Guess How Many Questions We Asked Kyle Brandt About “10 Questions With Kyle Brandt”
Brandt talks odd jobs, memorable contestants and the intensive research process behind his hit podcast for The Ringer
In the Twitter bio that greets his 244,000 or so followers, Good Morning Football co-host Kyle Brandt brags about his Tecmo Bowl skills and also boasts that his résumé is “weirder than yours.” That latter claim is a big one, but it might actually be accurate.
A native of the Chicago suburbs who attended Princeton University and was a three-year starter on the football team for the Tigers, Brandt was one of seven cast members picked for 2001’s The Real World: Chicago and parlayed his notoriety from the show into a gig doing speaking appearances on college campuses for MTV to make ends meet while trying to make it as an actor in Los Angeles. After doing some commercial work, Brandt landed a part on Days of Our Lives portraying Philip Kiriakis, a Marine who lost his leg in battle before becoming a NASCAR driver. Kiriakis, who is still a character on the show (though now portrayed by a different actor), is also unaware that his daughter was conceived by his best friend.
“That was six different layers of weird,” Brandt tells InsideHook. “The fact I was on a soap opera and that it was the same one Joey from Friends was on. Then you play an amputee who becomes a race car driver. It sounds like it’s a made-up thing or an Onion headline. But that actually was real.”
Brandt had the role of Kiriakis for three years before he left the show and landed a job in a completely different field working for sports radio host Jim Rome. For nine years, Brandt served as a writer, producer and fill-in host for The Jim Rome Show and also worked on Rome’s television shows Rome and Jim Rome on Showtime. Brandt’s work with Rome led to his job at NFL Network as one of the hosts of Good Morning Football, which in turn led to what he’s probably best known for: the 10 Questions With Kyle Brandt podcast.
Available via Spotify and The Ringer, 10 Questions With Kyle Brandt is an hour-long talk/game show that owes its name to Brandt asking each of his guests/contestants a series of 10 trivia questions that relate to their life in some (sometimes roundabout) capacity. In addition to getting guests to open up, the questions also create a sense of competition, because each contestant leaves with a score based on their answers. Brandt’s first guest was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and since then he’s welcomed everyone from actor Matthew McConaughey to Guy Fieri to Creed lead singer Scott Stapp to sports journalist Jemele Hill to the show.
Though he has a staff for 10 Questions, Brandt still does his own research and comes up with the questions that he asks his guests. According to Brandt, he learned this method of “maximum preparedness” from spending nearly a decade working for Rome.
“There’s a huge amount of preparation and time and sitting down and thinking through every question. Jim would do that for everybody,” he says. “He’s been in the game for 30 years and he still does that. It doesn’t matter if it’s LeBron James coming on the show or an undrafted rookie from a college you’ve never heard of who’s entering the NFL. There’s no winging it.”
How does Brandt determine his questions? That’s one of the 10 things we asked him below.
InsideHook: What’s a weird job you had that isn’t on your résumé?
Kyle Brandt: The summer after my freshman year in college when I was 19 years old, I had no internship and no real plans. I was taking an improv course at Second City in Chicago and I needed a job. I found work with the sanitation department in Woodridge, Illinois. My title was laborer. I was around raw unchecked sewage coming in from the pipes and I had to clean and paint different things in the facility. I would go in these little rooms where your eyes would be watering before the door even opened. I did not know that there were stenches like that on the face of the earth, but I smelled all of them that summer. There’s some sort of metaphor there about being down the toilet. It was a really tough time, but that one was an odd job too. And it doesn’t even make the greatest hits of my résumé.
Was it important to you for 10 Questions to have an element of competition?
It was a huge factor. The standard podcast format has just been done too many times by too many people and it doesn’t matter how unique or talented or famous someone might be. It’s really tough to launch a podcast now that’s just you talking. I had to figure out what my novelty was going to be. Most of the time athletes show up and do the best they can, but go into stock answer mode really quickly. They are risk-averse with the media and want to get through it without getting in trouble, saying anything dumb or saying anything to motivate the competition. I’ve found that if you inject some competition into it by letting them know they are going to be given a score and that I’m going to repeat it to future contestants and that it is going to be their whole identity for every show I do, you’ll have their strictest attention. They sit up straighter, answer with more intensity and they actually try. It works well with the actors and everybody else too.
So the actors are just as competitive about winning as the athletes?
For sure. With athletes, it’s win or lose, contract or no contract, that’s obvious. But actors are crazy competitive too, especially the ones who built themselves up over years and years of taking small parts. That’s exactly what that is. They started their career by going into a room to read two lines against 30 other guys who look exactly like them and now, decades later, they’re huge movie stars. It’s because they’re talented and hard-working, but it’s also because they wanted to beat those 30 other guys. I think the competitiveness of actors probably goes really underrated. If you think that someone like Matt Damon is not competitive with Ben Affleck or Leonardo DiCaprio … they definitely are. They’re judged by the box office and reviews. When they come on my show they’re judged by “Did you get an eight or did you blow it and get a four?”
Has anyone ever gotten a score that really surprised you?
The surprise doesn’t come from what the score is, but from how invested someone is. For example, take two of the actors I’ve had on: Tim Robbins and Viggo Mortensen. These are guys who are very serious, successful actors and are both Academy Award nominees many times over. They’re a little bit older than I am and I don’t think they were too familiar with me when they came on. I was nervous they might be very self-serious and not into it. Were they going to get through three questions and be like, “What is this? What the hell am I doing here? I just want to come and plug my project. I’m over this I’m going to bow out.” You get nervous about that with people of that stature. It turned out both of them were riveted by it and very competitive. When they got the questions right and heard the sound effect go off, they’d back in their chairs and put their hands up in the air like Michael Jordan hitting the shot over Craig Ehlo. When they got questions wrong, they were openly mad and pissed at themselves or angry at the game, but in a constructive way.
Has a guest ever flipped out about getting a question wrong?
We had Paul Rudd on back in Season One. He’s in the Romeo + Juliet movie Baz Luhrmann directed with DiCaprio. I asked him who the last person to speak in the play Romeo and Juliet is. His brain was a pretzel. He did not want to give an answer because he didn’t want it to be wrong. He went on forever and ever trying to recite all the lines. … He’s done theater in England and been in the game for years. He ended up getting the question wrong. To this day he will still text me about how much he thinks about that question. It kills him. He was embarrassed that he got that question wrong. Missing other questions he was fine with; it was the Romeo and Juliet one that drove him crazy.
How do you research and pick the questions you ask your guests?
I sit down and think, “All right, what are the 10 things that are interesting about this person that I think I want to talk about?” And you reverse engineer it. With Josh Allen, I know he’s from a town called Firebaugh in California. I want to talk to him about what the town was like and that interesting name and everything. So, I want a question where the answer is going to be Fireball because it sounds like Firebaugh. So I ended up asking him something about the top-selling cinnamon-flavored whiskey in the United States. That’s Fireball. Oh, OK. Fireball, Firebaugh. This is the town you’re from. Now we’re talking about your childhood and your high school. So I start with the answer and then I find a question that’s going to get us there. In terms of research, I just sit on the couch next to my wife on my laptop Googling things about people. I really, really, really like asking them things they’re not asked about all the time. You can really sink their battleship if you find something they said in 2004 in an interview they haven’t thought about in 17 years. When you ask them something and they say, “Where did you find that?”, that’s a home run for me. I love that.
Is it really important to you to do the research and write the questions yourself?
Hugely important. I’ve been involved with all different kinds of shows and I think it’s a massive difference as a host and as a content provider if it comes organically from you. There are really good, successful shows that have a deep staff of writers and researchers who manufacture all the questions. They hand them to a host and who reads them and is really talented so they can pull it off, but those are few and far between. When you hear someone read a question they don’t totally understand or didn’t put the time, effort, heart and soul to find, I think it comes off shallow. I don’t say that to brag that I come up with all the questions myself, it’s just how I like to do it. It’s also fun. It’s like putting a puzzle together. I don’t do crosswords or things like that, but I put together the show myself, every question of every show, and I think the final product feels. like I own those questions. I think of them myself and I think it makes a difference.
Do you have a dream guest for the show who hasn’t come on yet?
I would like to have Kristen Wiig on for a bunch of reasons. I like a lot of stuff she’s done and there are a lot of things I’d like to ask her about: The Wonder Woman sequel. My wife and I are obsessed with Bridesmaids. And I really liked her on SNL. I like Maya Rudolph a lot too. But in terms of the sort of childhood idols that would really blow me away if they sat down and said, “Let’s do this,” it’s Keanu Reeves and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They’re both iconic, both don’t do this kind of thing and both have really funny voices. That’s half the battle in podcasts sometimes. Keanu is a legend. The guy was doing movies in the mid-1980s, and he’s still a major movie star who’s redefined his career a million times over. John Wick might be the biggest stuff he’s ever done. He’s a bonafide 30-year-plus Hollywood icon. I don’t think he sits down for many podcasts, let alone one where he’s going to have to try to beat Rob Gronkowski’s score, but I would love it if he did it. Arnold’s been all over the place. I could do six questions just on Predator and Commando. He’s related to Chris Pratt through a marriage too. That’s one where it would be tough to pick the 10 questions to use. Because you could do 50 with him.
How would you do on the show?
Probably bad. I would be really, really self-conscious about my score. How would it go if somebody finally turned to Pat Sajak and said, “Pat, why don’t you solve the puzzle? Do you know what it is? Put those cards down.” I don’t know if he would. I don’t know if he would immediately start scrambling for vowels or if he’s done it for so long that it would be simple. There was talk that I should be the contestant and we should get a celebrity host to do it to me for the season finale, but that didn’t happen. Maybe down the road at some point. I’d be very nervous. Imagine how lame it would look if I was the guy who showed up and scored a three. I’m the one giving the questions and handing out scores and sending you the T-shirt. That looks terrible. I would do it of course, but no. I’m nervous even talking about it. I would be a terrible contestant.
What’s the most challenging thing about pulling off the show?
Getting people to come on. One, it’s an hour. You can’t come on for 20 minutes. You can’t come on for 45 minutes. It has to be an hour. On top of that, there are talent representatives who are looking out for their clients and they’re saying, “Whoa, wait. You’re going to ask them questions and they might not get the answer right and they may look dumb and they’re going to get a bad score? I don’t know if that’s for my client.” And I get it. Maybe it’s not. We lose people for that, too. It’s a tough, tough book so I’m so grateful for the people who sit down. Also, at the end of every episode, every contestant will call out and challenge one of their friends in the industry or someone who’s their idol once they have their score. You take that clip, put it online and, God willing, that person sees it. We’re hoping to build a self-revolving door of booking by people challenging each other and we’ve had it work a few times already. Michael Strahan is going to come on because Keegan-Michael Key called him out. Kirk Cousins called out Scott Stapp from Creed and he came on. And Viggo Mortensen called out Sebastian Maniscalco and I think he’s coming on. I hope he is. Josh Allen called out Will Ferrell. Pat McAfee called out Stone Cold Steve Austin. If we’re talking a year from now and saying how crazy the Will Ferrell 10 Questions was, it’ll be because Josh Allen called him out.
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