I Was a Contestant on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” and Here’s All the Behind-The-Scenes Scoop!

March 2, 2018

My episode of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” aired yesterday. And man oh man, do I have some stories to tell! SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched yet and don’t want to know how I did, stop reading now.

No, seriously, this is your last spoiler alert warning! Juicy details lie ahead! Read the rest of this entry »


I’m Going To Be A Contestant on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” and IT’S AIRING NEXT WEEK!

February 19, 2018

Mark your calendars for Thursday, March 1, 2018. That’s the day I’m going to be on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” so tune in!

This has been nearly a year-long process, most of which I’ve kept secret from most people. I auditioned last May and taped the episode at the end of July, in Las Vegas. I was told when we taped it that it would air at some point between September and May, and I would only get a week or two heads up. I got the heads up, and it’s finally airing. On March 1st!

I’ve put together a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) with everything you need to know to tune in. Keep reading!

Read the rest of this entry »

My Appearance on PYRAMID – Part 2

May 11, 2012

You’re in for a treat, folks!

Yesterday, I shared the first half of my appearance on the game show Pyramid from 2003, and talked about the audition process and my memories from the taping. Click here if you need to catch up.

Now it’s time for the second half! Sit back and relax… and see if I win the big bucks!

Read the rest of this entry »

My Appearance on PYRAMID – Part 1

May 10, 2012

I used to love The $25,000 Pyramid when I was growing up. It was a smart, fun game show, and Dick Clark hosted it with such ease. You could tell he knew how to play the game really well, and I liked that. I had no idea who the celebrities were (Barry Jenner? Linda Kelsey?), but that didn’t matter. It was a show that celebrated quick thinking and effective communication, and to this day, if I stumble across a rerun on GSN, I’ll watch it, and I’ll enjoy it.

A few weeks after moving out to California in July 2002, I learned that a new version of Pyramid was coming on the air. It would be hosted by Donny Osmond, and they had already begun taping episodes. I decided it would be fun to audition, but had no idea how. So I got a ticket to be an audience member, and less than a week later, I was sitting in a soundstage on the Sony lot, watching them tape a show. During a commercial break, I asked someone about auditions, and got a number to call.

The audition process was long. First was a big cattle call audition where dozens of us took a written test. The people who passed the test (including me) stayed and played a quick mock version of the game. Then, a few days later, I was asked to come to a call-back audition, where a more in-depth mock game was played. Then I was asked to come to a third audition, which they called a “boot camp,” where I played the game yet again, and they went over all the rules. It was at that third audition that I was officially booked as a contestant. I was to return three weeks later to tape my appearance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sundae Slide

December 19, 2011

Remember the ’80s Nickelodeon game show “Double Dare”? I remember watching it at my best friend Sean’s house when I was a kid – he was also my next door neighbor, and his family got cable television a few years before mine. I used to dream about being a “Double Dare” contestant with Sean (contestants were in teams of two) and winning the game, giving us the chance to run the messy, ridiculous, awesome obstacle course at the end of each show.

One of the obstacles was called the Sundae Slide. First you had to climb up a slide that was covered in pudding, then slide down a different slide into a different pile of pudding. Climbing that first slide was one of the hardest stunts on the obstacle course, and it would often make or break the team: if the contestant did well on the Sundae Slide, they had a fair chance of winning the whole thing, but if the contestant stumbled, it was very hard to recover.

Agile and physically fit contestants would straddle the slide, only letting their feet touch the sides of it, and scamper up it like a monkey. They’d avoid touching the pudding altogether, because they knew that pudding + shoes = a loss of all traction. This will jog your memory – The kid at the 15-second mark in this video really struggles going up the slide, but the kid at the 1:55 mark handles it like a pro:

Watching “Double Dare” was a treat, since I couldn’t watch it at my own house, and my dream of being a contestant would keep me up at night: I could win awesome prizes like Casio keyboards, a year’s supply of gum, or (gulp!) a trip to Space Camp! I could take part in sloppy physical challenges that involved vats of whipped cream and picking giant plastic noses! I could be on TV!


Me and Sean in middle school, a few years after my "Double Dare" dreams. I have no idea what I'm doing in this photo.

There was one big problem in my dream of fame and fortune that I needed to solve, though: the team that got to run the obstacle course would alternate through the tasks, and I needed to ensure that Sean would be the one who did the Sundae Slide. This was top priority. The thought of myself, the chubby kid, on the Sundae Slide quickly turned my dream into a nightmare. I knew – I just knew – that I wouldn’t be able to get up that goddamn pudding-covered slide. I knew – I just knew – that the entire 60-second time limit would evaporate as I struggled under my own weight. I knew – I just knew – that the scampering monkey technique was beyond my physical abilities. I knew – I just knew – that I’d end up looking like a weak, pudding-covered fool. I really wanted to go on “Double Dare,” but I didn’t want to humiliate myself in the process. And I certainly didn’t want to be blamed for Sean not winning a Walkman or a pair of rollerblades. The Sundae Slide, simply put, terrified me.

So I developed strategies. If Sean and I somehow got picked to be contestants (which would be a miracle, since I never bothered to learn where the show was taped or how kids got on the show), then I’d be prepared.

  • Plan 1 would be to get Sean psyched for the Sundae Slide, as if we’d already discussed that he’d be the one doing it. I’d start the second we learned we were going on the show: “Sean, you’re going to kill it on the Sundae Slide!” “Sean, aren’t you excited about the Sundae Slide?” I was ready to convince Sean that we had already discussed how he’d do the Sundae Slide, and that he must have forgotten our conversation. Sean’s no dummy, so I’d have to be careful with the mind trickery, but it was worth a shot.
  • Plan 2, to be implemented simultaneously as Plan 1, would be praying daily to God that the Sundae Slide would be broken the day our episode taped. I went to Sunday school and church nearly every week from first through eighth grade, so I could even reinforce my daily prayers with major Sunday prayers.
  • Plan 3 would be to avoid committing to who would go first on the obstacle course until we were in the studio, and the obstacle course was set up, right there in front of us. Then, and only then, would I start insisting on going first or second, whichever meant not doing the Sundae Slide.

Of course, none of these plans were ever actually needed, because I was never a contestant on “Double Dare.” I’m not sure I ever even shared my “Double Dare” dream with Sean, come to think of it.

Last night, I had dinner with a bunch of friends, some of whom I went kayaking with in August. It was a lovely meal and a great time, and on the drive home my mind started wandering. I started thinking about that kayak trip, and how, for most of my adult life, kayaking was out of the realm of possibility for me, a man hundreds of pounds overweight. But thanks to a helluva lot of hard work and determination, I’m changed my life, and now kayaking is possible (and fun!). I don’t remember how I mentally leaped from kayaking to “Double Dare”-related memories, but I had a nice little epiphany, and it’s this: I’m no longer scared of the Sundae Slide. In fact, I’d love to give it a whirl!

So who has a time machine, or access to playground equipment, dozens of pounds of pudding, and a direct line to “Double Dare” host Marc Summers? I need someone to help with the logistics, because I just want to sit back for a little while longer and enjoy the reminder that it’s not just about the number on the scale: my weight loss is, quite literally, rewriting my dreams.

Keep it up, David!


August 1, 2011

I’m writing this post from beautiful and green Seattle, Washington.  I’m up here visiting a really great friend from college, and heading back home to Los Angeles tomorrow.  I’ll have some fun Seattle photos to share, but I’m currently 1 city behind – I haven’t really shared anything about Las Vegas yet!  So even though I’m more than 800 miles north, I’ll happily head back to Sin City so I can fill you in what went down.  You know the motto “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas”?  Not for Keep It Up, David!

If you read my blog every day (and why wouldn’t you?), than you’ll know that I’ve now twice mentioned the fact (here and here) that I came to Las Vegas for a very specific reason, one that made me both terribly excited and nervous, which is why I didn’t share it on the blog before it happened.  But now that it’s over, I happy to report that I planned the whole trip so I could go and…

…audition for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire!

I’m a game show junkie.  Always have been.  My family can vouch that I was solving the puzzles of Wheel of Fortune ever since I learned how to read, and in my adult life, I’ve gone to auditions for six game shows, and appeared as a contestant on two.  You can watch my appearance on Merv Griffin’s Crosswords here, and I’m going to post video from my other game show later this summer (it’s goooood, so come bak for that!).

This year I’ve really been enjoying the syndicated daytime version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, hosted by Meredith Vieira, so when I saw on the show’s website that they were going to be conducting auditions in Las Vegas, I immediately marked it on my calendar.  The auditions were Friday morning, so I arrived on Thursday afternoon, with a cooler bag of healthy foods in tow, and checked into a room at Gold Coast hotel and casino.

There are a gazillion hotels in Vegas, and I picked Gold Coast because that’s where the auditions were being held.  I was gonna have to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn for the audition, so it was easiest to stay on-site.  Gold Coast is a off-strip property that’s next to Rio (as you can see in the picture) and across the street from the Palms.  Price-wise, it wasn’t the cheapest option, but it was at the lower end of the range, which I appreciated.  I don’t know if I would recommend Gold Coast, but it was fine for my purposes, and the staff was friendly and helpful.

The auditions started at 7am, and the website said that they couldn’t line up before 6am, so, after a semi-restless night (thank you, nerves), I was dressed and primped and downstairs at 5:30am with a book (in case I had to wait for hours) and the application form I had previously downloaded and filled out.  The auditions were being held in one of the hotel’s big ballrooms, and the escalators to the ballroom were blocked off by velvet ropes when I got there, but I was 12th in line!  FANTASTIC!  A constant stream of people arrived and got in line behind me over the next hour, and soon, the line snaked through the casino and went out the door (or so I heard, the line grew so long I couldn’t actually see the end).  Around 6am or so, I learned that there were already dozens and dozens of people in line at the top of the escalator, so I wasn’t actually 12th in line, I was more in the 90s.

At 6:30 or so, they started moving us into the ballroom, which was set up with rows upon rows of tables, filling the whole room.  It could accommodate 500 people in total, and the room ended up getting filled completely with applicants.  A casting producer went over what was about to go down:  We were all going to take a test, and those of us who passed the test would get an interview.  If we didn’t pass the test, well, thanks for coming, and please exit quickly.

Tests were then passed out, and we were assigned numbers.  The test questions were on a sheet inside a manila folder, and we marked our answers on Scantron forms.  We were also given t-shirts and magnets as gifts, and the Millionaire pencil we used to take the test was ours to keep as well.

After explaining the directions, the test began.  It was timed – 10 minutes to answer 30 questions.  The questions were multiple choice, just like the ones on the show, and they ranged in difficulty from easy to really difficult.  Since it worked out to 20 seconds per question, I went through and answered all the ones I knew off the top of my head, and then came back to the ones that I wanted to think about a little more.

The questions ranged in topic from history to science to literature to pop culture to current/recent events, so you really had to know your stuff, and be able to recall it quickly in order to do well.  I used every second of the 10 minutes, which flew by.  I answered all 30 questions, but didn’t have time to go back and double-check anything, which I would have liked to have done.  When the 10 minutes were up, we passed the test to the ends of our rows, and sat around and waited while the Scantron machine scored them.

There are two big mysteries surrounding the tests: the Millionaire folks don’t say how well you have to do to pass, nor do you find out what how you score.  I heard people around me saying that you need to get 27 out of 30 right to be granted an interview, but that was never officially said (at the audition or anywhere on the wesbsite), so who knows if it’s true.

I felt pretty good about how I performed on the test.  I knew a majority of the answers with certainty.  There were two questions I knew I got wrong, because I looked them up afterward on my phone, and two or three more that I remember taking educated guesses on, but couldn’t look up afterward, because I forgot what they were.

After 10 or 15 minutes, the casting producer came back with the big announcement: the assigned numbers of the people that passed the test!  The room got very quiet, and she started reading the numbers.  The list was long – around 70 people out the 500 in the room passed!

Did I pass? CLIFFHANGER! Come back tomorrow and find out!

Just kidding!  I’ll tell you right now.

I… didn’t pass.  I thought I had done well, but obviously not well enough!  I shuffled out of the room, along with the other 430 applicants that didn’t pass, and by 7:45am I was back in my room.

I’ll admit I was crestfallen, but it wasn’t devastating.  I knew the test would be tough, and I knew the odds would probably be against me, and they were: 70 passers out of 500 applicants is just under a 15% success rate, and even then you’re a long way from being on the show: you don’t find out for a few weeks if you pass the interview part of the audition, and those who pass the interview get placed in a contestant pool, which means they may or may not get a phone call over the next 18 months inviting them to be a contestant on the show.  Add in that they did three rounds of auditions that day in Vegas, and three rounds of auditions in 6 or 7 other cities, plus auditions in New York (where the show is taped), and it all adds up to a lot of people vying to be on a show that features, on average, 1 or 2 contestants an episode.

But hey, you can’t be on the show at all if you don’t audition, and I’m glad I went.  I can audition again in the future, and who knows, I very well may.

In case you’re curious, when I got back to my room, I grabbed my computer and headed a few blocks to Starbucks to relax and use their wi-fi (as opposed to paying $13 a day for internet access at the hotel).  Then I went back to the hotel and hit their gym for an hour, spending 40 minutes with free weights and then 20 minutes on a cross-ramp elliptical.  After that, I ate some lunch and took a nap.

OH – and the t-shirt I got was a size Large, and it fit!

The only other Large t-shirts I have are my workout shirts (see a wonderful size comparison showing my weight loss in t-shirts here), so fitting into this shirt is definitely a non-scale victory!

Keep it up, David!

“Crosswords”: Behind-the-Scenes

April 22, 2011

Yesterday, I posted the videos of me as a contestant on “Merv Griffin’s Crosswords” a few years ago.  That episode aired in April 2008, and I don’t think I’ve watched it since then.  Granted, I watched it a bunch of times in the month after it aired, with various friends who wanted to watch with me.

I couldn’t even watch all of it yesterday, as I was assembling that blog post.  I watched the first part of the first segment, and I had to turn it off.  I just had to.  It’s really tough for me to watch myself on video, and it always has been.  I think there are two reasons for this:

  • It’s hard for me to see myself at that weight (probably just under 400 pounds), because I’m reminded of all the unhappiness that accompanied it.  Everyone has good and bad times, but I see that video and think about how my weight probably (and frequently) was limiting in so many ways.  I know I’m more confident now than I was then.  I know my self-esteem is higher now that it was then.  I know that then, I had simply accepted some things as fact that certainly weren’t fact: that I was going to be obese for the rest of my life; that I’m incapable of improving my health; that I would probably go through life alone.  I’m not making the claim that my weight loss has resulted in all my issues and problems disappearing, because that’s not the case, and I still have good times and bad times, and that will never end, no matter what I weigh.  But now, at least, I feel a lot more in control of my health and well-being, and as a result, other elements of my life seem like they may be beginning to fall into place.
  • You know how when when you hear your own voice on your outgoing message or answering machine (if anyone still has one of those), it sounds totally different than what you think your own voice sounds like?  I feel the same way about video, ten-fold.  I look at it, and think, “Is that what I look like?  Is that how I move, appear, smile, gesture?”  It’s different from how I perceive myself, and it makes me uncomfortable and self-conscious.  This, by the way, hasn’t changed since I began losing weight – I’m just as uncomfortable watching my recent appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” as I am watching on “Crosswords.”  And yet, it hasn’t stopped me from pursuing television opportunities – I’ve been on national TV 5 times in my life, and the thought of opportunity #6, whatever that may be, doesn’t frighten me.  Johnny Depp, by the way, doesn’t like watching himself either.  So I’m in good company!

I also thought I’d share a little bit of what the whole experience was like.

The Audition.  I had read that Merv Griffin was creating a new crossword-based game show, and since Merv’s other shows, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, were so good, I thought this one would be good, too.  I also thought there’d be the potential to win a lot of money, which is always a perk.  After some digging on the interwebs, I found audition information, and called and made an appointment.  My audition was set for July 26, 2007.

The audition was held at the studios where they were going to tape the show.  About 60-70 people piled into a big tent set up in the parking lot, and we got an application to fill out.  In addition to contact info and questions about our occupation, age, and so on, there was also a questionnaire about crossword puzzles.  Now, I’m not a regular crossword puzzle solver, and never have been.  I like word puzzles, but I’ve never been into crosswords.  There was questions about how often we did crosswords, and what crosswords we did, and I remember seeing the guy next to me writing about how he did the New York Times puzzle every single day, including the Sunday one, plus he bought crossword books all the time.  I decided to be honest, so I wrote I did a crossword maybe twice a year, and it was the one in TV Guide magazine, where the clues are like “Last name of Canadian singer Celine” and the answer has 4 letters.

Then came the test.  We had to answer about 40 crossword-based questions, with only about 20 seconds to answer each one.  It was hard, but I felt pretty good about it.  We turned in our tests and applications, and waited for 20 minutes while they graded the tests.  They didn’t say how well we had to do, but when they announced the 15 or so people that passed the test, they called my name!  Everyone else was thanked for coming, and the 15 of us were invited into an office, where we had to do an on-camera interview.  The interview was short and sweet: what’s your name, where are you from, tell us something we wouldn’t know by looking at you (I told a story about how I once mooned a theater full of people).  Basically, they wanted to make sure we didn’t freeze up on camera, that the host would be able to interact with us, and that we had some semblance of a personality.

A few days later, I got the call: they wanted to book me as a contestant!  Woo-hoo!  At this point, I still didn’t know exactly what the show was.  It had yet to air, so I didn’t know how the game was played, how much I could win, none of it (the show ended up premiering 1 week before my taping, so I eventually was able to see a few episodes before my taping).  I read in a press release that the show had hired the guy who edits the USA Today crossword puzzles to produce all the puzzles used on the show, so I started doing the USA Today puzzles every day to practice, and learn crossword clue lingo.  I arranged to take the day off of work, and on September 17, 2007, I drove to the studio for the taping.

The Taping.  Like most game shows, “Crosswords” taped 5 episodes in one day.  Since each episode has 5 contestants, they had to book 25 contestants for each tape day, plus a few alternates, in case people get sick, have car troubles, family emergencies, or whatever.  We were all crammed in one big room, where they set up a few curtained off areas as ‘dressing rooms.’  They had asked all of us to bring 3 suitable outfits, so everyone had options, and so the 5 contestants on any given show wouldn’t all be wearing the same color.

The day started with a few long presentations by various producers.  They went over the releases we had to sign, which basically said that consent to be on TV, won’t sue as a result of the taping, and that they can use this footage and our likeness in any way they want, “throughout the universe in all media now known or hereafter devised in perpetuity” – so, really, they hold all the cards.  Then there was an extensive explanation of the rules, which, if you watched the show, gets really confusing, with the spoilers and all.

Then came the waiting.  They announced the five players for the first show they were taping, and I wasn’t one of them.  An hour later, they announced the second set of contestants, including me!  I started getting really nervous.  They put some make-up on me, and I met with a producer to quickly discuss what I should talk about when the host interviews me, and they took us down to the stage.

The stage was small.  I work in television, and it’s pretty much true that everything seems bigger on screen than it really is.  The studio was tiny.  There was no studio audience (so the applause you hear during the show is canned) – just the set, a bunch of cameras, and that’s about it.  We all had the chance to test out how the buzzers worked, and they had us rehearse how to move from podium to podium, so no one collided with anyone.  The spoilers had to practice their entrance down that plexiglass ramp.  They checked in with us, to see if we had any questions, and then the cameras started rolling.

The taping itself is a bit of a blur.  My nerves went away, though, as soon as the show started – that’s the thing with game shows, you really  have to focus and concentrate, because things happen quickly.  Before I knew it, I was being led away to the corner with the other 3 losers to watch the winner do the bonus round.  I’m a competitive person, and was annoyed and disappointed that I didn’t win, but I was also secretly happy that Mary didn’t win the bonus round.

Final Thoughts:  Here’s the thing: “Merv Griffin’s Crosswords” was a pretty dumb show.  I auditioned before I had ever seen it, which is a smart move, because I had a better chance of getting booked (once a show starts airing, the contestant department gets flooded with audition requests).  Had I seen an actual episode first, though, I wouldn’t have auditioned.  I don’t like that the game required obvious word and puzzle skills, but ultimately relies heavily on luck to win.  I was also hoping more money would be at stake.  Oh well.  It was a fun experience, and everyone there was really nice.  I didn’t get to meet Merv Griffin (he actually passed away a few weeks after my audition, before my tape day), but I did get to be a smarty-pants on TV.  So if I ever create a bucket list, I can add that to it, and cross it off.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!  This turned out to be pretty long post, but this is the sort of behind-the-scenes stuff I love reading about, so I though some of you might enjoy it too.  Time, though, to wrap it up!

Keep it up, David!