I had another one of those weekends that makes it nearly impossible to spend my monday holed up in a cubicle, doing my little dance for The Man.
What follows is a pretty detailed account of my weekend, down to some pretty inconsequential minutia…
A couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I was floating around on the various networks’ casting pages to see if there were any reality TV shows I could audition for. As most of them either required dunking your face in worms, being single, or looking good in a string bikini, I was out of luck. I did happen to notice, though, that the game show Deal or No Deal was having an open casting call here in Chicago on Saturday, February 4th.
I think it’s been one of my lifelong dreams to appear on a game show. I used to watch them pretty obsessively, and now I host my own. I love playing games. And game shows put on some pretty great games. I want to press big buttons, spin heavy wheels, and walk away with pockets full of cash.
So I figured I’d give this a shot. The listing said the auditions were from noon to 5pm at Dave & Busters, and that one should arrive early to increase one’s chances of being seen. I emailed a bunch of my friends to see if anyone wanted to try this with me, and my buddies Bryan (Timekeeper Willis) and Paul (The Noob) were quickly on board.
I woke up at 6am on Saturday, and caught the 7:57 Metra to Ravenswood. I met up with Bryan and Paul there, picked up a donut and a Coke, and rode the CTA to Clark and Division. I want to note that if Bryan and Paul hadn’t been on board for this, and I had to do all of this alone, I probably would have slapped my snooze alarm until it was too late, and just chickened out of the whole thing. So I’m pretty grateful that these two guys decided to do this with me.
I was pretty scared that we’d get to Dave & Busters at 9am, and be the only ones there for a couple of hours. That fear was washed away the second we stepped off the train. There were about 50 people in line already, and we quickly scooted to the end. Then we stood in place for a little over 3 hours, just waiting to go inside. Our spot in line just happened to be right next to a puddle of dried up vomit, so that was kind of pleasant. It was pretty cold, and only got colder as noon drew closer. The line quickly grew behind us, and soon stretched around a corner, and another block up the street.
People were chatting with each other in line. One of the guys in front of us seemed to be a real game show audition veteran. Another guy kept asking Paul for his phone number in very creepy ways. My caffeine buzz took me through about an hour of waiting in line, then I just kind of zombied out until they let us inside.
They began letting people inside in groups. We must have been in the third or fourth group. We were sent to a little waiting room, and then all herded into a large room full of tables. Paul, Bryan, and I were all pushed towards the same table. Ten of us stood around this tiny little conference room table, while a young-ish casting director fella named Bert took our applications, and looked us over.
He asked Paul to tell us all something about himself that we couldn’t tell by looking at him. I think Paul said something about being athletic, and playing soccer. I think. I was a little nervous, and my head wasn’t really working right. Next, he asked me the same question. Without even thinking, I shot back, “I can do something with my hands that’s so amazing, everyone’s eyes will pop out of their heads.” Then I did this thing I can do with my hands that makes them look like a frog. Nobody’s eyes popped out of their heads, but I don’t know if I meant that part literally. Bryan was next, and this continued around the whole table. Paul, Bryan, and I spat out witty little remarks when appropriate.
He went around the table a second time, this time giving us a Deal or No Deal scenario, and asking what we would do. I took the banker’s deal. I’m not sure that it mattered which we chose, I think they just wanted us to be confident in our choice.
Ok. So that was our audition for Deal or No Deal. He thanked us, and said, “we’re making our choices by 6pm tomorrow night, so if you don’t hear anything by then, blah blah blah.” I started gathering my coat, and I hung back a bit so that I could thank Bert and shake his hand. Before I could even do that, Bert put out his arm to stop me, Bryan, Paul, and the woman standing next to Bryan.
“Hey, guys, nice job. I want you to go back behind that curtain over there.”
So instead of exiting, we went back behind the secret curtain, where a guy congratulated us on being called back, and handed us a new, super thick application.
That was the coolest part of all of this, being picked to go back behind the secret curtain.
The uncoolest part immediately followed, filling out a huge 10-page application with my freezing hands. To top it off, I had already filled out this application the week before… it was the same one you needed to fill out for the online application. My hand cramped up pretty early, but I was able to plod through it and get everything down. When I handed the guy my application, he handed me my official callback invitation, and asked me not to wave it around as I exited.
My callback was set for Sunday at 12:30pm. Bryan and Paul were scheduled for Sunday at 1:30pm. The callback would be at The Omni Hotel, downtown, and we were supposed to bring a few supporters. Paul, Bryan, and I figured we could support each other, plus we would bring Becky and Stephanie along as well.
Saturday night we had a pretty neat DSTW, but I was running on very little steam. Standing out in the cold for three hours had really wiped me out, and I did not get a chance to take a nap before the show. I went home immediately after the show so I could get some sleep before Sunday’s callback.
Did I mention how freaking excited I was about all of this? Well I was. That whole secret curtain thing really made my day. I felt terrible for the people who went home to wait for their phone call, but I felt very special to have been singled out and asked to move forward.
Sunday! Becky and I picked up Stephanie and Bryan at around 11:30, and drove to the hotel. Paul took a cab from Church and met up with us. We headed to the third floor and began the waiting game…
We had a chance to talk a bit with the secret curtain guy at the callback, while we waited for our audition. He gave us the following numbers:
750 people auditioned at Saturday’s cattle call. 35 of those people were selected for the Sunday callbacks. Of the 35 of us, 5 would most likely be chosen to appear on the show. Those were great odds! It also made it all the more cool that Bryan, Paul, and I were part of that group of 35 that got called back. Since we each at a 1 in 7 chance of making it on the show, that gave us a 3 in 7 chance that ONE of us would get cast on the show, which is almost 50%.
Not that probability really matters, here… but still, it gave us all a sharp boost of hope.
After standing around for about an hour, I was finally called. The guy took me to a hallway and had me stand in front of a green screen. I held up my nametag and he took a series of pictures of me. Next, he had me gather my supporters, and he snapped a few group shots.
He told us to hop an elevator to the 7th floor, and wait outside room 711. After a few seconds, a guy opened the door and had me come in the room. He asked me to introduce myself to the camera, state my age, and what I do for a living.
Then he threw me for a loop.
“Ok, throw your name card on the floor, spin around, and freestyle dance for me.”
I can’t dance. And I really can’t freestyle dance, whatever that is. I nervously contorted my body into all sorts of ridiculous positions. Then he added, “Ok, now hardcore dance.” I guess that was a little easier. I banged my head, shook a fist, blah blah blah. I was his little monkey. I wanted on his game show, so I had to do his little dance.
“Ok, now country dance. Now pretend you’re at an Allman Brothers concert.”
Once that part was over, I think everything went pretty well. He interviewed me on camera, asked me all sorts of random questions about what I do for a living, what I do in my spare time, and finally, why I wanted to be on the game show. He had me stare right in the camera as if I was talking to Howie Mandell, the host.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the gist of it was that I just wanted to play and win this game. They responded as if that’s exactly what they wanted to hear, but I’m sure that they were patronizing me just as much as I was patronizing them. Though I think I appeared more genuine.
Next they opened the door and had my supporters come in. They had me introduce everyone, and then announced that we’d be playing a mini-mock-version of the game show. That’s what I was there for. I played a little more gutsy than I probably would have if real money was at stake, and ended up with $25. I eliminated the two highest dollar amounts right off the bat, but, as Becky puts it, at least I didn’t get the penny.
So that was it. They thanked me, told me to scram, and said maybe I’d hear something from them in a few weeks. I asked the guy if there was some secret curtain he wanted me to go behind, and he just smiled and waved me off.
I think I did very well, but I also have no idea what they were looking for. I did the best I could, and even if I’m not chosen for the show, at least I didn’t get the penny.
But the day was not over! Paul and Bryan still had to have their callbacks. They went through similar paces with the photos, and we all bunched up for the same group photo a bunch of times. When we were sent upstairs again, Bryan went first… he was interviewed, but not asked to play the mock game show. They reasoned that they had already seen us play the game show, and now we knew what all the numbers were.
That made sense.
Paul went in next, and had his interview. When he walked back outside, we all started putting on our coats. The guy opened the door again and said, “Paul, come in here for a minute.”
Outside the room, we were all pretty convinced that Paul had just gone behind the secret curtain, and was being asked to be a contestant on the show. We had to wait two whole elevator rides before we could hear what really happened behind that door, as other auditioners were about.
It turns out it had nothing to do with the game show, but was just as freaking cool. The guy’s brother was currently working on a reality show featuring engaged couples, and he thought Paul would be perfect for it. He asked Paul if he’d be interested, and passed Paul’s number on to this other producer. So Paul will probably be getting a phone call pretty soon about appearing on some other reality show with his fiancee.
So now I just play a waiting game. Honestly, I think the “weeks” thing was a bit of a ruse. I think that if I don’t hear anything by tonight, it’s safe to say I was not cast in the show. Their web site says the show premieres again in 21 days, which would make it fall on my 30th birthday. I wish I had done that math before my audition, so that I could have mentioned it in my interview. I did write my birthday down on my application, so maybe they’ll figure that out and think it’s a neat angle.
A guy in the elevator gave us some added perspective… he said that the real producers would be flying in to Chicago sometime today (Monday), and making the calls over the next couple of weeks. Again, everyone had a slightly different story. My gut tells me that if I was going to be a contestant on the show, I’d know it by now. But he also said they’d be giving everyone a call either way, since there were only 35 of us at the callback. So for now, I guess, no news is good news.
I really want to play this freaking game.