So I thought I would write up something about my recent audition on Wheel of Fortune. My kids had encouraged me to try and get on the show a few weeks ago, so I went to their website and signed up. Actually the first time I tried to sign up, their website was down and I wasn’t able to sign up, so I had to try again a month or so later. The application itself didn’t really have anything more than basic contact information, and they say that over a MILLION (!) people try to get on Wheel of Fortune each year.
Time goes by and then suddenly I got an email telling me that there was a tryout in Louisville (about 1.5-2 hours away) on a particular day. As it turned out, that was the exact day that my family and I were planning on leaving for vacation. After talking about it, we decided to take the detour down to Louisville and do it.
On the appointed day, we got the van all loaded up and left about 8:30. My audition was at 11, but we wanted to get there a bit early, so we could drive around Louisville and show Carolyn where she’d be hanging out. We had marked out a library and a mall where she could spend time with all the kids while I was in the audition for 1-3 hours. It was a catch-22 – the longer I was in the audition, the longer she would have to kill time with the kids, but it also meant the better chance I had of actually making the show.
My audition was in the “Gallery Ballroom” on the 16th floor of the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. My email suggested I get there 15 minutes early, which I did, but I was still one of the last people there. I had NO idea what to really expect – I was guessing many hundred people there but it ended up being only about 60 people. They gave us all an application to fill out, and there were sections about what makes you unique – hobbies, interests, etc. I mentioned my 6 kids, as well as being a world record holder, and my goal to visit all 3,142 counties in the US.
Then they had some simulated games. They had 4 workers there – there were 3 that were behind a table taking notes on people and running a laptop that projected puzzles on a screen, and 1 off to the side who was “spinning” a replica Wheel. I put “spinning” in quotes, because really they were just making it be whatever they wanted. Usually they’d just be some random dollar value, but sometimes they would make it say “Free Play” or $5,000 or Lose a Turn or Bankrupt. They said for the last 2 not to worry about that but sometimes they would do that if you were “up” for awhile so that they could move through and give everyone a chance.
One lady would randomly call out contestants and then you’d have to either spin, buy a vowel or solve. They called me like 3rd or 4th so I popped up out of my seat. I ended up guessing a letter correctly, then buying a vowel and solving the puzzle (“Let’s get to the good stuff”). Then I waited while they went through all the other contestants. After they went through everyone once, they went through some folks a second time. I was picked but didn’t get to do anything before I “Lost a turn”.
After they finished doing as much of as they wanted, they passed out a “test” where they gave us 5 minutes to solve about 15 sample puzzles in different categories with some of letters filled out. I did okay on that – about 10 or 11 of them. In addition, I made up answers for a few of them that didn’t really make sense but fit the spaces (“Rocket Fancy” ). One of the ones I missed was under the category of “Places” – _ _ S S / _ _ L L. Think about it and I’ll give the answer at the end.
When the 5 minutes was up, they collected everything and then gave us 20 minutes to hang out while they “graded” our tests. They called us back in and then said they were going to call out the names of people they wanted to stay and then everyone else would have to leave. They instructed that if they called your name that you should say “Woo” to let them know you heard them. It was tough because I had no idea how many names they were going to call. After awhile, some people tried to give “alternate” sounds. While I was waiting for my name, I was thinking of what I might say. Everyone calling the same thing sounds “weird”, and while they were encouraging everyone to “show enthusiasm”, sometimes forced enthusiasm just sounds awkward. They called my name about 12th or so and they ended up picking 21 people to stay.
After everyone else left, they took pictures of us who were remaining. Another thing I was trying to do was to initiate conversations with the folks next to me. This is something that has always been difficult for me but I have been trying to improve at – plus I figured if the Wheel folks saw me, they would see that as me being outgoing and the type of person they’d want as a contestant.
Next they called up groups of 6 for more of the simulated games they were doing in the beginning, and you just rotated through everyone just like in the regular game, except with 6 people instead of only 3. One of the instructions they gave were that they wanted everyone to show “happy” faces and enthusiasm, and they also talked about how fast you had to call letters. No umming or hemming or hawing and they also said that when you pick a letter to just call out the letter rather than saying unnecessary things like “Umm Can I get a ‘T’”. I was in the 2nd group, and they called my name first, but I strategically put myself in the 2nd position so I didn’t have to go first . After the guy in front of me either missed a letter or they “Bankrupted” him, it was my turn. I spun and picked a letter and bought some vowels but when I spun again I “Lost a turn”. It made its way through all 6 of us and back to me and the guy in front of me guessed a letter that wasn’t in the puzzle and it was my turn. I already knew what the puzzle was – “Setting a world Record”, which I thought was quite apropos . But when I spun, intending to select an ‘R’, she put me on “Lose a Turn” . I actually think (hope?) that this was a good sign – that they had already decided how awesome I was and didn’t need to see anything else from me.
After our group of 6 was done they went through and had everyone introduce themselves and tell a little bit about ourselves. I went with “I’m Dan Miller, a computer programmer from Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m a world record holder and today was actually the day my family and I were supposed to leave for a family vacation, so right now my wife and 6 kids are driving around Louisville in a packed minivan”. I thought that gave a lot of interesting tidbits about me while a) leaving them wanting more and b) not taking up a lot of time. I have to share one lady – she started talking about how she’s had all these near death experiences and then proceeds to list them all out – “I was hit by a car and then a few years later I was hit by a semitruck and then I got really bad heatstroke” She went on and on and then topped it off by saying that now she knows that God has a purpose for her in life. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that she was NOT selected.
One of the puzzles was “Nickels Dimes and Quarters” (another good puzzle for me) and after the lady solved it (I was not in this group), the lady next to me said something to me like “I can’t believe she didn’t go for the ‘Q’!” This was EXACTLY what I was thinking – there was an earlier puzzle that had an ‘X’ in it and I thought – “Man if I have the chance to guess Q or X on Wheel of Fortune I’m TOTALLY doing it!”
After they went through all 21 of us (6-6-5 and then 2 couples against each other), they went back in to the secret room. It’s always kind of awkward when you know people are talking about you. Then they came out and picked out 5 people (not including me) to go a 2nd time. I got the feeling that they had already decided “Yea” or “Nay” on everyone else but were “on the fence” about these people so wanted to get another look at these folks.
And…. that was it. They said that they would send a letter out in the mail within the next 2 weeks if they picked us. So if 2 weeks go by and I haven’t heard anything by then that it probably didn’t work out. I called Carolyn to come get me and then I just had to hang out for 30 minutes or so for her to come get me. I was talking in the lobby with some folks and my “Mormon radar” was going off. Young and married… with 2 young kids…. knee length shorts…. Utah was mentioned… . I was not sure how to ask since it seems kind of weird to just be like “Hey are you Mormon”. I tried dropping clues like how I was married young too, and I had 6 kids, but they weren’t biting…. finally I just had to be like “Yeah I’ve never been to downtown Louisville before but my church has a temple a little north of town” and … JACKPOT! They were indeed Mormons and it turned out there was another auditioner that was also Mormon. Yeah that’s right – we’re infiltrating everywhere!!! This lady’s husband was on Jeopardy last year too.
Overall I thought that the audition went well. I don’t know if they were only looking for a specific number of contestants or not, but I think that the fact that I got “Bankrupted” a few times was a good sign (or a really BAD sign). Plus, who wouldn’t want me and my awesomeness!!!
(By the way, the “place” I missed was “Mess Hall”. One of the military guys who was sitting in front of me got it, of course!)