Jul 17, 2010

a one in a million(aire) opportunity - pt 1

Let me begin with a confession... it's always been a dream of mine to be on a game show. On one hand, it disgusts me to realize how much pop culture knowledge I am filled with. On the other hand, maybe some of that knowledge can actually be used for something productive.

On Wednesday morning I took a tangible step in that direction.

The TV show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" held open auditions in the Cleveland area this past week.  It was a "first come, first serve" audition, which meant there was no guarantee you'd get in without an early spot in line.  I left my house at 4:30am to stand in a line that wouldn't start moving until 6am.

Then again, it was a beautiful morning and I was on the dock.  So who am I to complain?

When it did move, though, they brought us into an outdoor pavilion area and sat everyone down.  Best guess is that there were around 700 people there, from those who seemed focused to others who just enjoyed hamming up every so often to keep the mood light.  They even gave us all bathroom breaks by section... how nice!

Next, we were each handed a magnet that had a number written on the back to designate where we were at in line.  I was "213" - which placed me right in between two guys who I ended up striking a conversational friendship with.  Noah (#212) happened to be an author and itinerant speaker, whereas Steve (#214) was a local broker.

Over time we each shared a bit about our backgrounds, which for Steve included him having auditioned for the show in New York.  He even voluntarily tossed out a few of the questions my way to prepare for, just in case they'd be on the test again.
  • Which President is on the right side of Mt Rushmore?
  • How do you accurately spell this word: "kwestionair?"
  • What movie did George Clooney gain weight for?
  • What country is _____ river located in?" (I forgot the name of it already - sorry)
Unfortunately for Steve and I, none of these questions were on the Cleveland test.

What was challenging about the experience was that the show's representatives didn't have a sound system.  So whenever they would try to talk to the large crowd of 700+ people they would be continually interrupted by the masses saying, "WE CAN'T HEAR YOU!"  Of course, I could hear them fine until those other folks said they couldn't... which was odd since they were in front of me.  Nonetheless, that was a struggle a couple of times during the day.

So we were ushered upstairs into a large ballroom where we sat down on chairs that barely gave any elbow room.  Thankfully I was a few chairs down from the end and Steve caught on to move his chair down a bit.  This would eventually help in the test taking, not only from a concentration standpoint but also to keep others from cheating (which it actually would have been easy to do, although I didn't see it happen).

A young woman from the show guided us through our initial steps - we'd be given ten minutes to answer 30 questions on the first test, then a second test would ask us another 30 questions that we'd also only have ten minutes to answer.  Both were standard "Scantron" sheets, and we were all given a "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" pencil and a piece of hard cardboard.

Some of the easy questions of the first test I nailed included:
  • What was the profession of Michael Clayton in the 2007 movie?
  • Which of these is more money - four rolls of pennies, five rolls of dimes, ten rolls of nickels, etc.
  • What is the old time nickname that the New York Times is known for?
  • Name the TV show George Costanza's answering machine parodied on Seinfeld.
  • On "In Living Color," what was Homey the Clown's catchphrase?
Some of the other questions I didn't nail off the first test included this genre: "Put these birth stones in order, according to which month comes first..."  That's where you burn a lot of time - trying to recall information you once may have known but no longer do.  At least a third of the test was a challenge in this way.

The second test was much easier - it was primarily movie themed and covered every genre from The Maltese Falcon to Jurassic Park.  A few questions were "trick" questions - like "What movie did actor Bill Paxton not die in?" and they gave you four movies where people were known for dying.  I dare say that I only missed one question on that second test.

After all of this, we had to wait around a half hour for the results to come back.  During this time, the ballroom became a chaotic rendition of "America's Got Talent" - only, it was the non-talent version.  I apologize for how that sounds, but people were doing anything to win a t-shirt... and I heard some of the flattest jokes I've heard in a long time.  It gave Steve great sideline comfort in his chances to move forward as he watched it all unfold.

Although... I did score a t-shirt (and later several more) by helping toss them out to the people.

Finally, the big moment came.  They announced who made it out of the large group by name, and when all was said and done around 8% of were called back.  The comments made by many people after this included, "This was the biggest waste of time in my entire life."  Meanwhile, I was feeling pretty good... as was Steve who also was called back as well.

We made our way up to the front, were handed application forms, took pictures with our number and name, and then were told to come back three hours later for our audition.

Three hours later?  Application form?  Audition?

(click here for Part 2)

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