“Drinking alcohol in the British House of Commons is strictly forbidden at all times, with the single exception of a lawmaker doing what?”
Do you know the answer? Sadly, Justin Peters did not. In just 10 seconds, he lost his chance at bringing home $250,000 on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” last October.
When faced with this tough question, he incorrectly answered “crowning a royal,” ending his chance at winning $1 million. He recently recounted his brush with fortune on Slate. (The correct answer: “passing a budget.”)
But Peters still wound up going home with $25,000. Pretty good for answering a few questions on a game show, right?
Think you have what it takes to compete on a game show? Maybe you’ll have better luck than Peters and take home the jackpot!
How to Be Selected for a Game Show
The selection process for every game show has different requirements. You wouldn’t go on “Jeopardy!” jumping up and down and screaming while wearing a blinking-light chicken suit, but showing up for “Let’s Make a Deal” in pressed khakis and a button-down shirt is hardly going to help you be selected to compete.
Every show is different, and you have to know what each one looks for in its contestants.
1. Research the Show
Ben Robinson really wanted to appear on “The Price Is Right.”
Did he just show up and hope for the best? No way. He created a (successful) six-part plan to land one of his group of four friends as a contestant on the show.
He watched hours of the show, made note of what people were wearing, if custom T-shirts were helpful in getting selected and even if people with bushy beards (like his) appeared on the show.
He exercised predictive modeling behavior and assembled spreadsheets of the previous month’s items. He also went out of his way to talk to previous contestants, including a hot-tub showcase winner, to pick their brains.
While detailed spreadsheets and Facebook-stalking winners might not be completely necessary, it does make sense to spend a few hours watching different episodes to get a good idea of what producers are looking for in terms of contestant look, personality and behavior.
2. Follow the Directions
Make sure you fill out the applications correctly and, if you attend a taping, be sure to be on time. Many shows have strict cut-off times and if you’re not there, you’re typically out of luck.
With hundreds or thousands of potential contestants, shows typically don’t make exceptions for people who fail to follow the directions.
3. Show Personality
No one wants to watch a game show where a stiff, miserable-looking person mumbles through their answers. Even with more formal shows such as “Jeopardy!,” it’s important to be conversational and have good camera-friendly mannerisms.
4. Be a Natural
Easier said than done, right? Don’t look like a deer-in-headlights on camera.
Practice your interviewing skills, enthusiasm and cheering before you get on camera. Basically, gain experience in the art of making a fool out of yourself and making it look effortless.
5. Don’t Overplay for the Camera
While you want to be enthusiastic, don’t be over the top. Producers still want a realistic level of enthusiasm, not someone looking like they had 57 cups of coffee too many that morning.
Enthusiasm is fun for viewers at home to watch, but bouncing off the walls and constantly playing to the camera is unpleasant for viewers. Watch the show, and see what level of enthusiasm seems to go over well.
How to Become a Contestant on Popular Game Shows
“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”
To appear on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” you have to show up for an in-person audition at one of the designated audition sites and take a written test. Prospective contestants must be U.S. residents, meet the official rules and pay for their own travel.
Check the show’s website to see when auditions open up again.
Over a six-month period in 2004, Ken Jennings won $2.5 million on “Jeopardy!.” He was the reigning champ for most of the season, taking advantage of a recently changed rule that permitted winners to stay on the show for further episodes.
For your own shot at fame and fortune, the first step is to take an online test.
Adults can only complete the online test once every year, and competition categories include kids ages 10-12, teens ages 13-17, college students and adults.
“Jeopardy!” never lets anyone know the results of their test, but, if you score high enough, they will contact you about an in-person audition within a year.
At the in-person audition, you take another test, play a short version of the game and participate in a brief personality interview. If you’re selected as an actual contestant, producers will contact you.
But if you’ve ever been a participant on Alex Trebek’s show, you’re out of luck. It’s a one-shot deal, and you can’t appear again.
You also can’t appear if you’ve been on any type of reality show (including game shows, dating shows, relationship shows and other reality shows) in the last year, or three of these shows within the past 10 years.
“Wheel of Fortune”
The odds of being invited to appear on “Wheel of Fortune” are 0.0006%, according to last year’s applicant figures. Out of over one million applicants, only 600 people were selected to appear.
But don’t let that deter you if you dream of spinning that wheel.
“Wheel of Fortune” asks all potential contestants to record a short (60-seconds-or-less) online video and answer a variety of questions about golfing habits, marriage plans and if you or your partner is in the military, among other things.
Also, sign up to see when the traveling Wheelmobile, a mobile audition studio, is passing through your area.
“The Price Is Right”
Ben Robinson’s successful six-part plan to have someone in his party of four become a “Price is Right” contestant worked well for him.
In order to give your own “Price is Right” dreams a shot, first grab some tickets from the show’s website and then head to southern California.
Contestants are typically chosen from ticket holders at tapings. Also, consider attending an upcoming “special taping.”
“Let’s Make a Deal”
Grab your funkiest costume and get ready to make a deal on this hit show. You can sign up to be notified when tickets become available for show tapings.
The show will film Wednesday-Saturday in Los Angeles.
In 2014 contestants won over $7 million in cash and prizes, averaging $80,000 per day. Only 190 people are in each audience, and contestants are selected from those ticket holders, so the show boasts there are great odds of winning.
Be sure to wear your best costume and, if you forget, there’s a costume shop on site for rental costumes and accessories to purchase.
Your Turn: If you could compete on any game show, which would you choose?
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.