Sunday, April 12, 2009

EXCLUSIVE TwoCents and Five Questions With...

...Phil Keoghan, host/activist

After 14 season of the award-winning The Amazing Race, its host (and native New Zealander) Phil Keoghan has traveled to practically ever corner of the globe, experiencing different cultures, peoples, and (sometimes most frighteningly) cuisines.

This Spring, his focus is on the United States as he crosses this great land of ours on his trusty Specialized Transition. You read that right. He is biking from Los Angeles to New York in just over 40 days to raise awareness for the National MS Society, among other things.

I was lucky enough to catch up with him at one of his pits stops in my very own hometown to talk a little about the trip, the National MS Society, and (naturally) The Amazing Race.

TheTwoCents: What is the purpose of this great bike ride across the country, besides having the time of your life of course?

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  1. TheTwoCents: What is the purpose of this great bike ride across the country, besides having the time of your life of course?

    Phil Keoghan: Well definitely having the time of my life is a great thing!

    My whole career has really been based on using a life list to get paid for the things I love…. I’m not actually getting paid for this particular trip, but it is an incredible opportunity to be with my dad. To be with my family who are going to come and spend time with me on the road. To be with people I really respect like my friend Scott Shelly who is a cameraman [on The Amazing Race who is documenting the trip], Ben who is a good friend of mine and who is a writer. And more than just the personal goal of biking across America, there is the opportunity to do some real good by raising awareness for the MS Society.

    TTC: Can you talk a bit about how you came to be involved with the National MS Society in the first place?

    PK: I got involved with the MS Society about four years ago. Having been on camera for so many years, I get a lot of requests from a lot of very worthy organizations. All of them are heart-felt and all of them are worthy. Its just, how do you decide where to put all your energy? I decided that I would support MS and focus on one charity.

    The MS Society really found me. I was asked to sponsor a cycling team in California, and my wife and I decided that we would become the title sponsors of that cycling group. And then once I had contact with the MS Society and realized what a wonderful group of people they were I thought I want to be a part of this. I know so many people that are affected by this disease because they have it or because they know somebody who does. You’re hard-pressed to find anybody who isn’t affected by it. I have a cousin, my dad’s cousin, and he has MS and he has been a huge inspiration to many people.

    The MS Society has been so appreciative. They couldn’t be more supportive. And then when I put it out there that I was going to do this, the emails I got from people… that was a huge motivator. And then the generosity to those who have gone to my website [] and made a donation to support me in my ride, and of course all of that money goes directly to MS.

    TTC: How does GNC [the ride’s sponsor] tie into this whole thing?

    PK: Well, the reason that this whole ride was able to happen in the first place was because of GNC. They have been extraordinary. In what has seemed to be the hardest time to organize something like this financially, because of the economy right now, and yet GNC… if it wasn’t for them this would not be happening. They have done in-store collections for MS, they are supporting and funding this ride. I have a product that I’m launching with them, it’s called the NOW One Square Meal and because I’m working with them on this product, they said well support you on this ride. I am literally being fueled by this product to go across this country. There is a website [] that explains this product.

    There is a perfect synergy with this whole ride… The product that I’m pushing is a very healthy, well designed, nutritional product that helps promote a healthy lifestyle; biking, itself, is a huge part of this because right now, in these economic times, biking makes so much sense; MS is a charity that I support, Amazing Race is a show that I work on and I love to share the message of Amazing Race… this is also part of opening up the opportunity for people to see the show. The synergy of all of this is really quite extraordinary.

    TTC: On to The Amazing Race in particular, I have done some American Sign Language interpreting in the past…

    PK: Oh, really? That is wonderful!

    TTC: Yes, thank you…. but I wanted to let you know how great it is that you were able to learn some ASL for the show this season so that you could communicate with Luke… it is wonderful.

    PK: It’s funny you should say that. One of the great things I think that comes from The Amazing Race is that we have the opportunity to connect with people who are different. What other reality show has the diversity that we have? It’s not about the best singers, the best dancers, people who are trying to lose weight, people who are looking for love… but we have people… Margie and Luke are so different from the cheerleaders [Jaime and Cara], from the other contestants. So we have this great diversity. I really applaud CBS for taking risks with the casting, making the choice to show that everybody is actually different. There is not a cookie-cutter Ken and Barbie out there, we’re rich and poor and black and white and Republican and Democrat, but at the end of the day we are all Americans. That to me is the key.

    So as we were flying out for the first leg of the race [this season], I had been a huge supporter of getting Luke and his mom on the show, I thought I’ve got to be able to communicate with Luke. I’ve got to reach out to him and let him know that we accept him and, just, make an effort. Just some gesture. And then the fact that they actually won that first leg of the race… just made it even more poignant, that moment. I’ve had so many people respond positively to that moment. They just love the idea that A. we had them on and B. they triumphed. There have been a few moments on the show… really poignant moments for me, and that was one of them.

    TTC: With you book “No Opportunity Wasted” I’m sure, I’m almost positive, that you have done a lot of the Detours and Road Blocks that are placed before the teams on The Amazing Race. what have been some of you favorites?

    PK: I love the challenges that are really indigenous… I love the things that are part of what the people do in the everyday part of their lives that we ask our teams to do so they can get a sense of what its like to actually do a chore or a job that is specific to that country. So it’s really about immersing them in the culture. I’ve always been about doing that; trying to connect with local people on that level.

    And one of the most memorable things, which is a trivial thing, was back in season 5 when we had everybody get inside those huge beach balls… do you remember that?

    TTC: Oh, yes… it made me carsick just watching it!

    PK: It was a friend of mine who had invented that device, so I had scouted that and was the guinea pig that tested that particular challenge down that hill at my friend’s uncle’s farm. But I love that kind of fun thing as well.

    People say, you know, why do we have the teams do that trivial kind of task as well as the stuff that actually relates to the culture, and I think “Just because you can!” Why do people have to question… why do we all want to jump off a perfectly safe bridge? Because we can! Because it’s a thrill!

    TTC: Because it’s there!

    PK: Yeah! Because it’s there! In the spirit of living… in the spirit of feeling alive… I think it’s important not to over analyze why we do the things we do. Because we can.

    To check on Phil’s progress or to donate to the National MS Society, visit, and don’t forget to tune into The Amazing Race tonight on CBS!


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