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Wonderfully Awful: Audience Participation


a blogumn by Robin Rosenzweig
Screen Capture: Jeff Schultz
Screen Capture: Jeff Schultz

I was recently invited to watch a taping of a game show for which I had auditioned, and was told that I could possibly be pulled from the audience to become a contestant. Even though I shuddered at the thought of being humiliated on national television playing a game that I really thought I sucked at, I couldn’t very well turn it down. After all – I’m FUNemployed! Plus, they were willing to pay me some cash even if I just sat in the audience. So really, it was a no-brainer.

I arrived at the studio at 9:30am and waited at the gate with a varied cast of characters. There was the sweet, hyper-enthusiastic with possibly a touch-of-the-crazy old lady. Then we had the textbook urban cowboy straight out of Central Casting wearing all black, a bandanna, a cowboy hat, and a smattering of stubble. And then there was a gentleman who I will refer to as Tool Raul (not his real name, though he did have a similar rhyming nickname followed by real name moniker that he would make every effort to make sure people knew throughout the day. And as much as I want to share it because it is truly that bad, I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of finding results not created by him in his inevitable daily self-Google, nor do I want to give him free web hits. So Tool Raul it is).

We were eventually herded into the studio where our little group of twenty (all of which had previously auditioned for the show) was strategically placed in certain seats before the rest of the audience filed in. I found it very interesting that we were seated in very specific locations, and wondered what it meant in regard to being chosen to play the game.

However, my curiosity was squashed when I saw a handful of people with coiffed hair and professionally applied makeup ushered in at the last minute and placed in the few open seats that were left. It was clear that these people were the *real* contestants and that the rest of the audience had been hoodwinked into thinking we had a chance. Lo and behold, when the show started and the host went around the audience to pick out contestants, I successfully predicted every single person she chose. And even though I was surprised to feel a hint of disappointment at the idea that there was no way I’d be on the show, that quickly dissipated as I watched the taping and realized that, yes, I really do suck at this game.

In between shots, the audience warm-up guy would lead games with the crowd in an effort to keep our energy up. Of course, Tool Raul was a frequent volunteer, if only so he could repeatedly say his name and website into a microphone. I also witnessed perhaps the most uncomfortable dating game of all time featuring various women of the audience and a somewhat (but not too) reluctant urban cowboy.  Watching these women attempt to sexily dance for the affections of their cowboy appeared to set women back about 50 years, and I don’t even consider myself a feminist.

Ultimately, it turned out to be a long day in a strange Hollywood microcosm where undiscovered talent converged in hopes of having just a moment of glory. As for me, I was just happy to earn a little bit of cash, and even more satisfied to realize that I possibly made more money from my audience day rate than 5/6 of the contestants who actually played the game.