Phil Keoghan — things you didn't know about 'The Amazing Race' host

Phil Keoghan
Phil Keoghan hosts 'The Amazing Race' and 'Tough as Nails' (Image credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images)

Phil Keoghan is the energetic, irrepressible host of the long-running CBS reality TV series The Amazing Race, which is remarkably currently screening season 33 in the US and around the globe.

Phil, 54, has presided over the competition that features teams racing to reach destinations and solve puzzles around the world since 2001.

At one time he was the most-travele TV host in the business, clocking up 400,000 miles in a year and, while that may not be such a desirable achievement these days, he’s still in the hot seat for The Amazing Race season 33, compering a show that’s become an American — and international — institution.

But how much do you know about the man himself? You may know that, despite the accent, he’s a proud New Zealander, but perhaps less well known is that his childhood took in years in Canada and Antigua.

Let’s find out more about Phil Keoghan’s life and times...

1.  Phil Keoghan had a near-death experience at 19 that changed his life

Phil Keoghan

Phil on the publicity tour for No Opportunity Wasted. (Image credit: Getty Images)

Phil was an adventurous sort even as a teenager, but a panic attack he experienced when he lost sight of his buddy while diving on a ship, the MS Mikhail Lermontov, 40m underwater transformed his life. He was so grateful to survive the experience he immediately created a Life List of things he wanted to achieve, a list that he has parlayed into his BUCKiT podcast (subtitled Tick it before you kick it) and a book, No Opportunity Wasted — Eight Steps to Getting The Most Out of Life.

He told the LA Times in 2014: “It was my wake-up call to hurry up and live my life with purpose. So within a year, my wife and I sold our first New Zealand network show: Keoghan’s Heroes, a show about thrill-seekers, people who lived on the edge — like an 80-year-old ex-fighter pilot still instructing. Eventually, the show got picked up in the US and we packed up and left for New York. I was 23.”

2. He got his break as a presenter on kids’ TV in New Zealand

Phil was born in the country town of Lincoln in Canterbury, New Zealand, and got an unexpected opportunity on the iconic children’s TV show, Spot On when he was working as a camera assistant. A prospective presenter didn’t turn up for their audition and the producer turned to Phil and said: “'Why don't you jump in there, Phil, and tell us a story?”

He got the gig and worked on a multitude of New Zealand shows before he moved to the US at the age of 23.

3. He was on the shortlist to host 'Survivor'

Phil came very close to securing the plum role of host for long-running CBS reality show Survivor in 2000, but was pipped to the post by Jeff Probst. Phil made quite an impression on CBS, however, and when they created The Amazing Race a year later, he got the call.

4. The one region he is desperate to visit is close to his homeland

As befitting his role on the globe-trekking, continent-hopping series, Phil has been to more than 130 countries, but there is one area that he is dying to visit — Antarctica. “I have not, believe it or not, been to the continent of Antarctica which is crazy," he says. "A lot of the other places that I've missed are some of the numerous countries in Africa. I've been to about two-thirds of them.”

5. He’s a working-class Kiwi at heart

Despite decades living in LA and operating at the higher echelons of the TV industry, Phil takes pride in his working-class roots and often references the hardworking values his paternal grandfather instilled in him. It inspired his other CBS reality series, Tough as Nails, on which working people compete in mental and physical challenges.

He recently told Deadline: “My family [is] working class… So, when I would hear people make derogatory comments about tradespeople or working-class people, it always irked me. This show is really a way to honor hardworking people, who see the calluses on their hands as a badge of honor, and who keep the country running.”

Phil keeps in close touch with his homeland and has a property in the family’s traditional hometown of Westport, on the South Island. He visited Christchurch soon after the devastating 2011 earthquake and campaigned to keep the country’s tourism trade pumping.

“I love this city, I love New Zealand,” he said. “What really makes a place is the people, and what I’ve seen here is tremendous strength. People have been knocked down, but they’re refusing to stay down.”

Phil Keoghan

Phil Keoghan playing in the NZ Open in Queenstown, New Zealand in 2014 (Image credit: Getty Images)

6. He walks the talk and rides the roads

Phil was amazed to learn that a New Zealand man, Harry Watson, competed in the 1928 Tour de France – cycling 5,600km across 22 stages in 26 days. So he decided to recreate Watson’s epic race in 2013 with buddy Ben Cornell, on bikes from Watson’s era, a feat that was filmed and released as the 2016 documentary, Le Ride. He said recreating Watson’s ride was "the hardest thing I have ever done – both physically and mentally".

7. He holds a reindeer racing licence

While visiting Finland on the trail of Santa Claus, Phil was intrigued to learn there was such a thing as a reindeer racing licence and decided to add it to the licences he likes to collect. What he didn’t realise is how dangerous it is to set the test. He contacted the Laplanders who officiate over the licence and was taken to a forest where he strapped on skis and took hold of the reins of a single reindeer. The perilous course was one mile through trees. The rump of Phil’s reindeer was slapped and off he went, reaching speeds of 30mph and narrowly missing potentially fatal collisions with trees. Phil managed to stay upright and said: “I got all the way without falling off – the Laplanders couldn’t believe it!”

Phil Keoghan Fact Files

How old is he?

Phil Keoghan is currently 54 and was born in Lincoln, New Zealand on May 31, 1967.

Does he have a family?

Phil is married to Australian TV producer Louise Rodrigues, who he married in the early 90s, and with whom he co-produces Tough as Nails. They have one child, a daughter Elle, born in 1995, who is a TV producer who has worked on US Big Brother and Tough as Nails.

Where does he live?

Phil and Louise live in Los Angeles, although they have homes in Westport and in the Coromandel in New Zealand.

How much does he earn?

Phil is reported to earn $100,000 per episode of The Amazing Race, equivalent to $1.2m per season.

Has he won any TV awards?

The Amazing Race has won 13 Primetime Emmy Awards, 10 of which were for Outstanding Reality Competition Program, but Phil hasn’t personally been honoured, although he was nominated as Outstanding Reality Host at the 2009 Emmys. He was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2014 New Year Honours list.


Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.