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October 9, 2015

Flying Cheese, Zorbs & HD: Phil Keoghan Looks Back on 10 Years of 'Amazing Race'

by Jean Bentley, posted May 9th 2011 12:20PM
Phil Keoghan, The Amazing RaceAfter a decade of hosting 'The Amazing Race,' which wrapped up its 18th season last night, Phil Keoghan could use some sleep.

"With my job and my lifestyle, I think next to a beautiful glass of red wine ... I would say sleep is right up there with my favorite things in the world," he told AOL TV when he called us from the road.

Keoghan was on the eighth stop of his 10-city film tour to promote 'The Ride,' a documentary he made about his 2009 cross-country bike ride for charity. But Keoghan's used to a fast-paced life. When he's filming an installment of CBS's long-running reality competition 'The Amazing Race,' four hours of sleep a night is considered a luxury.

"The entire season of 'The Amazing Race' is shot in 23 days. That means 12 episodes and less than two days to complete one episode," he said.

AOL TV: What is your schedule like when you're filming?
Phil Keoghan: I need to be there, obviously, at the beginning. Then I need to be at the pit stop before any of the teams, and I need to be there until the last team. So there have been many occasions where the first team to arrive has started the next leg of the race while I'm standing and waiting at the pit stop for the last team to arrive. So we're now juggling, trying to work out, "How do I leapfrog ahead of that first team so I can get to all the challenges to do stand-ups, but still be ahead of that first team to be waiting for them when they arrive at the end of that next leg of the race?"

The other thing is I'm constantly on the phone. I have a phone to my ear the entire leg of the race collecting information about what's going on, so that by the time they get to the pit stop and I then have to interview them, I know what the hell's happened. If I'm not armed with that information, I can't do my interviews. Otherwise I'm standing there like an idiot.

The Amazing Race

You can imagine, knowing all of that, when somebody says to me "What are you doing?" like I'm sitting around a pool having a pina colada, I'm like "Uh, you have no idea." Trust me, I'm not having a pina colada. Those 23 days are brutal. I'm washing my hair on the side of the road. Sometimes we won't get to a hotel for four days. I shave wherever I can. It's not like there's a wardrobe person or anything out there with me. A lot of times people will say to me "Oh my god, you looked like crap last night on the show." Yeah, no kidding! I felt like crap, too!

Do you have any favorite challenges from the past 10 years?
For me, my favorite all-time race moment is the cheese challenge in Switzerland [in Season 14]. That was just so off-the-hook good, it's going to be hard to beat that. Any time you hear a quote like "Watch out for the cheese," you've got to be watching a pretty interesting show. When was the last time you saw a piece of cheese rolling down the hill at 50 miles an hour and people were dodging the rolling piece of cheese as it was flying down the hill towards the locals, who were slightly inebriated, and the cheese is flying into fences? I wish I could tell you it was organized chaos -- it was just chaos. It got out of hand, and thankfully no human beings were killed by cheese in the making of the television show. There were some dangerous pieces of cheese flying down the hill and we just didn't see it playing out quite like that. But it certainly made for a good piece of TV.

The watermelon incident was pretty crazy, too ...
We test every single challenge. We tested the cheese, we tested the watermelon challenge. We run it through different scenarios. A big person will pull back the catapult, a small person will pull back the catapult. We tested with it pulling back halfway, full, the whole thing. Never, ever did we see that somehow she would find a way to reverse catapult a watermelon back into her face. I don't even know now, after it's happened, how that happened. How did that happen? It was crazy.

Now, since my whole family watches the show, I decided to call my parents and see if they had any questions for you. So the rest of these questions are from my family.
I love that!

Phil KeoghanWhen the race starts, do you have a gut feeling of who's going to be the strongest team?
No, I never do, and I think there's nobody on the race in our production that has ever been good at predicting who's going to do well. Earlier on we used to lay down a little bit of money to see if we could bet on it. We'd throw down a dollar and have a little bit of a friendly bet, and none of us ever were even remotely close so we stopped the betting. It just wasn't viable. So no, we're hopeless. But you know, I think that's a positive. The race is so unpredictable, and that's what makes it work.

I know production tests the challenges, but have you tested any of them personally?
Yeah, on scouts I have tested them. I set up the shows in New Zealand, so I did there. And there have been quite a few things on the show that I have shot over the years in my other work, just because I've been working in the business for 25 years. I've had a career of doing ridiculous things in front of a camera, so some of those have reappeared on 'The Amazing Race' for sure.

Do you have any favorites?
One of the things I tested was the zorb in New Zealand -- you know, the big beach ball that rolls down the hill from Season 5. A friend of mine created that, so I tested it on the scout down a very steep hill on a friend of mine's farm. Then the bungee jumping -- my history with bungee jumping goes back to the late '80s with a friend of mine who co-created bungee jumping. We have an unofficial world record where nine of us leapt off at one time which we broke back in 2006, and before that we had the unofficial record in 1999 with eight of us. Actually there are a couple of things in the finale this season down in Miami that I shot back in the 90s. I used to work on a show where I was basically out on the road doing ridiculous, crazy things, so some of those things reappear in this final episode.

I've done so much of this over the years ... that I really get a kick out of watching people on 'Amazing Race' do them. I don't have this burning desire to have to do everything they do. I actually really enjoy setting it up and helping them do it and see them get through it.

If you were going to be a contestant, who would your teammate be?
Probably my dad. My dad and I get on really well. He's almost 70; he's very fit; he's one of the smartest people I know. He's like a walking encyclopedia. We're very compatible. We've traveled a lot together. We drove across the country in 2005 to promote my book. We drove 10 cities, 4,000 miles in 10 days, and we took one wrong turn the whole drive. We shared the driving. We're just very compatible when we travel. He's physically and mentally very strong. He would be great. Trust me, I hope I'm 69, 70 and that powerful. I hope I'm as fit as him.

Are you getting ready to shoot a new season?
We're going to be shooting over the summer, we've been lining up our cast for 19 and are very excited about the next season, of course. Hopefully we'll be getting picked up for a while yet. I think the show, the season, with the advent of adding HD -- the show was screaming for HD and I think it's gone to a new level.

Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean

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