The American stand – up comic, Rita Rudner, said that when she played Scrabble with her friends, they found out she couldn’t spell. Worse still, when they challenged her to Trivial Pursuit, she had to admit to knowing nothing.

Despite her hilarious confession, quiz shows are a staple of American, and in particular, Australian television. Several examples such as Sale of The Century and Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, ruled the airwaves for years.  In recent times, specialised outings with a focus on comedy more than expensive prizes, have spoken to our collective inner geek.

The brain child of Brian Nankervis, Peter Bain – Hogg and Ken Connor, RocKwiz is one of the country’s longest – running and best – loved television shows.

Broadcast both on SBS and Foxtel’s Max, the pre – recorded live series first premiered thirteen years ago. Since 2005, it has clocked up fourteen seasons and over 170 episodes. RocKwiz has also been nominated for a prestigious Helpmann Award, as well as winning the 2007 AACTA Award for Best Light Entertainment Television Series.


As the title suggests, RocKwiz is a program for dedicated and hardcore music fans. Each show features two rival teams of three, made up of pre – selected audience members, Australian rock legends, and rising local stars.

With a one hour running time, RocKwiz comprises seven distinct rounds. These are:


  • Ready Steady RockWiz, where, prior to taping, potential contestants are chosen from the audience. At that point they are required to answer questions in turn, with eliminations for every wrong response. The final two remaining from the group, are then sent through to the main event.
  • Who Can It Be Now?, a clue – driven game, used to introduce each show’s guests.
  • Local and/or General, a section made up of general knowledge.
  • Million Dollar Riff, which as the category implies, are famous riffs recreated by the in – house band. The first team to recognise and buzz in what song it is from, are awarded that question’s points.
  • Thirty Three and a Third, where each team in turn has that exact amount of time in seconds, to answer as many questions as they can.
  • The Middle Eight, a round made up of eight questions, with the last three having the same answer.
  • Furious Five, comprising five minutes of fast and furious questions.

One of the flagship events at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, RocKwiz had a special, one night only version at Hamer Hall. Now an annual Easter tradition, this was very much a transplanted version of the series, brought to thrilling life before our very eyes. The same level of audience participation and inclusion from the filmed series, such as asking fans for the correct answer when team members were stumped, was a major part of the overall experience.

Alongside quiz master and emcee, Nankervis, Julia Zemiro is the show’s delightful host. With extensive theatre training and a strong background in improvisation, Zemiro is a polished interviewer. Stock ice – breakers borrowed from the series such as asking team members what their first album or concert was, generated several hysterical and unexpected answers. (In keeping with the Easter theme, guests were also probed about their favourite Good Friday memory.)

Special mention must be made to the beloved RocKwiz orchestra (comprising of Peter ‘Lucky’ Luscombe on drums, ‘Jumping’ James Black on organ, Mark Ferrie on bass guitar, Ashley Naylor on guitar, Clio Renner on keyboard, and siblings, Vika and Linda Bull on vocals.

Dressed in an Easter Bunny costume worn especially for the occasion, Dugald McAndrew acted as the show’s roadie and ‘human scoreboard’ as well.

Divided into two expanded parts, in the first half, special guests were introduced as well as being invited to perform some of their best – known work. In this instance they were Alex the Astronaut, Joe Camilleri (of The Black Sorrows), Paul Dempsey (of Something for Kate), Gillian Cosgriff, Bob Franklin, and Hayley Mary (of The Jezabels). It was a great mix of talent.

Camilleri, it has to be said, is quite the quirky story – teller, Alex plays up her science background, Dempsey is a smart punster with an extensive musical knowledge, Mary has a wry sense of humour, Franklin displayed a passion for The Wurzels, and Cosgriff kept us in stitches with an original composition about social media hashtag obsession.

(It should be noted that the show’s second half was reserved for the actual quiz.)

Sprinkled with hits from today and yesteryear, the show wrapped up with a rousing group rendition of ‘That’s What Friends Are For’. This reviewer couldn’t have asked for anything more. What a night!