Posts Tagged audition

Truly frightening

Hello, friends. Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve last posted, but I’m sure my fellow bloggers kept you well-entertained during my absence. What’s that? Not a single post from any of them? Well then, looks like I have some serious catching up to do. I have a few ideas that (time permitting) I’ll put to e-paper and hopefully win your attention back. Here’s a quick one:

I was driving home last weekend from a trip to Home Depot when I passed a sign on the fence of a community college that read, “Fright Fair Haunt. Open Auditions for Actors.” My first thought was regarding how much I hate those things. Seriously, walking through a maze or a haunted house knowing that there are people around each corner or lurking in the shadows who are being paid to scare the shit out of me just isn’t my thing. I’d scream like a little girl if they jumped out at me, and that just wouldn’t be good for anyone. I don’t really understand my reaction; I mean, I know on a rational level that no one’s going to actually hurt me or anything while I’m there (even the guy with the hockey mask and chainsaw), but I still get tense and freaked out with those things.

That wasn’t my point though. The more interesting thing (to me at least) was my second thought: I should totally go and audition. Not in the normal way, mind you, but with my own personal touch. Here’s how I see it playing out:

I enter a small classroom and nod hello to the people sitting in the chairs a few feet away, waiting to judge me. I had just left the waiting room, where after signing in, I sat there with people decked out in all sorts of masks, costumes, and fake injuries. Me? I’m wearing a polo shirt tucked into some khakis.

Casting Agent: Hi, thanks for joining us. So you’re…”P-Dawg” it says.

Me: That’s right. Nice to meet all of you.

Agent: Ok, so what we’re going to ask you to do is show us a few of your own scary things that you would bring to the Fright Fair Haunt.

Me: Sure, are you ready?

Agent: Fire away.

(I crack my neck and get into character before looking up. Instead of making a monstrous face or anything like that, I look respectable and kind but with a little touch of sadness behind the eyes.)

Me: I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to lay you off.

Agent: What?

Me: We’ve had a rough year and just aren’t hitting our numbers. We need to cut some costs, and management has decided to downsize the personnel.  I can offer you a month’s pay and try helping you with job placement, but we just can’t keep you on here. And…scene.

Agent: Oh, well, ok. I guess…um, what else have you got?

(I shake out my arms and look up again, this time a little more business-like but with eyebrows slightly raised and lips a bit pursed to signify concerned understanding.)

Me: Yes, that is definitely herpes. And while there’s no cure for herpes, there are ways to keep the flare-ups at bay and lead a normal, active life.

Agent: Wow, ok. Wasn’t expecting that. (nervous laughter) Anything else?

(I pop up with a quick, frenzied look)

Me: Bachmann’s poll numbers are rising!

Agent: Alright, I think-

Me: You’re being audited.

Agent: That’s more than enough for-

Me: Lindsey Lohan’s your kid’s new bus driver.

Agent: Ok-

Me: There’s a wasp on your neck.

Agent: Thank you, P-Dawg.

Me: “Mad Men” got canceled.

Agent: Please leave or I’ll call security.

Me: And…scene. Thank you all for your time and I look forward to working with you.

Agent: Whatever.

A small part of me really wants to do this.  At the very least, I’d stand out, right?  And now I turn to you, loyal readers: what other lines could I have in my arsenal?  Comment away!

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Match game

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big lover of words and word games.  It’s in my blood, and not a day goes by without me making a pun or giving serious thought to specific words and phrases.  For example, I recently said to my lovely wife, “I kind of feel bad for breakfast.  ‘Brunch’ is supposed to be a combination of it and ‘lunch,’ yet it only uses two of its nine letters while 80% of ‘lunch’ gets used. That seems unfair.”  She’s used to this kind of random utterance and responded with a very salient point: “I’m pretty sure breakfast doesn’t give a shit.”  Can’t argue with that.

With the importance I place on words and game in mind, I was definitely intrigued when my homey Rockabye asked if I’d be interested in trying out for the game show “Lingo” with him.  Apparently his softball teammate’s godmother (or someone or a similarly tangential relation) was the casting director and they were looking for teams of two to compete in a revamped version of the show coming soon to television.  I’d watched “Lingo” many times in the past (but hadn’t realized it was off the air), and it was definitely the kind of show I was good at.  It didn’t require the hardcore knowledge base of “Jeopardy,” but it was much closer to that than the mindless button-pushing of something like “Press Your Luck.”  That was key for me, because I’m not a very outwardly enthusiastic person.  I have a pretty dry sense of humor and often monotone delivery that wouldn’t suit the “Price is Right” crowd, if you know what I mean.  So I said, “Why not?  Let’s give it a try.”

Rockabye got the instructions for what we needed to send in, and it was all quite straightforward: name, age, occupation, location, and a brief description of why we should be on the show.  It’s that last item that got me excited about our chances.  Not to toot my own horn (because I’m not nearly flexible enough), but I have a good track record with things like that.  I always see them as opportunities to stand out from the rest because 95% of them will be nearly identical.  I’ve had a great deal of fun writing cover letters, an online dating profile for a former co-worker, and 30-second company overview presentations for friends with a small business.  So with this one, I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just saying the same thing as everyone else, and I believe we accomplished that:

Why are we right for Lingo?
When the ancient Mayans invented Lingo as a way to appease their gods and stave off catastrophic volcanic eruptions, they also unearthed an eerie prophecy:  One day, it was said, two saviors would rise from the masses to claim the Lingo throne as their own and right all of the wrongs in the world.  Are (his name) and (mine) the men to face this foretold task and fulfill their predetermined destinies?  Uh, we don’t know.  We’re just two guys who have been friends since Junior High and enjoy playing word games together.  We’re always up for a challenge though.

A day later, Rockabye was contacted and set up a time for us to come in and officially audition.  I was getting excited about this opportunity and began thinking about good one-liners to throw out there.  He and I played an online version of the game a bunch of times and held a mini strategy session over the phone.  The confirmation email he received said that we’d be on camera for the audition and that they were looking for outgoing and enthusiastic people.  I watched some old episodes online and confirmed what I remembered from watching it years before: the people were friendly and likeable but no more outwardly excited than we would be.  The only note I kept telling myself was to throw in little phrases like, “Ok, here we go!” before each new board to add the illusion of extra enthusiasm.

The day came, and I picked Rockabye up at his office since it’s close to the studio where the audition was held.  We were confident in our ability to play the game well, which was the key factor in actually winning money from the experience.   The old show didn’t pay out much but the email threw out figures of $25,000 and $100,000 , so that would be awesome.  We certainly weren’t counting our chickens though, and kept reminding each other to pretend to have an elevated energy level.  We walked into a nice building and signed in with the security guy there.  He pointed us down a hallway and told us to take the elevator up to the right floor.  As we got to where the elevator should be, I looked around but didn’t see it.  Rockabye did though, and he pointed to a small doorway with a rickety gate that you manually close to keep from falling out.  “It’s like we’re in some old hotel in Paris,” I said, but I might be the only one who associates those two things with each other.  It was a little scary in there, but we made it to the floor and started down the next hallway.  That was precisely when I could tell that my imagined version of this audition was far different than the one we were about to have in reality.

You see – and this is almost all my fault – I kept picturing a real game show set with studio lighting, big cameras, and rows of empty seats in the background.  The woman’s email had said that we would be playing the game in the audition and on camera, so I pictured the actual game.  Part of what led me to that assumption was that the game takes place on a computerized board and also has a component in which the players reach into a bowl of numbered balls situated in their dais-type thingy.  As we walked down this hallway though, it was clear that the rooms were just rooms – and old, small ones at that.

We found our room as the last one on the right, and it was empty aside from a few rows of folding chairs and a table with some papers.  We signed in and each grabbed a questionnaire, which was way more detailed than I had expected.  After the standard “Who are you?” questions, it started asking about hobbies, personality traits, the relationships that are most important in your life, how you know your teammate, and many more specific ones.  For example, “What do people often incorrectly think you are?”  Rockabye put “Gay” and I put “Canadian.”  We thought those were solid answers.

We weren’t too far into it when the door to the adjoining office opened and some people who looked like they were running the thing came out.  We introduced ourselves and were just past the pleasantries when the main casting guy said, “So…we’re doing theme shows.  What’s your thing?”  Uh oh.  We said that we had gone to junior high, high school, and college together so we’d been friends for over 20 years.  They apparently got a lot of that, so we launched into a very enthusiastic version of a story about how we tricked someone in college into thinking that we were twin brothers for an entire year…even though we’re six months apart in age and she met both sets of parents separately.  They weren’t impressed.  “We’re looking to have good themes, so what else could we say about you guys?”  Rockabye leveled with him: “Look, if you just tell us what you guys are missing or looking for, we can easily play any of those parts and give you what you’re looking for.”  The guy was about to respond to that when another duo walked in and started introducing themselves.  “And how do you two know each other?” asked the casting dude.  “We’ve been friends for about a minute,” one guy said.  “Yeah, we just met in a hip hop class last week,” said the other.  I chimed in: “I took a hop hip class once…it didn’t turn out so well.”  That got some laughs, but the casting guy turned back to the duo.  “So we could say you’re dancers then?”  “Yeah, we’re dancers.”  Damn, that was too easy for them.  Rockabye said that he and I would talk about it some more while we filled out the rest of the questionnaire and come up with some options.

“Well shit,” I said.  He agreed, and we spent the next half hour or so trying to come up with who we could pretend to be.  We talked about being the uber competitive guys, the English majors, the movie quoters, and the Jews.  None of them felt right.  After going through everything, we had one clear standout that we were going to go with when called in, and hopefully they’d like it.  A few minutes later, and it was our turn.  The room was not at all what I had been expecting, even with my lowered expectations.  There was a bed sheet tacked up as a backdrop, a whiteboard for playing a super low-tech version of the game, a light up in one corner, and a regular-looking video camera on a tripod.  “Energy,” I said to myself, “Energy.”  The casting guy welcomed us and almost immediately asked what our thing was going to be.  I went for it: “We’re nice guys.  We’re the guys your mom wants you to bring home because we’re polite, educated, presentable, and tattoo-free.  Pair us up against ‘The Bad Boys’ and that’s a solid idea for an episode.”  He looked down at our questionnaires and asked, “What else could we say about you?”  We floated a few of our also-ran ideas, which were immediately met with the same lack of approval.

Rockabye made his same pitch about our ability to be whatever they’re looking for is they could just point us in a direction.  A silent minute passed before he spoke again.  “Could you be ‘White Collar?'” “Absolutely,” I said, “I wear a suit everyday and can say I’m an executive.”  Rockabye’s job didn’t fit that description, but the casting guy had no problem picking another job from his past, making up a new title for it, and massaging its description so it could fit into the category he seemed to like the most.  In other words, lying could make us more interesting.

Once we settled on our new backstory, the guy said he was going to turn on the camera.  We were to start with big energy and introduce ourselves before he asked us questions.  I pretended it was some acting role and just went with it.  When it was my turn, I did my intro and ended with, “And we’re here to play LINGOOOOOO!”  I did a big double point at the camera and everything.  I’m not sure my family would’ve recognized me.  So then he asked some questions about us, about each other, etc. before asking, “What would you do if you won $100,000?”  My smile dropped and I looked right into the camera.  “In all seriousness, I would roll around naked in it.”  That got some laughs.  Rockabye said, “What if it’s a check?”  “Well that would be a little less impressive then,” I replied.  “I guess you could cash it and then roll around in it.”  “I’ll keep that in mind.”  Casting dude appreciated that, and he’d chuckled a few times after our attempts at humor, so I felt pretty good about that.  I knew we were never get on the show based on our low levels of zany enthusiasm, so we shifted on the fly to go for nice and funny guys who were good at the game.

Speaking of the game itself, it was then time to play a couple of rounds on camera.  The casting assistant was there with a dry erase pen while the main guy stayed behind the camera.  “Remember to think aloud,” he told us.  “Ok, here we go!” I said, feeling simultaneously proud and embarrassed with myself.  We got the first word pretty quickly, and I gave a heartfelt fist pump.  “Okay, this one is trickier,” he said.  It was a five-letter word starting with a B.   After a guess or two, we had BO__S.  “Bolos,” I said, “like the ties popular in the state of New Mexico.”  Another chuckle.  Then we had BOO_S.  Rockabye went with “books,” which I thought was a good guess since a K would make it a trickier word to guess than “boots.”  That was wrong though.  “Remember,” the casting guy said, “it can be anything.”  We looked over and he was pantomiming large breasts.  I appreciated the hint and didn’t want to sell him out, so I said, “Well, they’ve never let me down before, so let’s go with ‘boobs!'”  We cheered as she wrote in the final B.  “I’ve always been a big fan,” I said.  More chuckles.

He asked us a few more questions, with one in particular being the most telling in my opinion: “Have you been on any reality shows within the past twelve months?”  No, of course not.  You know why?  Because no reality show would ever want people like us.  We’re way too boring to ever be considered.  Equally as important, neither of us would ever want to be on a reality show.  That’s not who we are, although it was seeming more and more like that’s who they wanted.  He put a sheet of paper over the camera and said to us in a lower tone, “Ok, now here’s the part where you need to make your plea to the producers as to why they should choose you.  Lots of energy and passion.  Ready?”  That was the absolute last thing I wanted to do right then, and my initial instinct was to curl up into my shell before I remembered that I didn’t have one.  So we just went with it again.  I don’t remember all of it, but I remember the beginning and end.  I started (excitedly of course) with, “Listen up, producers.  You want us on Lingo.  Without us, it’s LingNooooo.”  The assistant couldn’t help but snort a little in her chair from that one.  At the end, I said, “We’re eager, we’re enthusiastic, and we’re…we’re awesome.  That pretty sums it up – we’re awesome.”  “Well you are,” said Rockabye.  “Yes, I am.  You’re awesome adjacent,” I replied.  A couple more laughs and we were done. We went back to the original room and saw a pair of hippies waiting for their turn.  They had their thing down already without having to say a word.  Lucky.

The casting guy said that they’d call people and try to give them at least a day’s notice before shooting, and that all filming would take place on Monday through Wednesday of the following week.  Well, that was this week and no calls came.  As I replayed the audition’s highlights for my lovely wife, she said, “It sounds like you had some funny lines in there and did a good job.”  “Thanks,” I said, “but ironically, I don’t think they were looking for wordplay.”

Trying to pretend I had a different personality even for a short amount of time was pretty tiring.  I would’ve done it hands down for an opportunity to win $25-$100,000, but since it wasn’t nearly as good a fit as we’d imagined, I’m not too upset about how it turned out.  I guess tv people know what makes for interesting tv, and I’m certainly not shocked to learn that I’m not it.  Only one thing really bothers me about that entire experience: there’s a theme we never brought up that would’ve been truthful and fit well in their format.  In fact, I just thought of it while writing this post: We’re both gigantic Lakers fans.  We could’ve talked for hours about Lakers teams in the past, present, and future.  Pit us against two Celtics fans, and I would’ve had even more incentive to win the whole f’n thing.  We’re in L.A., City of Transplants Who are Vocal About Their Cities of Origin, so I’m sure there were fans of many other teams just waiting for someone to nudge them in that direction (as we were nudged toward the White Collar category).  I could’ve worn my old school Mikan jersey over one of my two Pau Gasol shirts, my Lakers digital watch, and maybe even a headband to really look the part.  Oh well.  Instead, I’ll just record an episode or two whenever they air.  Maybe I’ll stare longingly at the screen and think, “Man, we could’ve done so well at this game…if only we weren’t so good at this game.”

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