a chord on stage.

“I really enjoyed that the atmosphere there, and the waiters at The Last Laugh were always encouraged to get the crowd in the mood,” he recalls.

So, when he got back from his overseas adventure, Nankervis decided to return to The Last Laugh where he made the move to the stage itself in Let the Blood Run Free, an improvised soap opera that would eventually become the groundbrea­king choose-your-own-adventure series that screened on Channel 10 from 1992 to 1994.

The show co-starred some Australian comedy legends – Jean Kittson, Peter Rowsthorn and “the late, great” Lynda Gibson (who died in 2004 after a battle with ovarian cancer).

“We loved doing it but I think it was a bit unusual,” he says.

“It was a little bit different for most. A lot of critics hated it. We got some dreadful reviews, saying it was stupid. Over the top. Crass. Ghoulish.”

Despite being a miss with critics, Nankervis got the last laugh, because Let the Blood Run Free paved the way to him making comedy his fulltime job and creating RocKwiz, the music trivia series which aired on SBS for 14 seasons.

Now after a seven-year absence from the small screen, Nankervis is getting the band back together with a RocKwiz reboot debuting on Foxtel.

“It’s exciting, although it should be said that we’ve never really stopped,” he says.

“It’s worth pointing out that while we did our final shows on SBS in 2016 which is seven years ago, we’ve been doing live shows the whole time.

“So every year we do a live show at Hamer Hall called ‘Really, Really Good Friday’, not just a Good Friday, but a really good Friday.

“We go to Bluesfest most years up at Byron. We’ve done lots of national tours – 25 or 30 shows around Australia in one hit. And we’ve done festivals.”

The timing of this RocKwiz reboot couldn’t be better. It comes hot on the heels of the pandemic, where many people realised how much they missed live entertainm­ent and are yearning for nostalgia.

Nankervis says the return of RocKwiz was also music to the ears of the rockers, popstars, soul singers, rappers and assorted folk acts who had missed having it as an avenue to perform live on television.

“One of the things that we’ve always done, and we’re certainly continuing with this new series on Foxtel, is to have a mixture of establishe­d artists and young up-andcomers,” he says.

“Because sometimes, the young up-and-comers miss out [on TV gigs] because

people want household names or they want artists that are instantly recognisab­le.

“And then sometimes the household names miss out because [producers] feel that we have seen them we’ve had enough of them.

“But RocKwiz has always, because of the structure of our show, been a platform for two artists [from both ends of the spectrum] right from the start.”

As such, the new season of RocKwiz will feature the likes of Jimmy Barnes, Tina Arena, Ella Hooper, Ben Lee, WILSN and Isabella Manfredi.

The show also marks the return of the original RocKwiz Orkestra and, of course, Nankervis’ partner in musical crime, Julia Zemiro.

While life on the road has been fun, Nankervis says he is looking forward to bringing the show back to the box.

“There’s something very exciting about working within the confines of TV,” he explains.

“And when it’s live, anything goes [on stage or screen] but when it’s on the TV, it’s a lot more constructe­d and you’ve got to be a lot more careful.

“Plus, the fact is, that you go on telly and you can suddenly reach massive amounts of people, which means that you can sell more tickets to the live shows.”

Nankervis has always been in his element when he’s performing in front of a live audience. Whether that was as a teacher in the classroom, performing a poetry parody on Hey Hey it’s Saturday or as the adjudicato­r on RocKwiz.

He’s also become one of the best warm-up guys in the business. The oftenunder­appreciate­d gig requires artists like Nankervis to keep audiences entertaine­d during the breaks in lengthy TV recording sessions.

Nankervis fell into the gig by accident while he was working on the Jimeoin show during the mid-’90s.

When the booked warmup act called in sick, Nankervis volunteere­d to step into the fray, wheeling out a slightly updated version of his classroom music quiz.

“And then the funny thing is that about seven years later, that same guy who was a producer at Jimeoin [Peter Bain-Hogg], who offered me that warm-up job, had started working for Renegade Films, and they had decided they wanted to make a pilot of a music trivia show…” he says.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

 ?? ?? Ready to rock: RocKwiz co-creator Brian Nankervis is getting the band back together, including host Julia Zemiro, opposite page.
Ready to rock: RocKwiz co-creator Brian Nankervis is getting the band back together, including host Julia Zemiro, opposite page.
 ?? ?? RocKwiz, Friday, 7.30pm, FOX8 and Foxtel On Demand
RocKwiz, Friday, 7.30pm, FOX8 and Foxtel On Demand

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