Brian Nankervis is well known for adjudicating, producing, writing and co-creating RocKwiz (2005-current), which is currently screening on SBS. RocKwiz is only the latest episode in Brian’s long career that already encompasses teaching, live comedy, theatre, documentary and television. Jen Jewel Brown interviewed Brian in Melbourne for the NFSA’s Oral History program in January 2015.
Brian Nankervis loves performing and he loves theatre. ‘I’m still like a kid. I walk into the Palais Theatre and I’m gobsmacked by the smell and the sound, and knowing that I’m performing on a stage that the Rolling Stones performed on.’
He gleaned his early music education from radio and television in the 1970s. He never missed an episode of the ABC’s GTK (1969-1974), which broadcast Monday to Thursday at 6.30 pm, and he regularly listened to alternative music program Room to Move (1971-76), broadcast weekly on ABC radio.
Brian went to teachers’ college and on graduation got a job at his old school, Wesley College in Melbourne. He managed to teach during the day, produce a radio show on Sundays for independent broadcaster 3RRR and worked on and off as a waiter at The Last Laugh comedy venue.
At 3RRR Brian invented the poet Rainbow Bartholomeuz. He talks about the inspiration for the character:
Brian changed the poet’s name from Rainbow Bartholomeuz to Raymond J Bartholomeuz and he became a part of Brian’s warm-up routine. This led to his discovery and regular appearance as the Poet Laureate on Hey Hey It’s Saturday (1971–1999) in the 1980s and 90s.
Brian was a member of the comedy collective The Blood Group, the creative team behind Let the Blood Run Free. This show was originally conceived as a live weekly event for The Last Laugh’s upstairs venue Le Joke. The show was loosely scripted and then improvised live with two planned story-lines, depending on audience voting.
Let the Blood Run Free became a cult success and moved to the larger theatre downstairs. When it was adapted for broadcast on Channel Ten in 1990, it became one of the earliest examples of interactive television, with viewers able to phone in and vote on what should happen next.
Brian continued working on his warm-up routine for comedians and shows including Jimeoin (1994-95), The Panel (1998-2004) and Thank God You’re Here (2006-07). The routine always included a music quiz and in 2004 he was approached by Peter Bain Hogg to collaborate on a music quiz TV show. RocKwiz premiered in 2005 on SBS and entered its 14th season in 2016.
Brian talks about the writing and rehearsal process on a long-running series like RocKwiz and keeping it fresh:
Brian talks about the process of choosing contestants from the audience for RocKwiz:
Working with his partner Sue Thomson, Brian has also written television documentaries including Boys and Balls in 1994.