How did George Costanza inspire me?
A friend once lamented to me about her inability to
choose good, undrunk men. So I advised to her to try the "George Costanza" method of choice-making. Did you ever see the Seinfeld episode where George has amazing luck doing the opposite of
what he would normally do? Well, that's the George Costanza method of
which I speak. And that's exactly what worked for my friend. She did
the opposite of what she normally did and found a nice undrunk type of
guy. Though, in reality, she had too many years of "issues" to
practice the Costanza method for long - so she eventually let the guy
go. But that's not my point.
Here's my point and mission statement:
For now on, I will put myself into situations I would not normally put myself into and then write about them. All that can happen is 1) I will have a unique and surprising learning experience. Or 2) I'll have great material to write about. And then I'll submit these stories to an appropriate publication or maybe I'll just post them on my blog.
My first self-given assignment starts on Wednesday. I'm auditioning for a network game show.
I went to the Culver City Studios - the same studio, I believe, I went to in 1985 (or was it '86?) for the Oingo Boing party scene in "Back to School." It's where "Gone with the Wind" and so many other movies and TV shows have been filmed. Anyway, that's where I went to try out for NBC's game show called 1vs100.
Last week I stumbled upon the show's request for contestants on Craigslist. So that's how I ended up standing in line at the Culver City Studios.
Every minute I filled out paperwork - about my most embarrassing moments (oh!! I had so many to choose from) - that I barely had time to take in that I was actually about to do this. About the time my hand cramped from writing, we (our line of maybe a hundred or so people) were led into a sound stage.
The 1vs100 crew is very efficient. Tables were lined up and casting staff asked people one by one questions - trying to get a feel for personalities.
Casting lady: So tell me about yourself... your most embarrassing moment.
Me: Well, there are a lot...
Casting lady: How 'bout one other than what you wrote here.
Me: Well, there's the time I ran into a restaurant bathroom to throw up, swung open the door and threw up... right onto the head of the lady sitting on the toilet at the time. She had a beehive hair-do and screamed at me in Spanish. So, well... that was pretty embar...
Casting lady: Alrighty then.
And she moved on to the person to my right.
As I went to sit down at a long table to prepare for the written test, I digested the fact that I just told a complete stranger - someone who might want me to tell this tale on national TV - something I've only confided to a few close friends after a few strong margaritas.
After chatting with my tablemates, we were all asked to turn our tests over and begin. I believe we had 5 minutes. And those minutes seemed to fly - because the questions were a little harder than I expected, especially the questions that involved TV shows I don't watch (which is most of them), the metric system or football. So by the time a guy started counting down 10, 9, 8... I was sweating to get through my last three questions - which I did just as he yelled, "Stop!"
After all the tests were collected, the casting staff - all of whom were very nice, really professional and looked like they just graduated from college - started correcting the tests. So we potential contestant types started comparing answers with each other.
I was ready to tell them it was nice meeting them, because I was pretty sure I'd be leaving soon.
Then a crew guy held up a very small stack of papers with the names of people who passed the test, out of the hundred or so people, and who would be staying for further testing. Since I knew I would be heading out into the sunshine, I leaned down to reach for my purse... when, what did I hear? My name? Yes, I was one of eleven people who passed the test. So I would be staying.
Next, I learned, we were each going to have get up individually and play the 1vs100 game while being video taped. The crew guy then told us, as he was holding a two foot tall wooden Tiki, "Whoever wins 'Best personality' will get this Tiki until somebody else wins it."
They would not only be testing us on our game playing skills and our ability to reason out loud, but for our enthusiasm too. So we started.
First up was Walter - a short, jovial, 60-year-old African-American man with white hair, dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki pants. He ran up to the microphone with so much pep and personality, he was a natural... if there is such a thing as having natural game show abilities. He made witty quips which he followed with his booming, raspy laugh that reminded me of Mr. Bubble's laugh on the old commercials from the '70s. Walter couldn't stand still. He danced and waved his arms around. He was guessing the answers right. I could see this man's future - I could see him on TV playing 1vs100 and going right to the top.
He was so great, one of the crew guys handed him the Tiki and no one else seemed able to come close to Walter.
A shy blond woman in her early thirties stepped up. But she just seemed to want to get over the whole miserable experience. I think I even saw her roll her eyes. After a few more people, the older gentleman I became friends with in line - a singing/acting coach/ex-WWII vet - went up. He sung to the casting lady, "Some enchanted evening..." while holding her hand. I don't know if that helped him or hurt him.
Next, came the video store manager who really came out of his shell when he was asked about his passion: Dungeons and Dragons!!!!
Man, this guy lit up when it came to his D&D passion.
Earlier, the Dungeons and Dragon guy - burly and bearded - looked around the table and then said to me, "Hey, I think I'm the youngest person here."
I responded with a sneer, "Great." I just love when people point out how much older I must look.
I thought he was somewhere in his thirties with his bulk and whiskers, but he was actually only twenty-one.
After him, came a man in his early thirties - with big brown eyes and a sweet smile - who, when asked to talk about himself on camera, said, "I lost my job, but I'm going back to college to study film."
The crew guy then asked, "Where do you live?"
The guy answered, "In my car." I gasped. We all gasped. I wanted him to do really well answering the questions. But he didn't. I almost cried.
I was now totally into this.
After the homeless man, came a beautiful, willowy, stylish blond lady. I knew from speaking to her, that she also had a teenage daughter, but I was shocked to hear she's 47 and so was everyone else. She was in better shape than everyone in the room. On camera, she was calm and funny. Another natural. I could totally see her on TV.
What was I doing there?
Next thing I know, I'm running up there. Surprisingly, I didn't feel too nervous. But I think I spoke too fast as the crew guy asked about my experiences... "And, yeah, so I didn't discover until mid-flight that I was on the wrong airplane..."
"Okay. So are you ready to answers some questions?" the guy asked me.
"Whooo hooo. You bet!" I said, like a bouncing game show geek.
All those school years staying home pretending to be sick so I could watch "Let's Make a Deal" were now boiling to the surface.
Every time I got answers right I'd do a goofy little dance - pumping my fists in the air and wiggling my hips - which would have gone over better if mid dance I didn't realize what a fool I looked like. But, damn, I was closer than ever to the idea that my kitchen might get remodeled without having to take out a loan. This was getting serious!
And, anyway, I was excited. The stakes were getting higher. So when I came to a question that involved too many numbers, I counted on my fingers and then covered my face with my hands until I saw the answer. Woo hoo! I got it. My knees buckled. I wanted this badly now.
And then my turn was over. I got the highest score so far!! How weird is that? Seriously. My head was feeling woozy. I didn't think I would even pass the written test. But there I was, the highest scorer so far.
Then the next guy went up. As he was speaking, a crew guy handed me... the Tiki!!! I smiled sheepishly to Walter - the previous holder of the grand Tiki. He didn't look at me.
But things were looking good. I mean I had the Tiki and the highest score.
So after the last person was videotaped, I thought we were done. But then the casting lady came out holding some of the contestants' paperwork closely to her chest.
"Well, most of you can go home now. But some of you need to be tested again because you didn't do quite as well on your written test."
My name wasn't called. That, I thought, was a good thing. So I reached down to get my purse, tripped over a few metal chairs as I patted my fellow potential contestants on the back and wished them luck.
But as I walked out of the sound stage and onto the studio lot - oh, cool, people are walking around in costumes. I love that! - anyway, I began to think... it doesn't make sense they would spend more time with people who didn't seem to do that well. No. I think I was let off gently.
I looked ahead of me to see the other guys who were "let go" and they were the "Some enchanting evening..." guy and another guy who had the personality of a ream of laser paper - very professional but without color.
The people who stayed behind to be "tested again," were the glamorous blond, jolly little Walter - the ex-Tiki holder - and the Dungeons and Dragon guy. Yeah, Dungeons and Dragons isn't my thing, but, man! This guy was passionate.
So the entire drive home I kept wondering what I did to screw up my chances. Was it my dancing? Did I talk too fast? Was I too much of a spaz? Too "Let's Make a Deal" for 1vs100?
Oh well, I'm not going to worry. I'm moving on to other assignments. Anyway, they did say whoever got the highest quiz scores - which, in the end, I ended up third - would be in the running as a contestant for sure; if not, then at least in the mob section.
Sheeesh... I didn't expect to get so invested in this. But I was so close. I could almost taste the salty waves of Fiji on my lips. See, after I get my kitchen remodeled, I'll want to go on an exotic vacation. But it wasn't the waves I was tasting - that was sweat. My car's air conditioning isn't working. But who needs that during summer in L.A.?
Ah, whatever happens, I held the Tiki.... if only for a moment.
( *Update: They liked me! They really liked me!! At least that's what the 1vs100 lady said when she called: "We picked you because we like you." As I thought, Uh huh and the other 100 people who will also be in the... mob. Yep, I will be on the show but in a group of people competing against the one contestant. I guess they didn't like me that much. But seriously, like most things I do - I think of it this way: I may just have a great time (i.e. win enough money to go on vacation or buy a new refrigerator) or, at the very least, I'll have something to write about.)