Thursday, October 3, 2013

Who Wants to Leave A Millionaire Taping?

There are three places in America you can go to see a cross section of citizens that may make you rethink your position on random mall shootings or making cars safer. The first is any cruise line. Any. Just pick a port...New York, Miami, Alaska...and watch the families of tractor racers or septic tank repairman toodle around with their fat little arms and legs sticking out of their cargo shorts and their "Gods a Packers Fan" T Shirts slowly getting stained with honey mustard dressing and marinara sauce from their fourth trip to the buffet, at breakfast, all the while clutching their purses and cell phones and eyeing the waiters suspiciously as if the staff really wanted to get their hands on their bedazzled flip phones, and you can start to slowly weep. The second is any outdoor concert that is a benefit for a crop or church rebuilding. Thirdly, and probably worstly ( that's a word...) is a taping of a game show.

One of the many perks of living in New York City is all the free tapings of shows you can see. All you have to do is get up before the sun, wait in line for 6 hours with groups of people who think that Katie Couric is a hoot, and follow the instructions from the sadistic warm up comics that train you like baby seals, and you too can have a story you can tell at Golden Corral next Thanksgiving. One day I was feeling pretty good about life and not being used to that feeling, I thought I'd fuck it up and attend a taping of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I received an email a few weeks before confirming tickets I forgot I had asked for probably in a drunken haze. (It's very similar to the email I got from EBAY telling me I had been outbid on a jukebox...what jukebox?). Having nothing to do that day, I thought maybe I could audition, win a quick million bucks, and be home in time for a new FaceOff on SYFY. Leaving Queens,and taking a few trains to historic 108th and Lexington in Manhattan, I arrived to see a line forming in front of the Millionaire studios. Taking my place at the back of the line behind a frighteningly round woman wearing a shirt with tiny dogs playing on it and the words Happiness is a Terrier spelled out in bones, I realized this would be a long day.

A man with a clipboard and little tiny laminated dollar bills with our seat numbers came down the line confirming our tickets. When he gave the dog lover hers, she and her...friend? daughter? Prisoner? smiled at each other and pretended they were running off with the money. They laughed and laughed, and I died and died. The line was expanding behind me. An old woman in a white wig with yellow streaks and lipstick on half of her face wanted to know when we could sit. A family from Philadelphia recalled the day they were extras in a scene from Rocky..."and now this!" The woman and her daughter directly behind me were quizzing each other in hopes of getting on the show. They would have nailed it too if all the questions were about lemon bar recipes.

Finally we moved inside. To a holding room. Where we would sit for another 2 hours "warming up" with mock questions from the ABC interns. The first one being a multiple choice whose answer was Anthony Weiner, which delighted the crowd to no end. So much so this asshole charming man made weiner his answer for all the questions. As funny as it sounds. The woman next to me, who took a day off from giving up on life, asked if I would wait in line and take a picture of her with a cardboard cut out of the host Cedric The Entertainer. I thought shed never ask. She seemed shocked that I didn't want a pic of my own, but I told her that later she could take a pic of me with a telephone pole and that disappointed her more.

Finally, we were ready. We moved from the basement up a few flight of stairs to the Millionaire set. They had warned us that it may be overwhelming to some people, and sure enough, the majority of the group looked like they were back on the mother ship. They pointed at lights, and took pictures of larger cameras. We were seated and instructed we would be taking a twenty question quiz to see if anyone could stay and audition for a future show. The man next to me was an old retired postal worker and this was his 4th time there. He was very serious and I really sincerely wanted him to do well and make it. The woman to my left was the terrier woman, and I really sincerely wished a cameraman would fall from the catwalk and crush the shit out of her.

We took the quiz. I did not get a passing grade. We move on now.

Enter the warm up comic who asked people where they were from and then named a comedy club in their city he played at. He had some good one liners though, and razzed the crowd well, but plugged his website so much I thought his last name was dot com. He instructed us how to hoot and holler at every thing Cedric said. How to seem shocked at a wrong answer and crazily ecstatic at a right one. The sheep did their job. Terrier woman stood up waved her floppy arms in the air so hard it looked like two flying squirrels made of polyester were racing. Cedric the Entertainer came out and the crowd erupted. He high fived the crowd, and welcomed us and episode one of three had begun. Then stopped. Different cameras were used. Makeup came out and dabbed the sweat off Cedrics face. Special how in the fuck are they celebrities, the stars of Braxton Family Values, came out and waved to the confused crowd.

The next three and a half hours are a blur of stops and starts. After three questions was a commercial break. Then a teaser filmed for the at home games. Then after each episode, pick up shots were filmed. If Cedric stumbled on a line, or a technical difficulty screwed up the computers, those takes were filmed again and edited into the final show. When one questions multiple choice answers were Nietzsche, Kierkegaard,and other philosophers, I knew we were going to be there a while as Cedric, who obviously didn't read the questions ahead of time, looked at the screen like he was trying to make words out of a spilled Scrabble board.

The audience hung in there though. Laughing at horrible jokes, sighing when a contestant got a wrong answer and cheering as someone won $40,00. Memories were made, hearts were broken, and my mailman friend didn't get a chance to audition. Terrier woman and friend? daughter? Prisoner? got up and exclaimed how hungry they were and waddled out of the studio. I knew they would talk about this day until diabetes takes one both of them away. An experience I'll never forget. I hope the Wendy Williams taping is better than this.

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Im Walking Here, And So Can You!"

As summer approaches…oh, it’s already here? As summer is here, the streets of New York City will be flooded with extra tourists, homeless, and the mole people who emerge from the sewers to escape the heat and hot urine smell they grew up with. So as a public service for all visitors to our city, here is a guide on How To Walk In NYC.

So you want to explore the sites of the greatest city on Earth, but going to Urlabari in Nepal is expensive, and you’ve settled for the big apple (named for its abundance of orchards). But they haven’t invented teleportation devices yet (they have but the government doesn’t want us to know) and you need to see what’s under the Brooklyn Bridge or the amazing Arbor Day window displays at Macy’s. What to do? Most people opt for walking. But walking in a crowded city is different than walking in Madison Wisconsin from your car to the Cheesecake Factory. Here are some tips!

• Look up! There lots to see! Thousands of immigrants didn’t make these buildings so tall and these movie posters so big to not be gawked at. Is that barely legal girl in leggings and nothing else on that American Apparel ad looking at you? You bet she is! Did Toys R Us flash a Care Bears Blowout sale you need to know the details for? Hell yes! Is that you on the big screen for Kodak cameras waving at your friends as they try to take a picture of a picture? It sure is, and you just may be discovered dead in an alley Make sure to stop for no reason and point with mouth agape. The locals bumping into you love it. If they scowl and jam their finger in your spine it’s just their way of saying “Hey, thanks for noticing the great city we have here, and if there’s anything I can do for you, like tell you what sweet nuts are, or push you in front of a bus, let me know”

• Walk in zig zag patterns! You know who walks in straight lines? Predictable thoughtful people. Mix it up! You’re on vacation. Oh my God is that an Angry Birds ski cap on the other side of the sidewalk. You better walk right in front of people to see if it is. Just realized you passed the McDonalds you wanted to visit to see if their fries taste different than the ones back home (they don’t)? Double back at lightning speed knocking the cell phone out of the local’s hand who trusted you not to do that but totally understands that you are a monkey who saw something shiny and will forgive you.

• Lock arms and don’t let go! Want to make sure you experience everything with your group of friends leaving no man behind? The best way to do this is to lock arms and walk “Last Supper” style down the street. Two, three, or even ten of you doing this, all wearing your bright yellow “Kalamazoo Crew Vacation 2013” shirts sends the message that you are here to have fun, and also that you keep your money in your fanny packs. By forcing the locals to Red Rover through your group, you are keeping the fun spirit of the city in your hearts, and making them slow down so they too can enjoy every single second of crossing Fifth Avenue.

• It’s raining, grab your giant umbrella! Many people who visit New York have never seen rain before. Very simply, this is water that falls from the sky. No one knows where it comes from or its harmful effects on humans, but rest assured, as long as you follow these instructions, you should be ok. At the first sign of droplets on your person, look at whomever you are walking with (you remember walking right? We covered that earlier) and announce “That’s just our luck right Susan?” ( or whatever the name of your best friend is who just recently divorced and is going to put that man behind her by going crazy in the big city by doing tequila shots at a…gay bar!! ). Then, reach into your M&M oversized shopping bag, or Jansport backpack and retrieve your Bio Dome sized umbrella and open it as soon as you can shoving children to the street. Be sure to keep it as close to your head as possible, poking out a few retinas of passerby’s as you continue your journey to the American Girl store. When you’re finished, pack up the umbrella, and keep it under your arm so it sticks out like a sword piercing people behind you in the stomach to let them know, “Hey, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one on this sidewalk”.

Jaywalking! Do it. Get out there no matter what’s coming down the street. Do it. And do it often

• Escalators! Most people enjoy the lazy carefree experience of an escalator. It’s a chance to unwind and pretend you’re in that Serendipity movie. Stand on either side, left or right. It doesn’t matter. If locals are trying to get past you, just smile and tell them to stop and smell the roses (or vomit, or whatever’s around). I mean, if they were in a hurry, why didn’t they take the stairs? Which brings us to…

Stairs! Be sure to use the zig zag technique on these as well, especially if you have a cane, are holding a baby, or are obese, like really obese, like Michelin Man obese. Older people should make sure to stop every three steps and sigh loudly to announce to everyone “Where am I, and how have I survived here this long?”

Well, I hope this helps. It can be a pretty daunting task getting around, but you can do it. You saved up all year, got that great group hostel rate, and Grouponed the Hell out of Broadway, so walking around is as easy as pie. We’ll see ya this summer!

"All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking"---Nietzsche

“I like long walks, especialy when they are taken by people who annoy me" --Noël Coward