It’s no secret that Josh and I are not shy about being in the spotlight. We both grew up doing theatre, and we love to put together costumes as well. On top of that, I have ALWAYS had a really strong competitive drive around contests and games. When I was young, I dreamed of getting chosen for one of those awesome Nickelodeon game shows that dumped slime on you, or where you got to race through an obstacle course (remember those?), but never was quite old enough to apply when they were casting. So instead, I called into radio sweepstakes constantly, and entered every “guess how many marbles are in the jar” type things I stumbled across. (I even won an 80 lb. pumpkin at the fair by guessing its weight! Too bad I left it on the porch, and my pet goat ATE a hole through it. My giant pumpkin pie dreams were dashed.)
So of course the moment I turned 18, I was determined to get onto a game show. They just seemed like so much fun! The thrill of playing a game to possibly win something amazing that you’d never buy for yourself sounded great to me. And now that Josh and I have seen behind the scenes and have even appeared on a few of them, I know that it IS a great way to earn some extra cash or possibly take home a new car, but that there are definitely ways you can up your chances of being selected to play and win.
Think you might make a good contestant? Here are a few things to expect when you apply for some of your favorite game shows:
Remember that things have to look good on tv. Pick bright colors that catch the eye, but make sure not to wear anything with a recognizable logo or character on it so that producers don’t have to worry about legal usage of whatever you’re showing. On our Let’s Make a Deal episode, we got special permission to dress with Star Trek outfits, because it was a themed episode. But on generic episodes, logos will be covered up with tape or people will be asked to change if a brand is worn.
Also, don’t forget that you want to stand out. Producers see too many people to remember your name, so they may file you in their brain as “that guy with the bright red shirt.” Find something unique that is memorable.
I had way too much fun making my star ship Enterprise headband out of cardboard and dollar tree party supplies, and got a lot of comments on it! But my FAVORITE thing I wore with that outfit is my light up twinkling skirt from Thinkgeek that I bought myself as an early Christmas present. (Isn’t it AMAZING?!? You can find it here! You’re welcome!)
One thing I never expected about going on game shows is how much down time there is. You’ll spend literally all day at the studio lot, getting signed in, processed, interviewed, filling out paperwork, going through security, being seated, and THEN filming.
There is a secret that the producers don’t want you to know, though — They are evaluating you from the moment you walk onto the lot, up until the moment your name is called to come onstage! That girl standing off in the corner with a clipboard? She’s taking notes on who is looking upbeat and interested. That black window in the holding area? Yep, there are probably people behind it arguing over which person in the crowd should be picked and why. If music is playing? DANCE.
So even if you’re really bored waiting, don’t bury your head in your phone the whole time, complain about the wait, or refuse to talk to other people. It just might cost you your spot in the game.
The camera people want drama and excitement. If you seem low key and ho-hum about being there, you probably won’t be chosen. That being said, don’t go SO over the top with your reactions that you seem a bit scary. Just be yourself, in a heightened way that’s interesting to watch. It’s so disappointing when the curtain is pulled back to show that they’re playing for A NEW CAR and the person just smiles politely. C’mon, people!
Seem interested in every part of the process. Clap and cheer for other people who are being interviewed, be engaged, and smile a lot. If you’re not doing that, they might stick you in the back of the studio where you won’t be seen on camera because you look bored.
I knew it would be exciting to be on a game show, but I never expected just HOW exciting. I can tell you, that moment that Josh’s name was called as the first contestant to “Come on Down!” on the Price is Right made my head spin. It was a weird “is this really happening” emotion, with a bit of shock and suddenly being unable to breathe.
I almost think that it’s HARDER to be the partner of the person picked to play, watching from the stands. You can’t give them advice on what to do, just mime and gesture wildly (which I totally did…my friends watching the episode later thought it was hilarious).
My heart was pounding out of my chest the whole time. And when Josh made it into the Showcase Showdown after TYING three times in a row with 60 cents on the wheel spin, I’ll bet the camera crew was loving my facial expressions. I’m usually not a super reactive person; it takes a lot to phase me. But this was totally new.
You may be there to win, but the production crew wants to tell a good story. They are looking for people who the viewers want to root for, or who are funny or heartwarming.
When we went on The Price is Right, we were just starting the process of adopting a baby, and were hoping to win something to help with the massive expense. Since we wanted the producers to know our reason for coming, we made bright shirts that made it clear, and also talked about it a lot. It was so cool that when Josh was picked, he got to say hello to our future son (Brendan!) on camera because of this! We’ll have to show him the video some day.
The biggest part of the decision whether you’re picked or not is probably the short group interview beforehand. You’ll stand in a group of about 10-15 people, and will be asked one by one what your name is, where you’re from, and what you do. This is your time to shine. Be excited and happy, and show a passion for something. Throw in a fun or weird fact or two about yourself, or reveal a crazy talent. Just be interesting…because they are literally writing YES or NO on that clipboard as you’re talking.
I’ve heard this from other former contestants, and it’s so true. When a camera is put in your face and you’re told to choose curtain 1, 2, or 3, you will freeze up. It will suddenly become as hard as an advanced quantum physics equation. You will lose the ability to speak intelligently, and begin uttering grunts and ummms as you stall.
Then you’ll turn back to the audience and beseech them with your eyes to give you the right answer, hoping desperately that they know.
Yeah, I know — you’re thinking, “I would never do that. Those people who stall and act clueless must not be too bright.”
…and then the camera is in your face, and you do the same thing. Trust me.
You’d think this would be obvious, but sometimes people forget that they’re possibly getting something free. They get greedy! If you win a trip to San Francisco, but were hoping for Cancun, PRETEND YOU LOVE SAN FRAN. If you wanted a car, but got a flowery quilt set, IT IS THE MOST AMAZING QUILT EVERRRRR.
I’ve actually heard stories of contestants who complained about the prize they were playing for, and were quickly shown back to their seat, never getting to play at all. Don’t let this be you.
Keeping your energy and emotion up all day is really tiring. Even though we like to perform and be in the spotlight sometimes, Josh and I prefer to do it in short bursts…we’re actually introverts, so being social sometimes can drain us. Plan accordingly. Bring protein bars and water to keep yourself standing.
You may leave the day sweaty and sore, too! At every commercial break at Let’s Make a Deal, they would play party music and ask the audience to cheer and dance. This is fun at first, but an hour in, your brain is screaming “No! Not more dancing! I’m out of moves!” Haha.
We all hope that we’ll be the one to walk away with a million dollars. The reality is, that probably won’t be the case. Make sure you are going just for the fun of it, not expecting too much, so you’re not disappointed if you’re not even chosen to play. You can always try again if you weren’t selected! It’s not personal, maybe you weren’t picked because they already had someone of your “type,” or because their manager decided they needed more of another gender, etc.