How did you get into this fun role?
I never had any ambition for TV, ever! Never thought about it; no interest! But at the time, I was making joke videos with teens in a community center. There was an ad in the paper that said, “Presenter Wanted.” They said to send in a show reel, so it was an excuse to make another joke video. A friend and I made a script and filmed it in two days, pretending London was the Caribbean*. I knew that the first ten seconds of the reel were the most important ever! They chose five people out of 3,000! I’ve been here now 18 years and they can’t get rid of me…I ‘aint goin’ nowhere!
(*View that original funny video at www.ianwright.tv )
How do you choose the show’s destinations? Are you part of the production planning team?
We presenters really are the laziest ones in the crew, we don’t do anything. In the beginning, there would be a list of about 12 destinations, and if there was a place I really wanted to go, we would have a little wrestle with the other presenters.
How many countries have you visited so far?
After 100, I gave up counting! It got too insane, really!
What are your most memorable encounters so far? And who are the characters you’ve met who inspire you?
It’s really all those small things that are mind blowing. In the middle of Mongolia, walking down a side street, there’s a guy there covered in oil, he speaks six different languages and has got four degrees, and we’re chatting, and I realize: I can’t speak any other language and I got no degree! You know you are just lucky where you are born. You come across people like that, and you’re humbled. You think, “God I’m doing this stupid little travel show!” But you are the glue that glues these people and their extraordinary experiences together.
How do you establish such a warm rapport with different people and cultures? Are you the same guy on and off camera?
You can’t practice funnyness. All my stuff is non-scripted; it’s who I am. You just get up and deal with the situation—whatever comes! Sometimes, you ‘aint got a clue what’s going on, you just react how you react. For me, it’s perfect because I’m so lazy, I don’t have to do anything!
How do you feel about being a “celebrity”?
It’s koo-koo out there in Southeast Asia, where they recognize me! It’s a little hard to deal with and spooky! It’s nonsense what you do, but people are looking at you, it’s a bit looney! So now, I don’t do any work on any local British channels ever, and I never will. Because this is the country that I live in, and I don’t wanna be a celebrity here.
On your other show, “VIP Weekends with Ian Wright”, you’re often in a suit. How did you adjust to that?
One of the most difficult, hardest things I have ever done was with royals Lord and Lady Canarven, at a banquet, in castle. Having to be part of that and having to start chatting, was one of the most intimidating things to do! I was so insecure, it was tough!
How do you keep the show fresh and hold your viewers attention?
I can’t help but be excited by things! If I didn’t get excited by them, it would show. I’m getting paid to go abroad and do these extraordinary things. It’s a privilege and a joy! Sometimes I meet cameramen who are jaded, and I think, “You’re mad (crazy)! You should enjoy every second! We are the minuscule percent who are privileged to experience this!” Ninety percent of people on this planet can’t even dream of stepping on a plane. Never forget that.
You have travelled all over the world and encountered so many cultures and people. What is something you have seen that is common in everyone?
What unifies everyone is humor! Everyone loves a fart joke! Southeast Asia is a buzz of humor; they thrive on it! Taiwan has dry humor like in England—it’s amazing! All over Asia, they’re all up for a laugh and maybe that’s why the program is successful.
You must have witnessed lots of sad things, too.
You know, you can read the Bible and it makes sense, but anyone in charge of it hasn’t got the strength of character to live by what they preach. People get corrupted by power. There have always been people standing up for their rights whom you never hear of—they are the real heroes. They are the most extraordinary. But in some countries, those who stand up against everything, they disappear.
Tell us about your secret hobbies!
My wife just bought me a sewing machine. I love it! It’s a different extension of painting or drawing, which I also do. My wife does sculptures and clay work, so we are quite an arty gang. She set up community centers doing art and drama. I used to teach art classes. She’s running the whole thing, trying to get funding, and when I come back from jobs, I help her as much as I can.
What would you suggest to world leaders, to make our world a better place?
Because of my previous work with the community centers, my thing is grass roots. You have to create opportunities and things to do in poor areas where they have nothing and feel worthless. The creativity that comes from anyone—given the opportunity—is off the scale. If you think you never have the opportunity, then you never better yourself.
Do you have a survival kit during tapings?
I don’t take anything. But did you know that Super Glue was invented in the Vietnam War to stop wounds? I take watercolors and my sketch book.
What are your plans for Christmas?
I’ll be here in England with my wife and family, and it’s gonna be Heaven. My wife is the best cook in the world and we’re gonna have an iconic, traditional Christmas. I couldn’t live anywhere that doesn’t have four seasons. It’s phenomenal, magical! Everything transforms and looks beautiful.
And lastly, of course we want to know: When will you visit the Philippines?
I was meant to go there around this time, but now we’re off to Singapore instead, so I’m quite annoyed. All the Phillies I’ve met are always loud and bubbly, just fantastic! So if the country’s anything like that, I can’t wait! …I will get there eventually!
Note: The interview above was published in Mabuhay Inflight Magazine, December 2011. www.eastgatepublishing.com
Englishman Ian Douglas Wright was born on May 17, 1965. He is the longest running host on the award-winning series, Globe Trekker (Lonely Planet). The travel/adventure show has been broadcast to more than 30 million viewers in over 40 countries. Visit Ian’s blog at www.ianwright.tv.