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Cryer studied singing in Italy.
His professional career began onstage at Sadler's Wells Opera, London, with appearances on BBC and at Wigmore Hall. His performing activity then widened to include musical theatre, recording, television and cabaret. In 1969 a Hollywood agency contracted him for ten years as an entertainer, leading to 15 tours of the United States, appearing in San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
In New Zealand, Max Cryer was the country’s first television quizmaster and subsequently made over 300 appearances on television as entertainer, and hosted 12 different television series including New Zealand's first live talk-variety show, Town Cryer. As a singer he recorded LPs with his "singing children" and his stage roles include Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, the king in The King and I, Count Danilo in The Merry Widow and Prince Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus.
Cryer was chairman for the Oxford Union debates in 1975. He joined TVNZ in 1977 as producer and for the next ten years produced the New Zealand versions of University Challenge and Mastermind, as well as Mastermind International for the BBC. For ten years he was columnist in the New Zealand Herald and the New Zealand Woman's Weekly, and was drama reviewer for The Sunday Star-Times. In 1981, he was a judge of the Wattie Book Awards, now known as the New Zealand Post Book Awards.
The New Zealand Government seconded him to direct all New Zealand entertainment for the World Expo 88 in Brisbane and Seville Expo '92, where he organised and supervised over 1000 Māori musical and cultural performances, and became repertoire coordinator for Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's best-selling recording of Māori music.
Since 1997 his weekly radio session on Radio Live has answered listeners' questions on the English language.
His awards include New Zealand Entertainer of the Year, the Variety Artists of New Zealand's 'Benny Award,' and the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal for services to New Zealand. In the 1995 New Year Honours, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services to entertainment.
Now a full-time writer, Cryer has topped the New Zealand non-fiction best-seller list three times (2001, 2002 and 2012). Besides New Zealand, his books have also been published in Australia, United Kingdom, Italy, the United States, Germany and Russia.
- Cat Miscellany (Blake Publishing 2005) ISBN 1-84454-169-X
- Curious Kiwi Words (Harper Collins 2002)
- Curious Questions (Harper Collins 2001)
- Curious Thoughts (Harper Collins 2002)
- Curious ( Exisle, 2012)
- Day by Day (Harper Moa Beckett, 1988) ISBN 1-86958-721-9
- Every Dog Has Its Day (Exile 2013) ISBN 978-1-921966-28-6
- Hear Our Voices, We Entreat (Exile 2004)
- Is It True ?? (Exile 2014) ISBN 9781921497452, ISBN 978-1-921966-48-4
- Love Me Tender (Exile 2008)
- Max Vocab, with Cherie Brown ( Harcourt Education, 2004)
- Max Vocab: Journeys in the English Language and Max Vocab: Fun Lessons in the English Language Co-author: Cherie Brown. (Raupo Publishing (NZ) Ltd. 2004) ISBN 1-877348-53-8 and ISBN 978-1-877348-53-2
- More Curious Questions ( Harper Collins, 2003)
- New Zealand Day by Day (Harper Moa Beckett, 1988)
- Preposterous Proverbs (Exile 2011) ISBN 978-1-921497-45-2
- Superstitions: And why we have them (Exisle Publishing 2016) ISBN 978-1-925335-17-0
- The Godzone Dictionary (Exile 2006)
- The Mastermind Quiz Book (BCNZ Enterprises,1985)
- Town Cryer (Collins, Auckland, 1978) ISBN 0-00-216934-7
- Who Said That First (Exile 2010)
- The Cat's Out Of The Bag(Exile 2015)