From humble beginnings to one of the most popular panel shows in the country, host Tom Gleisner looked back on the years leading up to the 10th season.
“It began as a radio quiz,” Tom told 10 play, “we were mucking around on a drive time radio shift doing a daily quiz and we just realised how much fun you could actually have with the news.”
Launching in 2013, Have You Been Paying Attention? has gone on to win five Logies and spawned international versions in New Zealand and Cyprus. Over the years, the series has found itself a massive fanbase, which Tom credits, in part, to their Monday night time slot.
“I think Monday is one of those time slots where the weekend is a distant memory, you have the whole working week stretching ahead of you, so it’s kind of nice just knowing you’ve got an hour of fun and diversion,” he explained. “I think sticking around there has been great.
“And I think, while there’s a lot of obviously tragic stories in the news, our ability to find the fun in the headlines is another key to the show’s success.”
Another clear reason why the show has amassed such loyal fans comes down to the stable of comedians who appear as contestants on the show.
“We love to keep it fresh, as much as we love our regulars, we always enjoy introducing fresh faces to the line-up.”
The last two years made bringing new faces onto the panel more difficult, with border closures obviously making filming that much more difficult.
“Last year we had Aaron Chen on one week and we just loved him, the audience loved him, and we said we’ve got to have Aaron back. Literally the borders closed the next week, and we didn’t see him for the rest of the year!
“We’re really looking forward to, fingers crossed, having people from all over the country, and possibly overseas, on the show.”
Along with restricted access to talent, the show also lost live audiences for the last two years, something Tom is keen to see change with the 10th season.
“After two years of not being able to do it, we are looking forward to having live audiences back this season with rapid antigen tests for all audience members along with the usual breath tests for our contestants,” he joked.
“There’s definitely an energy in the room when you have people there,” he added. Though the studio can hold around 70 people, Tom noted that there is a waiting list of over 4000 people keen to sit in the audience.
“So, the people who are there are excited to be there, and I think our contestants in particular do feed off the energy,” he said. “A lot of our contestants are stand-up comedians, so they’re used to working a crowd.”
The show is a fast-paced celebration of wit as the contestants trade barbs with each other (and with Tom) and mock the news of the week in shocking and always hilarious ways.
“A feature we love in our contestants is that they tend to be very generous people,” Tom said. “They enjoy just being part of the show, it doesn’t matter who gets the answer correct or who gets the laugh, that’s not the point.
“It’s just about enjoying ourselves for an hour, we seek out people with that sort of mindset.”
The series has also given new faces the opportunity to be introduced to a mainstream audience they may not have had access to on the comedy circuit, with the show providing opportunities to up-and-coming comedians from across Australia.
“Look at Tim and Mel who are now hosting their own show, The Cheap Seats” Tom noted, “they’re both in their mid-20s for god's sake.”
Prior to hosting The Cheap Seats, Mel had appeared on both the Aussie and Kiwi versions of HYBPA?, meanwhile Tim had worked behind the scenes before he began to feature on the panel.
“We knew from the moment both of them were on for the first few times we were looking at some pretty precocious talent,” Tom said of the duo. “We said we’ve got to find a show for these people, they’re so good and Have You Been Paying Attention? is a great form for them, but we thought they could go one better and actually have their own show!”
With both The Cheap Seats and Have You Been Paying Attention? lampooning the media and the headlines of the week, there’s a never-ending source of content for the shows. But looking back, it’s the gradual evolution of Have You Been Paying Attention? that stands out to Tom.
“We began as a half hour, can you believe it? Going into the hour, going later at night so we could be a little bit more – shall I say adult? Then little innovations like the guest quizmaster which is now a standard part of the show,” Tom said.
"Those little things, I think people who have watched the show over the years might not even notice but all those small little innovations have kept the show fresh and keeps me loving it.”
The laughs keep coming when Have You Been Paying Attention? premieres Monday, May 16 on 10 And 10 play on demand