How To Get On A Game Show
Be nervous excited, not nervous tense. When you’re nervous excited, you talk and stuff comes out.
Beverly Pomerantz’s resume as a casting director reads like a list of the greatest game shows of all time: Family Feud, The Price is Right, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. She’s been casting game show contestants for a long long time. “I’ve been casting games shows for, oh my gosh—over 30 years. My favorite game show growing up was Hollywood Squares. Years later, my first job in the business was with Merrill Heater, who created Hollywood Squares. I didn’t work on Hollywood Squares. My first job was All-Star Blitz with Peter Marshall, who was my favorite host. I really felt blessed with my favorite producer and my favorite host years later. I thought it was so cool.” (Aaaand that’ll be the last mention of All-Star Blitz in this piece.)
Beverly recalled a story about a contestant she casted for Are You Smarter than a 5th grader who was asked to come back in a few days. Angered and frustrated, he initially refused. After two days of cajoling and asking him to return, he eventually ceded to her request and made it back onto the show. It turned out to be the best decision of his life, as he ended the revived 2015 season of the show with a $300,000 win.
I talked to Beverly about what she looks for when she’s casting people for game shows. “Of course, energy and enthusiasm. Are they fun? You have to have personality. I could tell you so many stories of why people didn’t get on and why ones did get on. You have to be really personable and outgoing. It always helps to know how to play the game, if the game’s already on the air. It’s to your benefit to learn how the game is played.”
This isn’t an acting job. It’s from your heart. They want real people who want real emotions and not acting emotions. That’s really important.
And of course, keep your attitude at the door.
“I had a husband and wife apply for Catch 21—not together, they came separately. The wife was great; we had her on. The husband came in about two or three weeks later. I go upstairs and he’s reading the newspaper. So what we wanted to do, what the producers wanted to do, was to show how the game was played and what to expect when you’re on camera. We wanted them to pay attention. This guy couldn’t care less. He had his feet up, he’s got a newspaper. There were like 30 people in the room and all the producers. So they said, ‘Bev, take a look at this guy.’ So I went over to him and I was very nice, and I said, ‘Excuse me. You really need to listen to the producers and watch how the game is played, so when you’re downstairs, you’ll understand it.’ He goes, ‘OK, OK’ but he’s kind of snotty. I walk away.
Three or four minutes later, he’s still reading the paper! So again, I went over to him and I said, ‘This is really to your benefit. Really, I’d appreciate if you put the newspaper away and respect everybody who’s giving you the information.’ And he looked at me and he goes, ‘I told you I would. What part of “yes” didn’t you understand?’ And everybody in the room gasped. They couldn’t believe it.
But I was really nice, and I said, ‘Oh, hey, can I see you for a second?’ And he got up, and I put him in the hallway and this is all I said: ‘BYE BYE!’ To this day, he couldn’t understand why! I ran into him recently. His excuse was he was an ac-torr. I told him, ‘Don’t be an ac-torr. This is a game show.’ And that’s really, really, really important when actors come in. This isn’t an acting job. It’s from your heart. They want real people who want real emotions and not acting emotions. That’s really important.”
You have to be really personable and outgoing. It always helps to know how to play the game, if the game’s already on the air. It’s to your benefit to learn how the game is played.
One of the things that Bev stressed to me was how you physically present yourself during your audition. “First of all, I think dress is important. Not outrageous. I just had a girl the other day, I was casting a pilot of a game show. I almost fell over when I saw her walk in. Thank God she had leggings. It was the shortest—she said it was a dress, it wasn’t a dress; it was a top. She turned around, and if she held her arms up a little bit you’d see the whole butt and her panties and everything. I said, ‘No, no, no. I cannot bring you into the producers like this.’ This was for a pilot—a presentation. She said, ‘Well, I do have leggings.’ I said, ‘Well, put the leggings on!’ I’m telling you, this is so important: have your hair and makeup done. I don’t mean, don’t go out and spend money to have your hair and makeup done. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen women or guys come in with torn jeans—not like, fashionably torn jeans. Walk in as if you’re going to be on camera. That’s how we’re looking at it. Walk in with your hair and makeup done. A nice outfit on. Nice shoes. Look like you’re ready to play the game if we were going to put you on camera right then. So camera-ready.”
At the end of the day, the job of the casting director is to pluck the most entertaining people out of the available auditions to fill out that piece of the game show puzzle. It is certainly not your birthright to be on a game show, as much as you may want it. In order to take part in this piece of entertainment, you have to be able to fit well in the machine that is the entertainment industry. “They can be good at playing the game, but if they don’t have personality… I remember a couple, I worked on a show called The $1,000,000 Chance of a Lifetime. I’m just different; I think I see contestants sometimes a little differently. I overlook certain things. I remember this couple—they had tried out for every game show in town. She told me, ‘Bev, we’ve tried out for every game show.’ Just an average-looking couple. Nothing to write home about. Nice. She told me that they auditioned for every show in town.
“This couple, whether they were a couple or just single, they went to every game show. Never got on one game show. I kind of saw why, you know? But I saw something in them that I really liked, and I wanted to give them a shot, so I kind of just said, ‘Come on, be a little more enthusiastic and give me a little more energy.’ I put them on the show, they walked home with a million dollars. This couple would have NEVER gotten on the show. NEVER. I’m pretty good at working with people. If I like them, I like people. Sometimes they just need a little guidance. If they are a little quiet, I try to work with them. ‘I love what you said, but say it with a little more enthusiasm’ because I tell contestants, the louder you are, the more fun you have, the audience is going to be pulling for you. Be nervous excited, not nervous tense. When you’re nervous excited, you talk and stuff comes out. When you’re nervous tense, you block things out. To these contestants who say they never get on, even thought they’re smart, there’s no personality behind it.”
Walk in with your hair and makeup done. A nice outfit on. Nice shoes. Look like you’re ready to play the game if we were going to put you on camera right then.