Yumi Stynes is the lucky “hostess with the mostest” of Channel [V]’s Room 208. Juggling a career in television and a young child, this cute, happy, energetic young woman’s story is the stuff of legends. One day she’s making sandwiches in a Melbourne takeaway – the next moment she’s being kissed by Robbie Williams live on national television. Now hosting TXTr, Australia’s first live SMS request show, and Room 208, which is going on the road with an all-ages event, we talked to her about her career and the show.
Stynes had some idea of what she was going to be in for when she was picked in Channel [V]’s “search for a reporter” contest. “I used to host radio shows for 4 years while at uni, and worked at a radio station in the Torres Strait Islands for about a year. And I used to do other things here and there like make music videos for friends and stuff,” she says. Her first time on air was “pretty scary… I can’t really remember it. I remember that I thought that all I could do was try my absolute hardest, or I’d hate myself if I didn’t give it my all… I know it sounds pretty wanky, but that’s how I felt. I had to completely lose myself, forget about being inhibited and being coy, just grab it by the balls and have a laugh doing it.”
Losing herself is something she’s become adept at, judging by her on air escapades. “I’m kind of immune to embarrassment now,” she laughs. “I got hypnotised once. That was pretty bizarre. I ended up dancing pretending like I was Madonna.” Another time the camera zoomed out to find her on top of someone’s shoulders at the Big Day Out. “He was just some guy I asked ‘can I sit on your shoulders?’” she giggles. “Covering the Big Day Out this year was pretty awesome. We had free range of the venue, and we had technology that meant as long as we could see the broadcast van, which was on top of a hill, we could broadcast from anywhere in the festival”, she says. “And it was just the most exciting thing to know there were thousands of people watching, and we were bringing them something you don’t really see very often – that really raw, high energy you get within a rock festival”.
Sometimes when people get positions in TV by winning contests, there’s a certain animosity towards them. Not at Channel [V]. “Most of the people who work at V aren’t frustrated presenters, they’re there because they want to be,” she says. “It was really a massive thing for every one at the channel. It was a huge endeavour that everyone had to pitch in with, so they were all invested in it, and when James (Mathison) and I got the job they all thought that we were their ‘babies’”, she says, laughing.
Stynes hosts the show TXTr, Australia’s first live SMS show. “We get great SMS’s on the show TXTr. They’re always really, really clever. We did a Father’s Day special, and we were asking what advice their father’s gave them, which was kind of an open topic – people could take it how they wanted. There were a lot of straight forward responses, but heaps of really black ones, like “my dad was always too drunk to give me advice”, and “Fuck you Dad, happy Fuckers day!” You get the whole gamut of intelligence and age groups and seriousness,” she adds. “My favourite one was one after Enrique Englasius got his mole cut off, and as a TXTr topic we had “What did Enrique do with his mole?” People who texted us had hilarious answers, like ‘it was going to be the major prize on the next big brother’, and another one was ‘he chopped it up and made guacamole with it’” she giggles.
Her other hosting job is Room 208, which got it’s name from one of those corporate ‘brainstorm’ weekends. “Well, with Channel [V] everyone just parties, plays loud music and gets silly”, she says. “At this conference, everyone went back to Jabba’s room. People were flicking the lights and having fun dancing to loud music, and someone came up with the idea that we should do a show that was “just like that”. It sounds like one of those ridiculous ideas that never goes anywhere, but somebody remembered it the next day…” And Jabba’s room number was of course, Room 208.
If you’ve never seen the show, it’s kind of like Soul Train for the chemical generation, and it’s quite funny to watch. Stynes describes it as “it’s like a party on TV, but there’s a competitive element where the best dancer takes home $1000”. Stynes thinks the Karaoke segment is the funniest, and says, “There’s times we can’t talk on air because we’re laughing so much. We like it because it gets played back pretty soon after filming, so we can kick back without being sweaty and hot and crazy and watch it and laugh. But at the same time we’re there with them. The people at home do have that distance so they can take the piss.”
There have been times in the past where off handed remarks can cause trouble, as Stynes discovered. “There was this large girl dancing, and Mike (Kerry) says to me ‘What would you call that move?’ and I said ‘I think that’s the horny lesbian,’” she giggles nervously. “But even before the show was over, the girl comes up to me with tears in her eyes and says ‘I’ve got family members watching – I come from a Greek Orthodox family… do you have any idea what you have just done?’ and I was like ‘Awwww… Fuck!’ It was awful – I didn’t mean for it to be taken badly”.
Last time Room 208 toured, they shot the footage and edited it back in the studio, but this time it’s being filmed and mixed live. “We’re trying to get the essence of each city we visit”, Stynes says, “and it’s going to be massive. The studio is smaller than it appears; it’s really the size of a large bedroom, and the clubs we’re visiting have quadruple the capacity,” Stynes says excitedly. “Adelaide was one of the most successful dates on the last tour. The people were just mad for it,” she says, “Absolutely hyped!” and she hopes this time people will be just as keen.