CBS was wonderful enough to allow us to interview Phil Keoghan, the amazing host of the The Amazing Race. Phil is a perennial favorite among reality show hosts, so we really took advantage of this rare opportunity. Here's the transcript:
How do you manage to be at every pit stop as all of the teams arrive?
Because I'm in my own race. It's actually a challenge every time to get ahead of them. Sometimes I'm still waiting for the last team to arrive when the first team has already waited their 12 hours and has left for the next leg. It can be a real challenge.
How much input do you have into the course and challenges of each race?
I do have input. Particularly in the first two seasons. The two episodes in New Zealand, I produced, along with half of the Australian episode. And I try to contribute as much as possible, but they have a very good team who decide these things. I've been called to use my contacts in various countries that I've used in different places.
Will they ever let you stop repeating the same definitions on every episode? Is there anyone who doesn't know what a Detour is any more?
I guess they will eventually. I agree, and we'll probably look at changing things up in that area. For whatever reason, they want to keep explaining it to those people who haven't heard them before.
You narrowly lost out on the Survivor hosting gig to Jeff Probst - do you have any regrets about how things have turned out for you?
I try not to look at it this way. Obviously I was disappointed not being chosen for that show, but when I heard about this show (The Amazing Race), it just completely captured my imagination. I heard from one of the producers, and I had worked with the original director on another special. I thought this was exactly what I wanted to do. I would have loved the opportunity to work with Mark Burnett, I'd heard great things about him. I came very close, but in the end Jeff got the job, and we're friends and stay in contact. He's done an amazing job, and that whole role has just become his. It wasn't meant to be. I certainly feel like I got a great power from being able to do The Amazing Race.
From a personal point of view, it combines the things I really love - travel around the world and meeting wonderful people. It would be a very different experience doing Survivor. I certainly would love the success of doing Survivor. The number of people who watch Survivor is extraordinary, and we'd love to have that many people watching our show.
Were you surprised you kicked Joe Rogan's butt in the President's Physical Fitness test for TV Guide?
To be honest with you, I was really nervous doing that test. He's a very fit-looking guy, and his publicist gave us plenty of warning that he was physically fit. I wouldn't exactly say I kicked his ass, I think it was pretty damn close. Measure for measure, it could have gone either way. He's a good guy, but I guess I get a little more exercise having to run around the world.
Do you speak any foreign languages?
I dabble, but no. When I was younger, I was learning French, and really wish I'd kept it up. I communicate with gestures sometimes to get through situations. I wish I knew more, to be honest.
Do you have any time to enjoy the countries you're visiting?
I really wish we could stay longer in the countries we visit, but I've been lucky to have visited most of them before, because I've done a tremendous amount of travel. So what I try to do is just immerse myself in the experience of the race because it's so unique. It's an opportunity to participate in a big game. We're so tired, but pumped full of adrenalin from watching these teams. The teams are so great. Many of them have never travelled before, or even been out of the country or had a passport. So it's quite something to see them experience something that they've never experienced before. It's like being at a really good football game - it's an amazing experience.
Do you hang out with the teams during the pit stop, or are you busy getting to the next stop?
I definitely hang out with them. I try to, as much as possible, get inside information from them for the interviews I do with them at the end. When a leg is over, and they step onto the mat, I interview them quite extensively. A lot of that isn't shown on camera, but the bites are shown throughout the show. That's my favorite part of the whole thing, is just to talk to them and get information. Of all the things, what I like the most is talking to people in front of a camera. I find it really rewarding to find things out about them that I can use within the show.
Which team(s) kept you the most entertained during the race?
Definitely Kevin & Drew from season one, I found extremely amusing. Nancy and Emily, I just loved their spirit. Nancy really was having the time of her life, and she really was there just to enjoy the race. She kept surprising herself, I think - it was wonderful to see her confidence that grew throughout the race. And Oswald and Danny, that whole shopping sequence in Hong Kong. The whole idea that they slowed the race down to suit themselves and still managed to stay competitive is an endorsement of how just plain smarts can get you through a race. One of the things I enjoy more than anything is comedy, and this season Ken and Gerard are just hysterical. I loved that one pitstop, having that kind of rapport with them, and I'm so glad they left that in. We just broke the mold a little bit, and I wish we'd see more of that.
People ask me what the most important thing to take on the race is, and I always say it's a sense of humor. If you've got nothing but a sense of humor, you will survive. The teams that do the best use a sense of humor to get through the race. It keeps you in the right frame of mind, and that's really what the whole thing's about.
I also love Teri & Ian in this race. Not necessarily because of the way they behave with each other, but just because they're great TV. Just seeing them fight to stay in this race, and fighting against the odds, and being the oldest team to have come this far. While you might not necessarily agree with the way they are, you can't deny that they make great TV, and it gets people talking about them.
Was there a team in any season that was eliminated that you really wish would have made it to the end?
I was very disappointed to have eliminated Nancy and Emily only because they gave up, and they actually could have stayed in the race, and I think that would have been interesting to see. But any team that I had to eliminate is tough - it's never easy, because I know that ultimately one of the main reasons people want to be in the race is for the experience they have, and I hate to see it cut short. I hate to see them go. And no one wants to go, with the exception of Flo this season, who at times has wanted to give up. That's the first time anyone has ever wanted to be out. I remember Nancy coming to me after being eliminated and saying 'can I just travel with you, I want to see where you're going to go.'
Which team, from any season, do you think was the most mis-matched?
Definitely Tara and Wil. That was kind of dysfunctional. Zach and Flo are a mis-match too. It's interesting, though, that you'd ask me that question, but both teams I've named have made it to the final 3. So while I say they're mis-matched, it's in the sense that they haven't been good to or for each other. That's the thing about the Amazing Race, is that even though teams may be dysfunctional, it's still surprising that they've gotten to that stage in the race. Maybe the fact that they're yelling and screaming at each other means they're communicating. If you take a team like Gina and Sylvia, who are trying to be nice to each other, maybe they're not communicating, and not getting into that competitive spirit.
What advice do you have for the next group of teams to participate in the race?
I always say bring a sense of humor. Do it their way, that's my advice. You can learn from what happened in the past, and obviously the teams have watched. Teams need to bring their own personality to the race, and do it their way. Like Oswald and Danny - slowing things down, doing things their own way, using their sense of humor, while everyone else is stressing out. It's really about getting into their own zone, and thinking outside the box.
Can you give us any teasers for The Amazing Race 4?
I expect it to be even tougher. Season 3 was tougher in what the teams had to do, and it's going to get tougher again. We anticipate that they've been watching the previous races, and somewhat what's coming. There's nothing like season one, where no one knows what's going to happen, so what you should be looking for is something that's going to be even more dynamic. The teams we've selected are an amazing bunch. It's so wonderful to continue to find really telegenic characters, and America is full of them. We're extremely pleased that the show has continued to stay on, and that we've continued to get the support. We suffered a little bit with The Bachelor, because there was an inherent fascination with that show. But I still believe that our show is, in terms of the production values and what the show has to offer, one of the top reality shows on the air, and I'm very proud to be a part of it. We continue to get great critical acclaim, and I believe that had we launched in a different way, and at a different time, our show would have more viewers. I don't hear from people who have sampled the show and then stop watching it. I think the show will build, and it is slowly starting to build a following. I hope the fans turn more and more people on to it.
Do you have any projects you're working on outside of The Amazing Race?
I'm working quite heavily on my book right now, which has been a project of mine over the last few years, and is an important thing to me. I also have a show which will be on the air on A&E in January, which is a travel show. I have some offers to do some other work, personality-driven roles. Most of my other work has been personality-driven, versus straight hosting, unlike the Amazing Race.
What would you like to do after the show ends?
My number one priority would be to get this book out, and a television series to go along with that. I also would like to make a movie I've been wanting to do for a while.
Do you keep in touch with the teams after the race?
Oh yeah, we're all in contact. Each season, the new teams become part of the extended family. There's a lot of inclusion with everyone at parties, and in e-mail. Absolutely. I enjoy that. I actually stopped in to see Nancy and Emily when I drove across country a few months ago. I moved from New York back to L.A.
What's your marital status?
I'm married, with a child. I've been married for a little while now.
Thanks to CBS and The Amazing Race production team, and of course to Phil, for giving us this great interview! We all hope that The Amazing Race continues for many more seasons, so we can watch our favorite host.
If you'd like to comment about this interview, you can e-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org - but keep in mind that I'm not in contact with Phil, and cannot pass your e-mails on to him.
Don't forget, tomorrow is the finale of The Amazing Race 3! Thursday afternoon, we will have interviews posted for all 3 remaining teams, including the winner of the million dollars.