We’ve all done it: sitting in front of the TV we successfully shouted answers to game show questions, impressing family and friends and often outshining the actual contestants. But, how tough is delivering thoughtful and correct answers when under the glare of hot lights, in front of a studio audience, or while trying to beat down able opponents? And, most importantly, how do you get on TV game shows?
- Skill level:
Recognise that the odds of being a game show contestant are probably equal to those of becoming a professional athlete—a little overwhelming. A lot may apply, but only a percentage of those actually get a shot and even fewer succeed at getting on a show. Fewer than a dozen usually make the initial cut by passing the preliminaries, and of those, only a few get the call. Some people are chosen as stand-ins, just in case a primary contestant can’t appear.
All game shows have rules about who is eligible. Most require people be at least 18 and residents of the U.S. You will probably be asked to provide a Social Security number, and you may have to be part of a group for team shows. There are odd rules, too; one show requires that you not be a politician. Some games require that you’re not employed by corporations connected to the show (including those that broadcast it), and some demand that you not have been on any other game shows within a specified amount of time—like the last year, or two shows within five years.
Begin the process by going to the show’s website. You can learn when they will be auditioning out-of-town players, or actually fill out an online application. If you must travel to the actual show studio, you may be given preliminary written tests and play a practice rounds. Make sure you have planned plenty of time to do this, so a tight schedule isn’t adding to any pressure.
Some shows choose contestants from audiences. In that case, you will need admission tickets before it tapes. Find out what the show’s rules are; having tickets does not always guarantee you will get in. However, some large groups (20 or more) get preferential treatment and will be admitted. As is generally the rule, being part of a studio audience may take hours—even for shows that are relatively short. The reason? Producers love good audiences, and if they get one they are reluctant to let it go. You may be in a studio for hours on end, and this could destroy any dinner or other plans. Do your homework first, and expect to potentially make a day of it.
An important preliminary goal should be to know the game thoroughly. Get the home version of it, and play it until you gain skill and timing. It isn’t enough to know the answers; getting the answers out before your opponents is key. That involves using buttons or buzzers to be eligible to give an answer, and often that is initially more important than having the answer on the tip of your tongue. Also, learn the logistics for wagering; many a champion has won by one dollar or been able to gauge a win with a last-minute outmanoeuvring by betting. Study the categories on shows, study the successful behaviours of champions, and steel your nerves.
At show interviews, dress appropriately. Be comfortable in a reasonably flattering outfit that won’t make you and others uncomfortable. Some shows prefer wild outfits, while others like demure. Find out before you get there.
Speak clearly and with adequate loudness, but don’t yell. Players wear microphones for a reason.
Study your favourite shows and see what entails a successful candidate—and what is especially annoying. Are the contestants comfortable speaking in front of people, and do they seem friendly, likable and enthusiastic? Does it appear that they are having fun? Game shows like lively candidates, but remember that microphones can lead to disaster. Answers that are mumbled and flubbed under the breath of one contestant can be picked up on and successfully delivered by the next contestant. Also, remember that being particularly noisy does not equal an appreciative audience. Miked players can still be enthusiastic without screaming or shrieking into the ears of viewers; people in the sound booth will bless you for your restraint, and home viewers won’t change the channel mid-game.
Generally speaking, if you live in the home region of a show or readily have travel access, you stand a better chance of landing a spot. Easily accessible contestants are also a consideration for returning champions. Players with flexibility are a plus, and not having to worry about arriving flights or long-distance commuters provides fewer headaches for producers. Since a lot of shows are taped in California or New York, take that into consideration, even though a cross-section of show guests is desirable for appeal to all viewers.
Read all regulations carefully if you are chosen to be a player. Be sure you can follow all requirements, and realise that responsibility extends further than showing up and taking part. If you win, any applicable taxes on prizes are expected to be paid, and sometimes shipping of bulky items can be complicated or expensive.
Tips and warnings
- Expect that delays may occur—in taping as well as preliminary choosing of contestants. Some players wait, after already having passed the tests, for a year or more to appear on a show.