I love TV game shows – if you want to take your comping a step further, there’s no better thrill! And despite what you might think, it’s not that difficult to get on a TV game show – especially a brand new one.
When I recorded Ejector Seat I found out they interviewed 3,000 applicants nationwide and 300 of them appeared on the show – that’s a 1-in-10 chance of getting on. Also, there’s no need to panic – it really isn’t as scary as it looks. Believe it or not, I used to be terrified of doing anything in public – it was when I got into comping I realised there were prizes out there that could only be won if you were brave enough to call up a radio DJ or appear on TV.
My first taste of the limelight was when I accompanied friends to a recording of The Price is Right and I was chosen from the audience to ‘come on down’. Actually, that’s a lie – they asked ‘Diane Coke’ to come on down. ‘I don’t know anyone of that name!’ I huffed (being called Diane is my pet hate!) but I was given a shove and soon found myself rushing down the stairs, waving my arms in a wild manner. As for correctly estimating the price of a rocking horse and small caravan, well, I was hopeless. I was one of the first names to be called, but lost every round so I didn’t get to play any of the cheesy games. Despite leaving empty-handed, the experience of being on TV gave me such a thrill I just knew I had to do it again…
Over the next few years I applied for several shows via websites and newspaper ads, and have recorded:
- Supermarket Sweep – where my good comping friend Kathy & I shared a £398 win (the pink Supermarket Sweep sweatshirt was more of a win to me than the cash)
- Are you smarter than a ten year old? – where I was delighted to win £7500 towards my wedding and honeymoon
- 1 vs 100 – in this National Lottery show, only one person from the hundred contestants gets a chance to play for the cash. I was sitting next to a lively transvestite – perhaps unsurprisingly, s/he was the ‘chosen one’!
- Divided – the most traumatising of the lot, where like idiots we argued away most of our £100K+ prize fund and I took £2,720 home
- Dirty Rotten Cheater – hosted by Brian Conley, this was one of a flurry of ‘mean’ gameshows that surfaced in the 2000s after the success of GoldenBalls. I was the ‘dirty rotten cheater’ and didn’t cover my tracks well enough, and was the only one of the 5 contestants who went home empty handed!
- Word Play – I went on this because my childhood hero Jenny Powell was hosting it! It was recorded on the cheap in a tiny studio, but was fun.
- Tipping Point – yet to be broadcast, I made a right mess of this one and won nothing!
After completing about 30 application forms and attending 15 or so auditions, you do start to get a feel for what the production team are looking for!
Here are my top tips on getting on a TV game show:
1. Look for contestant calls
I’ve got a blog post with current contestant calls – and the best UK websites to bookmark are www.beonscreen.com, www.bbc.co.uk, www.itv.co.uk, www.starnow.co.uk, Applause Store and ukgameshows.com. If you’re on Twitter, follow @officialcastme – and check Contestant Collective on Facebook. If you spot a good show advertised, send an email (you usually get an immediate automated response with an attached entry form) or complete an online application. My tip is to go for the new shows – they get far fewer applications as people aren’t actively looking to apply. You might see requests for people to film a one-off ‘pilot’ – this may or may not involve a cash prize.
2. Find a partner
Lots of shows need pairs – Million Pound Drop, Pointless and many of the BBC Lottery shows. Ask your family and friends if any of them would be interested – or post a message on Facebook like I did! After responding to my Facebook request, my friend Sammy and I met for the first time at an audition for Timeline – although we were shortlisted, we didn’t get to film the show (we weren’t very flexible with our filming dates!). We’ll definitely be applying for more shows together, although having both recorded shows recently we won’t be able to be on TV again for a few months. If possible, pair up with someone who has different strengths to you so you can cover all topics. Choose carefully – I go to a lot of auditions where you can immediately tell the ‘partner’ doesn’t want to be there, and they never make it onto the show!
3. Take time on your application form
On the application form, you may need to answer questions about what you would do with the money, the biggest risk you’ve taken, funny stories and hobbies. Make yourself sound as interesting as you can! Often the production company will want to know fun facts and stories about you – this is what makes your application stand out, so try and write something memorable. If you’re a comper, don’t go into too much detail about the prizes you’ve won – most people won’t want to see successful compers winning yet more prizes on TV. In the past, production teams have been interested in my unusual wins like a butler for Glastonbury, or my Dad’s weight in chocolate – so focus on the quirky and fun prizes. Try not to attach a passport photo, but find one where you’re smiling naturally. For our Supermarket Sweep form, my friend Kathy and I actually had a photo taken in Tesco with a trolley! If it’s a new show, google the name to find out more about it – praising the format should get you Brownie points. Finally, save a copy of your form – you’ll be able to copy and paste your answers onto future forms as the themes are usually the same.
4. Be enthusiastic during the phone interview
Be prepared to get a phone call almost as soon as you’ve sent off your application – sometimes the team will already be in the middle of auditions and will want to find out quickly if you’re suitable. When they call, be enthusiastic and chatty (you may want to leave the room if you’re somewhere public!). Remember to tell them why you want to appear on the show (hopefully you’ve researched the format online!). They will usually ask you a few general knowledge questions. YOU DON’T NEED TO GET THESE RIGHT – in most cases, it’s better if you DON’T get them all right. Know-It-All brainboxes on quiz shows are boring, unless you’re an Egghead or on the Chase. That’s why Who Wants to Be A Millionaire eventually started auditioning and featuring celebrities when the standard line up of middle-aged male quiz addicts got dull. At the end of the phone call if you’ve impressed them they will invite you to audition – it can be very short notice.
5. Relax at the audition
If you get an invite to audition (and well done on getting this far!) it will usually be at a hotel in your nearest large city and last a couple of hours – you won’t get travel expenses. Some auditions have hundreds of people, and some just a handful. My advice for the audition would be to make yourself look presentable, and if possible wear something to make you memorable (an extreme example of this is the drag queen I sat next to for 1 vs 100 – unsurprisingly s/he was chosen to be a contestant!). Think carefully in advance about what to say about yourself – you need to stand out, but you also need the viewers to be able to relate to you – try and have a laugh! Get there early and chat to fellow contestants – it will help you relax and you might even get tips from some of the pros who’ve been on lots of shows. Usually you will do a run through of the show, a written quiz and interviewed privately on camera. Again, it’s not a great idea to answer all the questions correctly even if you do know them – if it’s a multiple choice question, it’s important to talk through the elimination of incorrect answers before giving your answer (even if you know it straight away!).
6. Be flexible
After the audition, double check the filming dates with family and friends. If you get the call to say you’ve made the shortlist, offer as many possible filming dates as you can. For some shows they don’t know how long the filming will take, so you may need to keep 2 or 3 days free. You may be asked to be a ‘standby’ contestant and if you can get time off work this is well worth doing – most standbys will eventually get to be on the show and will have the advantage of knowing the show and set inside-out.
7. Be prepared
A few days after shortlisting, lucky contestants will get a call with their recording date, and accommodation and travel details will follow soon afterwards (these expenses will be covered). You’ll be briefed on what to bring – in most cases, you’ll need 3 or 4 changes of outfit to ensure you don’t clash with the set or the other contestants. My ‘don’t’ list for Ejector Seat included spots, stripes, patterns, black, white, blue, skirts or heels….. (luckily I had a prize voucher to spend at Gap and bought a set of plain pink, green and orange tops!). If you don’t bring anything suitable you’ll have to wear something from the production wardrobe – when I recorded ‘Are You Smarter…’ my fellow contestant wasn’t impressed when he had to wear a bright pink polo shirt!
8. Swot up
If you have the time, you may want to swot up – either on general knowledge or puzzle formats. Google to see if you can find any similar quiz styles online, go to pub quizzes – and download the free QuizUp app to your smartphone which pits you against worldwide challengers in hundreds of topics.
9. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame
On the big day, try and relax. You’ll spend a lot of time in The Green Room with the other contestants – chat as much as possible so you’re comfortable with them and can have a laugh during the breaks in filming. Remember it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you can tell stories about for years to come, so savour every moment. If you fluff an answer it’s embarrassing, but it makes you human. If you’re talking to the presenter, use their name. Tell short, funny stories and don’t waffle nervously – try and be natural, as if you’re amongst friends. It gets easier with every show – honestly!
10. Don’t be a sore loser
Winning isn’t the be all and end all. Each gameshow gives you valuable television experience and a better chance of getting on another one – and eventually, you WILL win! Your cheque should arrive within a month or two – and it’s tax-free.
Hopefully this should give you a few pointers if you’re ready to brave the world of TV – good luck, and let me know how you get on!
Also see my post of UK Contestant Calls for details of current shows you can apply to!