Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

It's a rap for Mastermind

A contestant on the new series of Mastermind New Zealand won a seat on the famous black chair by filming a rap video of himself pleading to be on the show.

Charity worker Ben Mai was given the nod after sending the wacky audition tape to producers of the legendary quiz show, which returns to Kiwi screens tonight after 25 years.

Mai, 35, from Auckland, will be grilled on his specialist subject - the 1987 and 2011 Rugby World Cups - by host Peter Williams on the third episode.

In his video audition, Mai sports a back-to-front baseball cap and raps self-penned lines such as: "Facts and figures, that's my thing - keen to give this Mastermind gig a fling."

"I was keen to get on the show as I was a big fan when I was a boy," Mai told the Herald on Sunday. "I like to do a bit of rapping and thought I'd put together a film that would get my strengths across."

Mastermind began on New Zealand screens in 1976. It ran until 1991 and was presented by the late Peter Sinclair.

Judge David Harvey is New Zealand's most successful Mastermind. He won the TVNZ contest in 1980 and the international title in 1981, answering questions on his specialty subject of J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

The new version is set in the vaulted clock tower at Auckland University and more than 3000 questions were written for the quickfire series.

Specialist subject topics include the national parks of New Zealand, Harry Potter, the periodic table, Arnold Schwarzenegger films, The Simpsons, Shakespeare's tragedies, Alexander the Great and New Zealand international cricket.

Jon Armistead, a delivery driver from Waiheke Island, will be tested on the music of Manchester rockers The Stone Roses.

Armistead, 42, saw the band live at their legendary Spike Island outdoor concert near Liverpool that helped launch them to stardom in 1990. "I suppose it's not a topic you would expect to find on Mastermind but I was told if the subject was researchable I could give it a shot," he said.

In tonight's opening episode, Andrew Taylor from Upper Hutt, will be quizzed on the 1987 fantasy-comedy movie The Princess Bride.

Former IT consultant Taylor, 54, is a fulltime quizmaster and quiz writer. "The Princess Bride is one of my all-time favourites and I must have watched it 20 times in the build-up to the show."

Contestants get 90 seconds to answer as many general knowledge questions as possible, then 90 seconds on their chosen specialist subject. The winner of each heat goes through to the semifinals, with the highest-ranking runners-up.

Mastermind, TV One, 7.45pm.

- Herald on Sunday

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