Thursday 30 June 2022

Greg Scott Talks About Life as a TV Warm-Up

Greg Scott is probably best known as one of the hosts of ITV’s Quizmania, but he’s also spent part of his career warming up TV audiences. I caught up with Greg to take a look at this little-known corner of the television industry.

How did you get started in the world of TV warm-up?

Well, after leaving school in 1985, I started writing to every producer on earth, asking them to try me out as a presenter. There wasn’t anything else I wanted to do! In late 86, I had a letter from the future big cheese of all ITV, David Liddiment, who was Granada’s Head of Children’s Programmes at the time.He asked me if I’d ever considered warm-up - and even though my dad had warmed up for shows, it wasn’t something I’d ever considered myself. I went in for a meeting and came out with my first telly job - as a warm up!

Your first warm-up job was in 1987 on the Children’s ITV show The Ultimate Machine, so what can you tell us about your experience on that?

It was a blur! We recorded six shows over 5 days. It was a programme about the workings of the human body. Fascinating and entertaining, it was! The presenters were first timer, Christopher Beck, and Jackie Spreckley who had formally hosted a number of shows for BBC Manchester. Unusually for a programme, we had the same kids in the audience for the whole series. Some of them got a bit familiar and cocky as it went on, giving it a bit of lip and suchlike! But overall, it was a massive learning curve. I got through. And when the red light came on, I watched the presenters like a HAWK, trying to pick up tips and tricks. Every day was a school day!

So, you’d made your break into the world of warm-up, but what was your main goal?

Well, you do it to HOPE you’ll be spotted by the right people to eventually land a show of your own where someone ELSE will do the warm up. It does happen (Bradley Walsh, Brian Conley, Michael Barrymore, Peter Kay and others)… but it didn’t happen for me. As for the job itself, there’s no glory! But that said, in recent years, you will occasionally see warm ups credited. Never used to happen. I do think I was one of the first though - After 10 years on Countdown, I started having my name popped on the end credits. Don’t recall that ever happening before to anyone else!

What happens when you realise you’re facing a tough audience?

There CAN be times when you face a true battle. Despite the tickets being free and peeps having a night out for nowt - You can still face a sea of miserable faces. And it’s strange, it’s either the ENTIRE audience who seem sulky, or no-one at all! Thankfully though, the vast majority of the time, everyone is “up for it”. In later years, I came up with a nice wee trick… I would go out to the audience waiting area, say hi to people and start the warm-up OUTSIDE the studio, which was a lovely way to win them over from the very beginning.

What are the differences in approach, if any, when warming up an audience of children compared to an adult one?

Fart jokes. Kids love farts, poo and having their friends humiliated. That said, the audience for Take Me Out liked virtually the same things. Having worked on shows from Take Me Out to my old faithful, Countdown (I did 13 years there in total), methods used would vary greatly. From whipping a crowd into a frenzy, to gently tickling them along - You would adapt your schtick to the nature of the show. It’s just a case of weighing up your audience as they come in. It’s an acquired skill!

Just how far should you warm an audience up?

You’ve got to be careful not to upstage the show you’re warming up for. I don’t think there’s one warm-up who hasn’t been told to “not be as funny”, because they’ve been going down better than the show the audience has actually come to see! It’s getting the balance right, getting the crowd right for the show, without burning them out for when the red light comes on. I’ve been to a few recordings myself and known when the warm-up has been told to reign it in because they’ve been so “over” with an audience!

Can you make a living simply from being a warm-up? Or is it more a case of being another string for your bow?

At the time I did warm ups, I always had a secondary job, from hosting radio shows to presenting gameshow pilots. But there are some warm ups (Andy Collins and Stuart Holdham to name a couple) whose main living is made from warming up. They work on countless shows between them. Probably a nightmare during Covid as audiences weren’t a thing for a couple of years. In fact, Countdown has now decided to continue without an audience. Everything is dubbed in now.

I noticed on your, rather extensive, CV that you warmed up for Wogan, so what was it like warming up for the big man?

I was overwhelmed. I pinched myself when I walked into the studio. When the audience strolled on in, I had butterflies like never before, and when I got to introduce one of my absolute heroes (Terry!) to the assembled masses, it was beyond belief. Such a thrill. I was only 23 when I worked on Wogan and I’d only been warming up for about 18 months. I went in not knowing if I could actually pull it off. But I was offered a few stints, and was I going to turn them down? NO WAY! I could have died a death and been put off warming up forever more. But it went just fine. And Terry was incredibly complimentary after the first ones. That meant THE WORLD.

What was your favourite moment during your warmup career?

Heck - There’s been many! But I would have to say, the time I took my daughters to watch The X Factor at the Liverpool Echo Arena (as the venue was called then). It’s a LONG story - But the short version:

We went along to watch the show. The usual warm-up guy was trapped on a broken down train. He knew I was there and phoned me to say that he was going to be late, he’d spoken to the show’s boss, Mark, and he was expecting me at the side of the stage, in one minute, to brief me. And that, within 10 minutes, I’d be in front of 5,000 people, warming them all up! That’s precisely what happened! My kids were both sat there, open mouthed, as Daddy brought Louis Walsh, Tulisa, Nicole Scherzinger, Gary Barlow and Dermot O’Leary into the arena! I have to say, I was rather open mouthed too. It was a whirl of hypertension! But I loved it! And was disappointed when the full-time warm-up fella eventually did turn up!

Thanks a lot for your time, Greg!

For more, see: and @GregScottTV

1 comment:

  1. The Ultimate Machine presenter Jackie Spreckley happens to be my aunt.