How to get on a TV gameshow
In the last four years I’ve appeared on The Price is Right, Supermarket Sweep, Divided, Are you Smarter than a Ten year old, Word Play, 1 vs 100 and Dirty Rotten Cheater. I was offered a spot on Goldenballs (but decided I couldn’t be nasty enough!) and should also have appeared on Donny Osmond’s Pyramid Game, but the contestant on the previous show rolled over as a champion so I didn’t get a turn (I did, however, enjoy getting my make-up done whilst Lionel Blair tapdanced around me!). Just to give you an idea of statistics – I’ve applied for 25 gameshows, and asked to audition for 16. Of the 7 shows I’ve appeared on, I’ve been successful in 3 and won a total of £10,500… not bad for a few days’ work!
So, how do you go about getting onto a gameshow? First of all you need to find out which shows are currently taking applications – try UKGameshows.com, 12yard.com or Starnow.co.uk. My favourite website for information and chat is Quizzing.co.uk, which is currently undergoing a revamp, but you can click through to their Facebook group until the site is live. Usually you will email the production company and get an automated response with an application form attached. These forms look really daunting, with questions ranging from ‘How would a big cash prize change your life?’ to ‘Are you a good bluffer?’ and ‘What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?’. Once you’ve completed one application, you’ll realise that most questions cover the same ground so you can copy and paste answers from one form to another. Often the production company will want to know interesting facts and stories about you – this is what makes your application stand out, so try and write something memorable. The stories of mine that have proved popular are my competition wins (in particular a butler for Glastonbury Festival, and my dad’s weight in chocolate) and the time I met Bono backstage at a Beastie Boys gig. You’ll need to send a photo too – make sure you’re smiling!
If the production team like your application, they will call you for a quick phone audition, often asking a few general knowledge questions (if it’s a quiz show). Be enthusiastic and remember to tell them why you want to appear on the show – and don’t panic if you don’t do well on the quiz questions! At the end of the phone call if you’ve impressed them they will invite you to audition. Be warned – it can be really short notice.
The audition itself will be at a hotel at a nearby big city (although there are shows that only do London auditions) and last a couple of hours. Some auditions have hundreds of people, and some just a dozen, and the production staff are invariably energetic twenty-somethings. Usually you will do a run through of the gameshow, a written quiz and are given five minutes on camera to talk about yourself. 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 relax and have a laugh! At some auditions they will ask some of the attendees to leave after the first hour – these are usually people who haven’t contributed much to the gameplay or group activities. As for the quiz questions, be aware that sometimes it pays not to be too clever, and it’s not a great idea to answer all the questions correctly even if you do know them. An important thing I’ve learnt is to pad out your answers – never give your answer straight away, and talk through the elimination of incorrect answers. ‘In it to win it’ is a prime example of this technique!
Once the audition is over it can take weeks to hear back from the production team – if you’re not suitable then they rarely let you know. If they like you then they will ask you to be a contestant or a standby – as a standby contestant you’re not guaranteed to get on the show, but it’s worth doing to get your foot in the door. You’ll be told the date of your show – this can change for a show like Divided or Who wants to be a Millionaire, as the game could end after one question or fifteen (when I recorded Divided it took almost 4 hours!) Your travel expenses and accommodation will be covered, as will your meals, and you’ll need to take along at least 3 outfits to ensure you don’t clash with the set or the other contestants.
On the big day you’ll do a walkthrough of the show and be taken on a tour of the set – you’ll spend hours with the same people in ‘The Green Room’ and if you’re so inclined, you can spend this time swotting up. You’ll also have your hair and make up done – but be warned, they put on a LOT of make up – you would not believe Dale Winton’s mascara! When the time comes to start filming just try and relax, and have a joke at the presenter’s expense if possible (well, I find this works for me!). If you go home empty handed then don’t fret – you’ll have the experience of appearing on TV under your belt and this will work in your favour in the future. And if you do win, then you’ll have caught the bug… and maybe I’ll see you on a show in the future!