We had a CRAZY January 2015. I had gotten coveted tickets to see “Ellen” taping in LA for me, my sisters, and my partner David. Since we were flying all the way across country, I decided we should try and make this vacation the TACKIEST trip ever and do anything and everything LA we could find to do! So I went searched to see if there were any other TV shows we could go see tapings of. As luck would have it, I got us tickets to THE PRICE IS RIGHT! We are not fans of that show, but it does seem like a classic, doesn’t it?? Secretly, we were all hoping my sister Annette would get called down. But lo and behold whose name got called? DAVID’S!
My sisters and I busted out laughing when they called him – David has watched the show exactly twice in the last 3 decades and those were the week before we went on the trip just to “prep” so we would understand what was going on! Also, he knows the price of NOTHING – in fact he has been saying, “Man, that seems pricey to me. Maybe I am just getting old and don’t know the cost of stuff anymore…” for about the last year. So yeah – HE got called down!!
|Us celebrating after the taping.|
We went out to eat in our matching shirts and dorky name tags. It was great.
|They make you use the name on your driver's license for your nametag, so Sherry had to be Sheryl....|
|Annette talked them into giving her a BACK-UP perfect non-used nametag to keep!|
|Yeah - I was pretty proud of my nametag.|
“So, let me explain what that Price is Right experience was from my perspective.
To begin with, I had a bad sinus cold since we arrived in LA, so my nose was stuffed up and my ears had never returned to their un-stuffed hearing function since the plane descended from 30,000 feet. Coincidentally, the host (Drew Carey) was recovering from laryngitis (as one does, I presume, when you are getting paid big bucks per episode, and the producer asks "Are you able to do this show today, or too sick?"). So I was essentially flying by the seat of my pants, not hearing anything that wasn't directly addressed to me, and trying to catch whenever I might be being prompted to respond to in some way. When that happened, I tried to hit the ball back with some response that was (1) appropriate and (2) ENTHUSIASTIC!
That, as I understood it, was my character description for this improvisational theatre piece that I seemed to have stumbled into. I mean, here was the set, clearly; there was my acting partner (Drew), and there was the audience (the cameras). There was also the trusty sidekick, in the form of the studio audience, who would teem and shout in the moments when I was supposed to make some choice, before giving an answer. And each time such a moment of decision occurred, I would look out at the sea of studio audience strangers, and they would all be shouting and waving arms and hands with fingers held up in a soup of projected emotional attitudes that was comprised of various degrees (as I experienced it) of "THIS IS FABULOUSLY EXCITING!" and "PICK THREE! PICK THREE!" and "YOUR PANTS ARE ON FIRE!" and "OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!" and "LOOK AT MEEE!" and "YOU IDIOT! YOU'RE SCREWING IT UP!!!" and "AHYEEEEE" and "HEY-BATTABATTA-SWINGG-BATTABATTA..!" Focusing on the objective (the game in question) was well beyond me.
There was also my posse in the crowd (Susan and her sisters), whom I could sometimes pick out. Susan was sending petrified "I don't know what you should do" and "I love you" signals – reassuring, but not terribly informative. But her sister – a Price is Right devotee, and shopaholic, would offer her suggestion of a best guess – which I pretty much just then took as my script, and delivered in the performance, in what seemed the appropriate timing, and with ENTHUSIASM! In this way, we (my scene partner Drew and I) worked our way through the scene of mounting tension until what seemed like it might be headed for a happy ending took an abrupt turn into that "surprise – you lose!" experience that feels like the musical sting in "Book of Mormon" when Arnold learns his mission will be in Uganda (music-grinds-to-a-halt; Harpo-Marx-horn).
Then the narrative was recapitulated in miniature with the "Big Wheel" section, and we were done! I exited, still with the sort of bumbling, hapless, good-natured attitude that I had brought on stage at the beginning, and my "15-minutes-of-fame" account is now left with about 5 minutes remaining to use! It was all very much like a vague hallucinogenic experience, and then it was over. Except for the paperwork.
After the show, the winners have to go in to an area where a lady explains (way too fast to actually pay attention to) what this means for you. I presume it is essentially this: "don't talk about it, don't be a dick, sign this paperwork, and pay your taxes". So I signed. You have to pay California state tax of 7% for them to even release your gift(s), which you'll get about 6 weeks after the air date. For me that was about $105, I think, for my free coffee-maker and electric skateboard. Hey – I could have won the collection of women's designer shoes! Did not get the car, though. On the upside, did not have to find the $1500 for the taxes that would have meant, either. And, got to walk out at the end of it and rejoin my friends in the California sunshine. Which was really the best part of all (awww!).
Watching myself when it aired was another odd experience (as I had not really been 'present' through the hallucination of it happening). It turns out I look much less like the charming smooth guy I imagine, and more like some slack-jawed, genial, loose-limbed gibbon on stage! And when all the other contestants are standing normally by the Big Wheel, I seem to be bobbing restlessly like one of those avatars in a WII game! Apparently, like some radioactive element, I do not have an energy level of complete rest on stage.
Things you didn't know about the show? Well the set is REALLY old and crappy! The 'junior high prom" level of set construction does not come through on screen (so why throw more money at it?), but it really is surprisingly shabby/tawdry. Though why I expected it to exhibit Downton Abbey production values I don't know. The magic of television, I guess. Also, they edit a fair bit of time out when the contestant is looking out at the sea of studio audience and they are throwing suggestions (like the guy at the end of the dunking booth looks at the people throwing baseballs at him). And maybe you DID know this, but almost all of the people in the audience are SERIOUS, AVID Price is Right groupies! They know prices, they know history, they even know that prizes get recycled ("that spa was in another show"), so if you memorize the exact prices of all the prizes…. it's like counting cards in Vegas, I guess… What a wonderful rich diversity is this human race!
Of course we had done some homework before our arrival (and by "we" I mean of course Susan). A friend of a friend who is in the business clued us in that the producers of such shows are scanning and interviewing all the audience members as they wait (a couple of hours) in line to go into the show. So when the interviewing person got to our section of the line and asked me what my favorite game on the show was (subtext: do you actually WATCH the show fanatically?) I answered with the only game I remembered from the two episodes we watched to prep before coming. "Oh that one where they flip the numbers from one side to the other?" "You mean "Flip-Flop"?", she asked. "YEAH! I LOVE THAT ONE – FLIP-FLOP!" (with enthusiasm). And that, my friends, is how you get tagged as a potential pick from the audience. (For more tips on how to make millions working the TV game show circuit, buy my upcoming book "Gamesmanship – How to make money writing a book about losing on TV game shows"!)
And if you want to know more, I am starting a personal consulting service based on the book…
Yours in Celebrity,
|The BIG (ok, not so big) WINNER!|
|Bonus photo - my pre-show green screen shot featuring my infamous WINNER pose, which, alas, I did not get to demonstrate on national tv....|