Thursday, August 21, 2008

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Some people are born with preternatural physical or artistic abilities, and strive to be the best in their class through years of strenuous training, pre-dawn practices, and insane ambition to become the best in their field.

Then there are the spazzes like me who suck at sports and utterly lack grace or coordination of any kind, but can kick major ass at Trivial Pursuit. It’s all I’ve got, really. I was never any kind of athlete, and won’t be going on American Idol anytime soon (though one time I got 100% on an Oasis song in Rock Band – it was totally killer), but I can remember random crap better than just about anyone else I know. Which really only is useful for trying out for game shows. Having been denied glory once on Jeopardy, last week I decided to take the day off work and drive to lovely Arundel Mills mall to try out for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

This was an open audition, which meant I had to get out of bed at 4:30 am, and drive up the BW Parkway to line up with about 500 other yahoos at – of all places – Medieval Times restaurant. Do you know about these? It’s a big, cheesy, castle-y looking thing attached to the mall, or more precisely, Burlington Coat Factory. There’s a big arena where community theater actors dress up like knights and joust each other, and serving wenches bring you flagons of mead, and all the while they try to separate you from your money by selling you horrible sparkly hats for $20 that say things like “Birthday Princess.” Happily, such things were not going on at 5am, as that would have been a bit too much sensory overload, but they were nice enough to run a promotional video ad nauseum and hand out discount coupons while we lined up in a dungeon-y looking setting. Very weird.

But, anyway, Millionaire. They were auditioning for both the regular show and a special movie show, so I had been preparing for the past week by skimming through a movie trivia book, which I also did in line. This is what we like to call “psyching out the competition” or “intensive training” or “being a giant asshole.” After an hour, they herded about 375 of us into the arena, which smelled like donkeys, and we took two multiple choice tests with Scantron sheets, which I hated in high school, but was weirdly, nostalgically pleased to see again.

The movie test was legitimately difficult, but the general one was kinda easy. Ridiculously easy, actually. I’m talking about questions along the lines of “Tokyo is a major city in what country?” Still, about half the people failed both, and were dismissed. For the rest of us, they took our pictures, and sent us on our merry way for three hours with a written application and an appointment for an interview. I killed the afternoon by going to Chik-Fil-A, tried on dresses I had no intention of buying, and saw Wall-E. Not a bad day.

I think I might have blown it on the interview though. I knew I was screwed when I saw that they were breezing through people in about 45 seconds. I can rock the Scantron, but I still struggle with the whole instantly-charming thing. I started out okay with a lame comparison to Millionaire and the Olympics, which at least got a laugh, but then spiraled into a lame recitation of what I did for fun, which, whenever you’re asked that, always sounds like not a lot of fun at all. Homegirl (who was about 22 and popping gum the whole time) barely looked at me, wrote some stuff down, while I kinda panicked and was left spouting “I JUST WANNA BE ON THE SHOW! I LOVE THE SHOW! I LOVE MEREDITH VIERA!” until they sent me on my way. Some people got a second interview. I did not.

So it doesn’t look good for the home team, but all is not lost. Maybe I can win them over with my written application. They’ll tell me in a few weeks if I made the cut for the contestant pool.

And if that fails, there’s always World Series of Pop Culture.