Phil Keoghan Talks to Movieline About The Amazing Race, Exhaustion, and Pyramid Pizza
Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race's ruggedly refined emcee, began his career in travel-based TV two decades ago in his native New Zealand. Since then, he's helped build The Amazing Race's almost unbeatable prestige as a seven-time Emmy-winner for Outstanding Reality Competition Series. We caught up with Keoghan before yesterday's season premiere to discuss his favorite Race moments, the show's schedule, and ordering pizza at Giza.
Is it possible to get used to visiting the most exotic locales on Earth?
I don't think you can. I think it's always a shock somehow, a surprise someway. I love it. I like the whole concept of a fish out of water -- I love watching people go to a place that just freaks them out and makes them think, "Wow, this ain't Kansas anymore."
You've traveled the world over for years and years -- even before The Amazing Race began. Can you pick a favorite world location?
I've been working on the road for 25 years now, and one of the best places I've shot was on the island of Stromboli, which is a volcano in the middle of the Aeolians [north of Sicily]. I'll say that's one of my favorite places ever. It's where Isabella Rosselini was born. The restaurants are...ahh! They have this incredible local indigenous fish. Definitely one of my favorite places.
What can you tell us about what we don't see on The Amazing Race? It's all pretty picturesque on TV.
The schedule that we have is so ridiculously brutal -- it would be insane to describe to you how it is sometimes. I mean, imagine the most insane schedule you can and then multiply it. The thing that I'm so blessed with is that I get to go on this whirlwind trip around the world, and in 25 days, I see the most extraordinary things and meet the most extraordinary people. But sometimes it happens and it'll be two weeks after I've gotten back, and I'll be lying [down], and I'll remember that I was standing somewhere and doing some crazy-ass thing. It's such sensory overload that it's hard to describe. It's a lifetime, or a year's supply of experiences packed into 25 things. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I think, "How the hell did I end up with this job?" I feel very lucky. I said to my mother once, "The day that I feel -- the day that I complain about my schedule or what I have to go through -- or that I don't feel there's something unique about what I do for a living -- that's when I've got to get out."
Do you worry about forgetting where you've been after a season of unbelievable experiences is over?
Yes. I mean, there are times when we're working so hard that one of us in our group will say, "All right, everybody stop. Stop, stop, stop. Look where we are." We will stop everything and just look everywhere and we'll say, "Let's remember this, guys. Let's take this in. Let's remember where we are right now." My team is very small. I don't have a makeup person or wardrobe person or an assistant, producer or whatever. It's me, a cameraman and a sound guy. That's it. So we are very tight and we cover each other and we remind each other, "Hey!" The sound guy I've been working with season three. We're very tight and I'm very blessed to work with people who I learn from. That's the other thing about what I do. The day that I feel like I know everything and I've done everything -- and I take it as a given, like you're saying -- the day that happens, that's the time to get out. Then you're not making it fresh for the viewer either. You've got to be excited about what you're doing.
Can you name a specific time where everyone stopped and had to look around?
Oh yeah. It happens all the time. I'm trying to think [of instances] from this last season -- I'm not meant to be talking about this season yet -- but I'm thinking of a season you'll know. In season five, we were at the foot of the Sphinx. Nobody's allowed where we are, but we have special permission. There's a light show going on over our head in German. We're waiting for the teams to come in and the local crew have ordered Pizza Hut. We're eating Pizza Hut with the Egyptian crew at the foot of the Sphinx while we're listening to a German voiceover of a laser show happeneing right above the pyramids. It's like, "Guys. Insane."