Having a Wiz in Costa Hall

B SHARP: Rock "siblings" Brian Nankervis and Julia Zemiro. (Kathy Chambers)

By Luke Voogt

Rockwiz returns to Geelong “bigger, bolder and cheekier” than ever, according to long-time host Julia Zemiro.

The trivia show was still popular despite being on a TV hiatus, Zemiro said.

“The fact that we sell out 2000-seaters shows there’s still an audience for it.”

After 14 consecutive seasons at St Kilda pub The Esplanade, SBS put Rockwiz on hold, so the crew packed their gear and hit the road.

The show’s band playing infectious tunes and real “punters” competing alongside famous musicians made it a hit in theatres across Australia, Zemiro said.

“When they walk into the theatre they don’t even know they’re going to be on stage, and that just blows my tiny little mind.”

Two dozen audience members will find ten questions beneath their seat for a chance to be a contestant when Rockwiz comes to Costa Hall next Saturday night.

“If you can’t do it for Christ’s sake just pass it on – you’ll just make a fool of yourself,” Zemiro said.

The best four will jump onstage for a shot at quiz glory.

“They say, ‘I can’t believe I got on tonight, I’ve always wanted to do this!’” Zemiro said.

“It’s the exam they’ve been training for their whole lives.“

After 14 years Zemiro prides herself calming nervous audience contestants and taking the micky out of everything else, including occasionally “egotistic” celebrities.

“You can have a lot of fun with that,” she said.

“You start to read people. If you bring somebody out of the audience and give them a terrible time, they’ll never come back on stage and they’ll hate the show forever.”

Wacky questions and nostalgia added to the show’s appeal, Zemiro said.

“Our parents’ generation and our generation grew up in an era when there were pubs on every corner and they all had live music.”

Brian Nankervis, the “brother I never had“, was a brilliant co-host, Zemiro said.

“He warms that audience up within an inch of their life. Sweet Jesus they’re ready!

“The wave of love I feel when I walk out there, I could die happy tomorrow.”

Nankervis was the chief instigator of frisbee when the crew’s bus stopped at a service station, Zemiro said.

“He is the most generous, patient and interested human ever.

“Whenever I’m losing my patience or dealing with someone difficult I think, ‘What would Brian do?’.”

Hosting Rockwiz “opened up all the doors” for former Shakespearean actress Zermiro, along with her ironic commentary of Eurovision.

“Actors are professional job interviewees – I was in my late 30s when I got that gig.”

Her ability to work the room got her the job, while a 75 per cent score in music test from Nankervis, after reading Rolling Stone religiously, helped, she said.

She recently finished filming for a Channel 7 talent show and received a few offers for “s**t gigs”, like I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, which she happily turned down.

But she would love to return to hosting Rockwiz on TV.

“I encourage everybody to write letters to SBS,” she said.

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