Monday, December 3, 2012


There are court shows on TV that are real -- and then there are those that are 100% fake. I always thought it would be fun to do one of the fake ones.
A few years back, I was actually booked (along with a  friend) on a show called The Supreme Court of Comedy, which featured judges like Tom Arnold, Joe Piscopo  and Victoria Jackson.
Here is the fake storyline I came up with for that show: my friend, Dorothy, a hot model, was having problems paying for her new modeling pics. I offered to help her out. I gave her the name of a photographer I knew who had reasonable rates. I suggested that Dorothy pay a visit to my friend and that I would pay for the pics.
Dorothy did check out my friend’s work -- and then chose to go with a  different photographer who was much more expensive. Then she handed me the bill.
Our fake court case came about because Dorothy was insisting that I had said I would pay for her pics, no matter what. My argument was that I had only agreed to pay for the pics if she went to the cheap photographer I knew who would give her a  low price.
Dorothy felt she was right in doing what she did because she wanted the most professional pics and she wanted to work with a  photographer she felt comfortable with. All of this story was untrue of course, except for the part about Dorothy being a model.
The casting people for The Supreme Court of Comedy loved Dorothy and I, and they loved our story. We were booked to appear on the show, and we would be paid a very generous rate. Unfortunately there was a  scheduling conflict with my day job and it didn't work out.
Fortunately, that was not my last chance to do a TV court show.
One day in 2012, I saw yet another ad on Craigs List asking for outrageous stories for a new TV court show, this one starring former NFL great Warren Sapp as the judge. The ad made it pretty clear that the crazier the stories were, the better. Although the ad did not say they were looking for made up stories, it was very clear in the wording of the ad that they just wanted good stories -- true or not.
I had to come up with a new storyline. I wanted to do the show with a girl, because I like working with pretty girls, and I always think it makes for more compelling TV when you have a “he said/she said” type of situation.
I contacted a couple of actresses that I knew in the L.A. area.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I always have a hard time getting actresses to commit to anything, even high-paying jobs. Actually, the easy part is getting them to commit. The hard part is getting them to actually show up.
(I will never understand how people who claim to be actors will commit to a decent-paying gig  and then they will back out the first chance they get. Makes no sense to me. I do know that some people consider themselves “serious actors” who would never be seen on any kind of reality show. Ok, then why agree to do the job in the first place? And why not just think of it it a fun improvisational acting exercise that, let’s face it, very few people will ever see?
This new show wasn’t even being done for regular TV -- it was being done for a  youtube, channel, for gosh sakes. 99% of the people in the would would never even know it existed.)
I really don’t see a downside for an actor to make a few quick bucks doing a  low-profile reality show where they get to do some fun improv. Unless they think they are going to get so famous making movies that someday this footage will come back to haunt them.
I had come up with a  new storyline that was a variation on the old one.
The new angle went like this: I had a female friend was going to school to become a massage therapist. She was having a hard time paying for her classes, so I loaned her a few hundred bucks. She finished school, and even gave me some massages to practice her new skills.
When I asked her about repaying the loan, she said she didn’t owe me any money because she had paid me in massages! So I was suing her to get my money back.
I liked this story because any time you have a story about a girl giving a guy massages, it always sounds kind of dirty, even when it isn’t.
Even though nothing happened sexually between the girl and I in this story, it still sounds kind of naughty because she has her hands all over my body.
I pitched that story to the producer of JUDGE SAPP, and he liked it. He did have one question, though -- he wanted to know how much money I had loaned the massage girl in my story.
I was on the spot. I had to think of a number quickly that sounded like a realistic amount of money that someone might pay to go to massage school. I figured this would be a “small claims’ type of show. Thinking my number that I was “suing” for had to be under $500, I said the first number that came into my head: $250. This was the amount that I would be trying to recoup in my fake court case.
My friend Rebecca agreed to do the gig. I asked her if she was comfortable with the massage storyline. I added that if she wasn’t, we could change it to any other storyline that she was comfortable with.
She said she was cool with it, but she seemed hesitant. She asked when we were shooting. I told her they were pretty flexible, they would be willing to work around her schedule.
I contacted the producer and said Rebecca had agreed to be on the show. The producer was totally psyched. He asked if he could see a pic of her. I said I would send him one. Then he had one other question for me.
He had forgotten what the amount of money was that I was suing Rebecca for. I figured, ok, he’s forgotten, so I’ll raise the number. I said it was $300. He said great, and then he went back to work.
Rebecca still seemed liked she wasn’t totally committed. I figured she would back out at some point. Finally the producers gave me a shoot date. They were filming on over a three-day weekend, and we could come in any one of those days -- either Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. The producers could not have been nicer.  They were willing to do whatever they could to accommodate us.
As the days went on, and Rebecca still hadn’t committed to a specific date,  they even doubled the amount of money they were paying us.
I got the feeling they really liked our story and they really wanted us to be on the show.
I sent the dates to Rebecca to see when she wanted to do the show. That was when the other shoe dropped. She told me she was going out of town that weekend and she couldn’t possibly do the show.
I got the feeling that no matter what dates I had given her, Rebecca would have said she was going out of town. I was tempted to follow her status updates on Facebook just to see if she was really going anywhere, but I decided not to waste my time on yet another flakey L.A. actress who had dropped out.
There were plenty of other actresses in Hollywood who I could get for the show.
So I contacted Michelle, a sexy blonde who I had met at a comic book convention. Michelle was an actress, too. Michelle seemed hesitant at first, too. I guess there is something about approaching a girl by saying, “Hey, I can get you on youtube!” that just turns them off.
But Michelle agreed to do the gig. I spoke to her on the phone about it, and I asked her the same questions I had asked Rebecca: “Are you comfortable with the massage storyline?” She said she was. “Because if you’re not comfortable with the massage storyline, we can change it to any other storyline that you are comfortable with.”
No, no, Michelle reassured me. She was totally fine with the massage angle. But I could tell she wasn’t. You can always tell when someone is going to back out of something when you ask them what day they are free, and instead of giving you a straight answer, they start talking about how busy they are, and they keep asking more and more questions instead of giving you an answer.
As we got closer to the big weekend, Michelle surprised no one by dropping out. Her excuse? She had been booked to work on a short film for that day. I guarantee that however much money she was paid for the short film, she would have made much more money working for 2 hours on the court show.
Speaking as a guy who likes making money doing fun acting jobs, I will never understand how someone can turn down a high-paying job for a  lower-paying one. I totally understand the concept of someone wanting “to be taken seriously as an actor,” and wanting to do favors to help out their film-making friends. But Michelle could have taken two hours out of her day to do the Court Show, made the money, and then spent the whole rest of the weekend on the short film, which I can pretty much guarantee paid her nothing.
But no, her mind was made up, she was too busy to do the court show. Now I really had to scramble. The shoot date was fast approaching, and I still had no massage girl.
The producers of the show kept bugging me to see a picture of “Rebecca.” If they were going to put her on TV, they naturally wanted to see what she looked like. (I hadn’t told them yet that Rebecca had dropped out. I figured if they knew that, they might cancel the gig altogether.)
I thought it best to keep stalling them. I told them that  Rebecca was nervous about doing the show, she hadn’t fully committed yet, but I was pretty sure I could convince her.
This was all BS, of course. I knew Rebecca was gone, but I figured they would be happy with any actress that I brought in, regardless of the girl was actually named Rebecca or not.
A few days before the court date shoot, I worked as an extra on a show about little people called Pit Boss. While filming that show in an L.A. bar, I met a sweet 22-year-old Latina named Joanna who I had an easy chemistry with. We hung out together for a few hours on the Pit Boss set.
She told me she had never acted before.
I asked Jo-Jo (as she likes to be called) if she wanted to be my massage girl on the court show. Much to my relief, she said yes.
This was my last shot at getting on the court show. The producers needed to see a  pic of “Rebecca” now. I sent them a pic of Joanna with a note saying, “Her full name is Rebecca Joanna. But she prefers to be called Joanna.”
The producers didn’t care what her name was. They were happy that they had successfully cast another episode of JUDGE SAPP!
The producer had one more question for me: he had forgotten once again how much money I was suing the massage girl for. I saw this as a chance to raise the stakes again. I told him $350, raising it as high as I felt comfortable while still keeping our story believable and staying under what I thought was a $500 limit. (Later I watched episodes of JUDGE SAPP on youtube where I saw people suing each other for thousands of dollars, so it turns out I may have grossly underestimated the amount of money we could have walked away with on that day.)
Joanna and I met for coffee one day and worked out our whole story. She had never spoken any dialogue on TV before, so we had a mock trial, where I pretended to be a lawyer and grilled her about the “facts” of our case. I just wanted to make sure she would be convincing.
After an hour or so, we were had gotten our story down pat. I didn’t know how good of an actress JoJo might be, but at least I knew she could convincingly tell her side of the story.
On the day of the shoot, all the defendants and plaintiffs in the fake court cases were told to dress casually. I chose to dress as if I was going to an actual courtroom. Even through the producers said this was supposed to be more of a party atmosphere, like in at a nightclub, I felt more comfortable; treating it like a real courtroom and dressing appropriately.
JoJo was dressed, like she meant business -- a  blazer with a blouse and skirt. Her hair was tied back in a  no-nonsense bun.
Throughout the day, the producers kept reminding us that was supposed to be a fun show, to have fun with it, keep it light and funny, and not take it too seriously. Although there was no script for JUDGE SAPP, each person who would be speaking in court was coached as to the best way to tell their story.
Just like in any “reality” show, they wanted to make sure the people on screen said things in the most entertaining way possible.
Joanna and I had a short wait, about an hour or so before they were ready for us. Then it was time for our "trial" to begin.
I entered the courtroom first, followed by Joanna. After weeks of planning, it had finally come together. The trial of the century could finally begin.
There was just one hitch here. Although the cases on Judge Sapp were fake, plaintiffs would still be awarded real cash if they won -- in addition to being paid a fee for appearing on the show.
So not only would Jojo and I be getting paid to act in the fake court, but, if the judge ruled in my favor, I would be paid a settlement, which I had promised to split with JoJo.
Here was the catch -- if Jojo won the case, we wouldn't be paid any settlement money.
That meant there was only one possible outcome of the case for us to make that extra money -- I had to win. Jojo would have to take a fall.
Here was the tricky part: would a first time actress be able to convincingly play the part of a woman who is putting up a good fight but still has to lose in the end?
That was the challenge faced by my last-minute substitute.
The trial began. Jojo explained her side of the story to the judge.  She was very calm, almost quiet. She seemed a little nervous to me. I found myself not really believing her story. She wasn’t selling it.
I tried to add a little drama to the proceedings. At one point, I shouted out, “She’s lying!” Judge Sapp calmly nodded in  my direction, saying, “I got ya, Barry,” implying that he would consider both sides of the case before rendering a verdict.
Next it was my turn to speak. Jojo had referred to me giving her the money as a gift so she could go to massage school. She had apparently been coached by the writing staff to say that, as well as making a remark about me being “much, much older” than her.
I could take a little good-natured ribbing. I knew the writers were just trying to punch up our case, and make sure they squeezed as much drama out of it as they could. I was kind of bummed about that “gift” angle, because if the judge believed that, then there would be no settlement money.
The writers had coached me to say that it was definitely a loan, and that she needed to be taught a lesson in responsibility.
I added in a comment about how you can’t pay people in massages. “You can’t just go massaging all your problems away,” I noted.
Judge Sapp asked Jojo if she had made enough money to repay the loan yet. Not wanting to tell a lie, even in a fake court case, Jojo said she was just starting out in massage and hadn’t made that much money yet. A few minutes later, she was asked how much she had made so far. She admitted that she had made at least $350. That little contradiction wound up deciding the case.
After a few short minutes, the judge had heard enough. He deliberated with his legal advisor, who said, “This is a classic case of gift vs. loan.”

The judge ruled that Jojo was inconsistent with her story in how much money she had made giving massages. Because of this, he felt she was being deceptive. The verdict was in my favor.
Judge Sapp ruled that I would receive a settlement -- but I wouldn’t get all the money. “You did get all those massages, “Barry,” he noted. So he awarded me $175.00 -- half the money I had sued for, which I promptly split with Jojo as soon as the check arrived in the mail a week later.
And so it came to pass that after years of trying, I finally had my day in court.
What lessons did I take away from the case? That justice is fair, even when the judge is an ex-football player; that Hollywood actresses are totally unreliable; and that sometimes, it’s best to go not with the person who is necessarily the best for the job, but the one who will actually show up.
Jojo turned out to be so reliable that just a few months later I approached her again when I needed someone to play a prank on for a show from the producers of Punk’d!
That show also aired on a you tube channel. Funny, my acting career started out in big-budget movies, then I moved to prime-time TV, and then I started doing work that went straight to you tube.
Some progress, huh?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


By now, you’ve gotten used to me going on game shows and losing. But in the summer of 2012, I had the chance to go on a new game show and win more money than I had won all my other game show appearances put together.
And this time, I was determined to do it right. I decided  to train harder than I had ever trained before. Like Rocky Balboa going in to a championship fight, I was going to work my ass off, take it seriously, dominate my opponents, and dazzle them with my game play, and leave them so intimidated, all they could do was sit there slack-jawed while I took home $50,000.
At least, that was my plan…
In June of 2012, I found out that the Game Show Network had decided to bring back the old $100,000 Pyramid show, now simply calling it The Pyramid. (The top prize on the revived version of the show would be $50,000. I guess they didn’t include that number in the title of the show because it would have sent the wrong message for TV viewers to know the show was giving away less money than it used to. The reality is that GSN is a cable network and can’t afford to pay out as much money as the big networks.)
It was on a sunny June morning that a woman named Kimberly, who has cast me on several other game shows, called me up and asked me if I wanted to try out for the new Pyramid.
It had been almost a year since my last game show appearance, so I was definitely up for it. I went in for the audition at a fancy high-rise in L.A. I was in a room with about 25 other potential contestants. Strangely, most of the people in the room were guys.  This was unusual because women usually make up at least half of all game show contestants.
We were given a written test, which was very heavy on pop culture. I think I got about 5 wrong out of 30 questions. A solid "B!"
Our host, Kimberly, went off to grade the tests with her associates. When she returned, she announced the names of the people who had passed. I was one of the lucky ones who was asked to stay. (Naturally!) Interestingly, none of the female contestants had passed the test.
There were about ten people left in the room, including myself. Kimberly led us through the rules of the game and gave us lots of helpful tips. Our auditions were being videotaped, so we were told to be animated, be expressive and to make lots of hand gestures when we played the game. As an Italian-American, I usually talk like that anyway, so for me, this would be a walk in the park.
I was paired up with a  partner, a guy who played the first part of the game very well, but he played the second part very poorly. It was like he didn't understand that there are two distinctly different parts of Pyramid, each with distinctly different sets of rules. Despite my partner’s shortcomings, I still managed to perform well, which is not an easy thing to do when your partner is dead weight.
At the conclusion of our audition, I had the feeling that I had a strong chance of getting on, and my audition partner most certainly did not. (He just didn’t seem to understand the rules of the second half of the game.)
For the next few weeks, I decided I would devote my life to mastering the game of Pyramid. My sister, Susan,  happened to have the home version of the game gathering dust in her garage, so at every family gathering thereafter, I enlisted all my relatives in helping me practice.
Susan was particularly strong at the game. My 83-year-old dad didn’t quite seem to get the rules, bless his heart. He played it like it was some bizarre combination of Charades and Password, which gave us a lot of laughs, but didn’t really help me practice at all.
Or did it? When you play Pyramid, you are teamed up with two celebrities. Although it’s not done intentionally, it often happens that one of the celebs is smart, and the other is kind of dumb. So practicing at home with a  player who just doesn’t quite get the rules of the game is, in a way, good practice for actually being on the show.
For the next few weeks, I treated Pyramid like it was a part-time job. I trained for it with all the intensity of  an Olympic athlete.
I watched a bunch of episodes of Pyramid on youtube, but really, I felt the greatest benefit to me was actually playing the game live with real people. My family was very supportive, and honestly, we all had a blast playing. Whether I actually got on the show or not, I had to admit, Pyramid had really livened up some family gatherings.
About a month after the audition, I got the call. I had been picked as a contestant. We would be taping in a week.
I managed to cram in a few more practice sessions. I wanted to be more prepared than any other contestant. I wanted to intimidate the hell out of my opponents. I wanted to go in there and be such a strong player that my opponents would tremble in fear.
It was going to be a massacre, and my opponents would never see it coming.
To the other contestants, this might have been a chance to have some fun. For me, it was serious business. Sure I was going to have fun, too, but mostly, I was there to make up for all my losses on all those other shows!
As far as I was concerned, that $50,000 was mine to lose.
My call time was 7AM on a Wednesday morning. I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. I was so excited about the show, I found it impossible to sleep that night. I tossed and turned till about 3AM, then finally got about two hours of sleep before I thankfully woke up on my own. (My alarm never went off! Oops!)
I was dead tired, but I knew I could sleep later in the day, after I won the money. Everything I had done for the past two months had led to this day. Now it was time for me to see if all my training had paid off.
I drove to the studio where I met about a dozen other contestants -- including Kathleen, a pregnant woman who was scheduled to be my opponent. (Pyramid likes to have Boy vs. Girl match-ups.)
Kathleen, a small Asian woman, about 25 or so, was only two months pregnant, so she was barely beginning to show. Honestly, no one would have known she was preggers if she hadn’t told us.)
It occurred to me that if I played as well as I was planning to, I would forever be known as the guy who crushed a pregnant woman on national television. But I couldn’t afford to think like that. I couldn’t worry about my opponent at all.
All I could do was focus on playing the game to the best of my ability. If I won, I could always send her a nice baby present later.
There were five episodes of PYRAMID being taped that day. Kathleen and I were scheduled to be the contestants on the second show of the day. That meant we had a couple of hours to kill before our taping began.
A producer instructed us to play the Pyramid while we were waiting. “We want you to be a comfortable as possible with the game when you get out there on stage,” we were told.
At this point, it occurred to me that I was about to spend a couple of hours practicing with the girl I would soon be facing on-stage as my opponent.
This seemed like a really bad idea to me. I had been practicing for months. Kathleen revealed that she hadn’t had a chance to play the game at all -- she had only watched old Pyramid videos on you tube.
I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of practicing with my opponent, but what else could I do? I wanted to practice as much as possible before I went on the show, and there wasn’t anyone else to practice with. (All the other contestants were being sequestered in a different room.)
As we started to play, it occurred to me that Kathleen was not that strong of a player. But something interesting happened over the course of the next two hours -- Kathleen got a lot better.
She went from being a novice to being my equal in about two hours. Now, Kathleen was a very quick learner, and odds are, she would have developed her skill at the game no matter who she had practiced with.
But all I could think of was that I had just trained my opponent in how to beat me.
But again, I couldn’t think like that. There were so many random variants in any given game of Pyramid -- from the categories to your celebrity partners -- that it’s impossible to predict the outcome of a match between two opponents who are evenly matched.
By the end of two hours, Kathleen and I had finished giving each other all the clues on about 100 index cards. A certain amount of game fatigue was starting to set in. We were both done with training and ready to get on with the main event.
Finally we were informed that the first show had finished taping and it was time for us to begin taping our episode.
We got to met our celebs: the blonde girl from the sitcom Rules of Engagement, Megyn Price,  and the black guy from Fox’s New Girl, Lamorne Morris.
Megyn revealed up front that she was fanatic about the board game Boggle and that she was very competitive at word games. Lamorne did not confess to any love of board games, which made me think he might be the weak link on this episode.
I was to be teamed up with Megyn first. I had already picked her out as “the Smart One,” so I was glad to be paired with her for the first half of the game. (Nobody gets to be a Boggle fanatic without being smart!)
I figured I would have a very strong first round, which would give me a psychological edge going into round two.
The game began. As I had expected, Lamorne was not a strong player. He struggled to get easy clues right. My opponent, Kathleen, began to get increasingly frustrated by his lack of serious game-play. (I figure his agent convinced him to do a game show just for some extra exposure.)
What I had not expected was seeing just how excitable Kathleen became during the game. She started talking super-fast, blurting out words so quickly that nobody could understand her. It was kind of bizarre. At one point, she became so frustrated with Lamorne, she started jumping out of her seat, which I had never seen anyone do before on the show.
She hadn’t been like that at all during our two hours of practice. Apparently Kathleen was a very excitable girl. She was getting so stressed out playing the game, the quality of her game-play was deteriorating.
My partner and I, on the other hand, were really gelling. We got seven out of seven correct answers in round one, seven out of seven in round two, and things were looking pretty good for round three.
The category was “Things That Come In Fours.” I knew we were in great shape when I offered up, “The Four ‘Blank’ of the Apocalypse,“ and Megyn fired back with the correct answer, “Horsemen.”
We had about three seconds left on the clock when I was given my final clue: I had to get my partner to say “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
I had to think fast. The words “kung fu reptiles” came to mind. But instead I recalled the lyrics to the theme song from their old TV show. I blurted out “Heroes in a half-shell!” As the buzzer rang, Megyn replied, “Turtles…ninja turtles!”
She made it just under the buzzer. We had scored another seven for seven. A perfect game! I jumped up  and gave Megyn a big hug. We had just made it to the winner’s circle. At that moment, I felt like a game show God! 
Megyn was the perfect partner. We totally clicked in every way. Two competitive game-players who were both on the same wave-length,
I couldn’t predict what was going to happen in the winner’s circle, but I was delighted to be heading there with Megyn. I chose to give the clues to her in the winner’s circle, but honestly, I think we could’ve done just as well with her giving and me receiving.
The winner’s circle round started off  with some easy clues. Names of Candy Bars, Things Madonna would say...
We continued racking up points and adding more money to my winnings. It was beginning to look like my bad luck streak was finally over. This might be the first game show where I finally win some serious money.
And then… reality came in. I came across a clue that I blanked on. The clue was “People Who Have Whistles.” I started off with the first thing that came to mind: a train conductor. And after that… I had nothing.
At that time, It was July. The only sport I watch is football, and the fast football game I had seen was the Super Bowl back in early February. So it was clsoe to six months since I had even seen or thought about a  referee. At that moment, I knew my “Perfect Game” was over.
I couldn’t think of any other people who had whistles. It killed me to do so, but I had to pass to the next clue.
Looking back now, I could have said policeman, gym teacher, coach… there are so many things I could have said. But at that moment, all I could think of was ‘train conductor,” and I knew that nobody would be able to guess the correct answer based on that.
We had 4 out of 6 correct answers. We still had to guess the clue at the top of the pyramid, which is always the hardest.
The top clue was, “Things You Soak.” The first thing that came to my mind was “Laundry.”
I blurted out a few more things that you soak: an umbrella,  your hair, I repeated laundry… My partner was coming closer and closer to getting the correct answer, but unfortunately, there is a certain amount of randomness in the winner’s circle. You might be able to get a person to say, “Things You Clean” or Things You Wash,” but it’s very hard to get someone to say “Things you Soak.”
At one point, I grew so desperate for her to say the right answer, I uttered the word “Soap,” as if “soap” were something that you soak. Let’s face it, you don’t actually soak your soap! 
What I was really trying to do there was to say a word that was so close to the correct answer that it might get my partner to blurt out the correct answer by accident.,
No such luck. Our time ran out., Our score in the winner’s circle was four out of six, enough to bring me $3,000 in prize money. I didn’t win the $25,000 that I could have won, but still, not bad for 15 minute’s work.
And we still had the second half of the game to play. (Of course, I was painfully aware that in the second half of the game, I would be teaming with the "dumb" celebrity. I could only hope that my opponent’s over-excitedness would trip her up again and I would return to the winner’s circle at the end of Round two for a chance at another 25 grand.)
Before we started round Two, I had a chance to chat with my new partner, the “Dumb Celeb.“ He confessed to me that the show was not going well for him. He asked if it was possible for me to give him all the clues in Round Two. I explained to him that the rules of the show dictated that he had to give me clues for the first part of round two, and then  I could give clues to him the next two times.
Round two began with the dumb celeb giving clues to me. We did ok. We got 4 or 5 out of 7 -- not bad. Then Kathleen went with the Smart Celeb. Kathleen was as excitable as ever, blurting out her answers in a high-pitched screech that made them almost unintelligible. Kathleen’s partner, the Smart Celeb, was  kind of frightened by the intensity of Kathleen’s game-playing.
Then I made the blunder that may have cost me the game. Presented with a list of categories, I picked one called “One Night in Bangkok.” I had a bad feeling about that category. I figured it could be anything from 80s pop tunes to geography, but if it was geography, I was in big trouble. It was my worst subject.
Turns out, the category was “Ingredients in Thai Food.”  I gave a disappointed look, as did my partner. Neither of us knew anything about cooking. (in a previous round, the Dumb Celeb had driven his partner crazy when he couldn’t name the TV chef who yells out “Bam!”)
The host made a joke about our total lack of confidence going into this round. I tried to rally my partner with false boast of, “We got this.” But we all knew I was just faking it.
The round started off with a couple of easy answers like “Noodles” and “Curry,” but then it quickly fell apart when I couldn’t come up with a good description for “Basil.” I knew it was  spice, but beyond that, I had nothing.
We stumbled badly over that category. So badly, in fact, that it seemed the game was over right there. My opponent picked her next category, which turned out to be “80s Pop Groups.”
I was kicking myself. That category should have been mine! I would have totally dominated it. It turned out to be very easy band names. In fact, most of the bands had names like “The Police “ and “The Cars” -- words which would be easy to describe even if your partner had never heard of the actual bands.
 It seemed like it would a slam-dunk for the girls to close the game here. But then something interesting happened. The Smart Celeb was trying to get Kathleen to name the band “Poison.” The celeb said, “If you drink this, you die." Kathleen had nothing.She frantically screamed out, "Pass! Pass! Pass!"
They finished with 5 out of seven. Suddenly I was back in the game. If I could have a strong performance in the final part of the round, I actually had a shot at winning!  I gave the clues to Lamorne. It all came together for us. We got seven for seven -- a perfect score, which is pretty hard to do when your partner is not exactly a game whiz.
Now the heat was on Kathleen. She needed to get a six to tie the game and seven to win.
Kathleen and Megyn started cranking out answers, one after another. For the first time, I counted along in my head every time she got a correct answer. She got one right. Two. Three. Four. Five. I was still winning.
Then she got the sixth one right. Now we had a tie game. There was just enough time on the clock for her to get that seventh answer and seal the deal.
 But she just couldn’t do it. I waited for the host to confirm it, but my count had been correct: she gopt 6 out of 7! Now we would have to have a tie-breaker round!
Kathleen and I would each have to name as many clues as possible beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. The two letters were N and K. I would to go first. I was asked which letter I wanted. I chose K, because I figured the K words would be easier. The were was five-minute break for a technical issue., During the break, I ran through my head as many words as I could think of that began with the letter K: Kite, Kitchen, Knife, Kill, Killer, Kitten,  etc.
The round began. As usual, I gave and my partner received. We started blasting out correct answers. “Kite” came up, as I had expected. We were really on a roll until we got to “Kayak.” I offered, “It’s like a canoe and you paddle it…”
My partner, the Dumb Celeb, knew that the answer started with a  K, but he just couldn’t think of the word “kayak.” I don’t blame him. It’s not a very common word. I had to pass on that one.
We ended up with seven correct answers in 30 seconds. Now the heat was really on Kathleen and Megyn. They needed to get 8 words in 30 seconds to beat us.
Kathleen made the smartest decision she had ever made in her life: she chose to receive the clues instead of give.
Megyn was a very strong giver. If Kathleen could just calm down and not get so excited, she might have a chance. A strange change came over Kathleen in the final round. Instead of being this Nervous Nelly, she stayed calm, cool and collected.
She wasn’t screeching out her answers any more. She played better than she ever had before. Again, I counted the answers in my head. Five, six,. Seven, tie game, could we go into double-over-time?
No. She got Eight answers for the win. My game was over. Kathleen went on to the winner’s circle with Megyn.
Lamorne and I watched from the sidelines as Kathleen tried for the big money. It turned out to be the easiest winner’s circle I had ever seen. One of the clues was “Places Where You Take your Kids.” Now, you go up to any stay-at-home mom and ask her to name “Places Where You take Your kids,” and they are going to get it right. They couldn’t have given her an easier question.
It would be like asking me to name Marvel Comics super-heroes.
Most of the other clues in Kathleen’s Winner’s Circle were equally easy. It blew my mind how easy her questions were. One answer was “Female Politicians.” All Megyn had to do was list “Hillary Clinton” and “Sarah Palin” and Kathleen knew the correct answer. They did give her a tougher one at the end -- "Types of Taxes" -- but by then, Kathleen and Megyn were on a roll, and there was no stopping them.
Sixty seconds later, it was all over, and Kathleen had just won $10,000. I was brought back on stage to congratulate her. I was happy for her, but all I could think of was, “Man, if I had gotten her questions, I could had that 10 grand easily.”
It was like a repeat of my time on THE WEAKEST LINK, where my opponent got some easy pop culture softballs in the final round and I got super-hard science and history questions.
You definitely have to wonder if the producers have a file marked “Easy Questions,” and they pull it out when  they really want a particular contestant to win.
From the perspective of an audience-member or a home viewer, you couldn’t ask for a better ending to the show. I would think most people in the audience were rooting for the pregnant girl, especially after I crushed her in round one.
Does anyone really want to watch a show where a pregnant girl gets badly beaten by her male opponent and goes home with nothing? Or would you rather see a show where the expectant mother pulls off a miraculous come-from-behind win and goes home with 10 grand?
That ending couldn’t have been any better if it had been scripted. Heck, if I was watching the show at home, I probably would have rooted for the pregnant girl, too. Every parent knows how an extra ten grand would come in handy when you have a baby.
After the show was over, Kathleen and I had a few minutes to chat. She told me that in the final round, she had just told herself to relax, and that was what led to her victory. Weird how she was just able to turn it on and off like that. If she hadn’t gotten so hysterical during the early part of the game, she would have played much better.
At any rate, she was the big winner of the day. I still got to keep the $3,000 I had won -- my third best game show win ever.
Kathleen congratulated me on my game play, calling me a great  player and a worthy opponent. Yeah, I was good -- just not good enough to win. Seems to be my lot in life when it comes to TV game shows.
It seems I am destined to be the perennial runner-up, the guy who wins a few thousand dollars, but never enough money to really impress anyone. Yes, it’s nice telling people you won $3,000, but it’s not a life-changing sum of money.
I’m really waiting for my first win of five, six or seven figures. To me, anything under ten grand is kind of chump change.
The fact is, my total lifetime wins on all the game shows I have been on is under 20 grand, and I know people who have won more than that on one show.
Pyramid was in many ways the best possible chance I had at winning big money. It was a fairly easy game for me (at least the first half). You didn’t have to answer any hard trivia questions. You just had to try to get your opponent to guess a word. Simple!
I had a lot of fun playing the game. I will never forget how good it felt to play a perfect game in the Round one, and really for the first time in my life, to know what it felt like to possibly win big money.
At the end of the day. I wound up not snatching away 10 grand from a pregnant woman, which I guess makes me kind of a hero. I like to joke that I lost on purpose because I felt bad for the pregnant chick, but anyone who knows me knows that is not true!
My performance on the actual show was virtually identical to how I played during all the practice rounds with my family.
I guess the lesson here is to know your strengths and don’t be surprised when you get tripped up by your weaknesses. For all the practicing that I did for the show, ultimately, it all came down to luck; you never know what clues you are going to get.
In my mind, I will forever go over the things I could’ve done differently that would have won me the game: If I had not picked the category of “One Night in Bangkok.” If I had gotten the 80s pop bands category instead. If I could’ve thought of any people who use a whistle besides a train conductor. If my opponent had not calmed down in the final  round. If I had gotten her questions in the Winners Circle instead of the much more difficult ones I got. If Lamorne had known what a kayak was…
At the end of the day, I have only myself to blame for my loss. Still, a  loss where you walk away with $3,000 is not a bad one at all.
I could have gone home with nothing, so it’s all a matter of perspective.
I don’t know what game show I will be on next. It seems like I’ve already been on most of them at this point. They are going to have to invent some new ones!
All I can do is train harder next time. It’s fun going on game shows and having little victories, but I won’t be truly satisfied till I hit the big money.

Monday, July 30, 2012


By Barry Dutter

In 1997, I was hired to work on a movie called MICHAEL KAEL IN KATANGO.  You’ve never heard of it? That’s because it was part of a trilogy of movies that was only released in Belgium -- and, as far as I can tell, was never released in America.
The movies starred Elliot Gould, Victoria Principal, and screen legend Mickey Rooney. (I like to say it was an all-star cast -- for 1977.)
I didn’t get to work with Mr. Gould or Miss Principal, but I was on set one day when Mr. Rooney was there. He seemed to be in a really bad mood. He never cracked a smile once the whole time I was there. He came out of his trailer, did his scenes, and then, with a  sour puss on his face, trudged back to his trailer.
Maybe he was mad because in 1939, he was the biggest star in America and now his movies were only getting released in Belgium.
I figured I had caught the Mick on a bad day. This was a guy who had been in show business his whole life. He had entertained millions, ever since he was a kid, and always done it with a  smile on his face. I mean, sure, the Michael Kael movies lacked the universal appeal of his popular Andy Hardy movies or his musicals with Judy Garland, but still, at least he was still working. That had to count for something, right?
Surely he hadn’t become some cranky, bitter old man.I had to know for sure. I pulled aside a cameraman who had been working with the Mick since the shoot began, and asked “What’s Mickey Rooney really like?”
Without missing a beat, the crew member announced, “He’s a cranky old man!”
Well, that settled that.
I guess there is a lesson to be learned here but I’m not sure what it is!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


By Barry Dutter

Regular readers of this blog know that I like to appear as a contestant on TV game shows, but I am very "old school" when it comes to the types of shows I am willing to do. Basically, I like to do shows where I get to stand behind a podium or sit in a comfortable chair and answer fun pop culture questions.
What I won’t do: any show where you are expected to perform any kind of dangerous stunt that could result in you getting injured (WIPEOUT, FEAR FACTOR, OH SIT!); any show where you have to eat disgusting things (FEAR FACTOR again, SURVIVOR); or any show where you are embarrassed or ridiculed (well, ok I did dress up in a stupid costume on LET‘S MAKE A DEAL, and I did put myself out there on a conveyor belt like a piece of meat on CONVEYOR BELT OF LOVE, but I do have my limitations!
Problem is, sometimes when you try out for a  game show, you don’t know which show you are trying out for.
That was the case recently when Iauditioned for a show called TOTAL BLACKOUT.
The casting department for that SyFy channel series had placed an ad on Craigs List looking for people who wanted to be for a fun game show that took place in darkness. I never watch Sy Fy Channel and I had never heard of TOTAL BLACKOUT.
In fact, they didn’t even tell us the name of the show we would be trying out for. But I was looking for a show for my friend, Trish, and I to do together. The ad for this show was asking for a team of two, so we figured we would give it a shot.
It was a sunny Monday morning when we headed in to the offices of Freemantle, a company known for making game shows like THE PRICE IS RIGHT and LET’S MAKE A DEAL.
Freemantle isn’t known for doing gross-out shows so we figured we would be safe.
Trish and I were led in to a small room where we met the two casting directors who were conducting the audition. There were 3 sealed boxes on a table in front of us. Trish and I were told that the lights would be turned out, and we would be asked to open each box, one by one, stick our hands in it, and try to guess what was inside.
The casting directors and cameraman were wearing infrared goggles, so they could see our every move. The lights went out.
Trish and I could see nothing. We reached our hands into the first box. We felt something furry inside, but we couldn’t tell what it was. A teddy bear? The next box held something slimy -- maybe spaghetti?
Trish reached her hand into the third box. What she didn’t know was that there was hole in the bottom the box, and a hole in the table beneath the box as well. Beneath the table was a man waiting to grab her arm. Sure enough, Trish found a man’s hand grabbing her wrist in the dark, and she let out a high-pitched scream.
The lights went back on and we all had a good laugh.
I had figured Trish would make a great game show contestant because she is very vocal. (I was told to bring the loudest person I know for the audition, and she definitely fit the bill.)  She is also very genuine in her emotions, whereas I tend to get very fake when I know there are TV cameras on me.
Overall, I thought the audition went very well. I have a dry sense of humor and Trish is more emotional so we balanced each other out pretty well.
We were given some paperwork and told to fill it out ASAP if we wanted to be considered to be on the show. These were the standard forms -- a sheet where we would supply some background info about ourselves, and a waiver preventing us from suing over anything that might happen to us in the dark on the show.
The forms had the name of the show on them: TOTAL BLACKOUT. I was curious if the show was on the air yet. I decided to do some research online when I got home.
Sure enough, there were a couple episodes of TOTAL BLACKOUT available to watch on the Net.
I only needed to watch one. And I shut it off about hallway through. The episode I watched showed contestants trying to navigate an obstacle course in the dark. It looked pretty hard.
If that was all the contestants had to do, I might have had no objection to going on the show. It was what came next that had me disgusted.
With the lights turned out, contestants were asked to stick their noses in some glass boxes and identify the item in each box -- using only their sense of smell.
Among the items in the glass boxes were: moldy old cheese, stinky sweat socks, and a man’s naked ass. That’s right, they actually had a man hiding in the box, exposing his bare ass. One by one, each contestant would stick his or her nose in the man’s ass and breathe in deep, trying to figure out that smell. (One woman actually guessed it.)
It was the type of thing that was funny to watch --as long as you’re not the one who has to do the sniffing.
I felt bad for those poor contestants. At least I had the benefit of being able to watch the show at home and making a decision about whether I was willing to put myself through that kind of humiliation.
Those hapless souls likely had no idea what to expect. They may have been the very first people to ever play the game, so there was no way they could have had known what to expect.
As soon as I saw that video online, I ripped up the contestant application. There was no way I was going to sign a release form, to let some TV producers abuse me like that. I called Trish and told her what I had seen. She agreed that it would be a bad idea to do the show, no matter what kind of money was at stake. (Contestants on TOTAL BLACKOUT compete for $25,000, but it is an elimination show which means that most of the contestants go home with nothing.)
A few weeks later, I found out that the old $25,000 PYRAMID show was coming back on, and I auditioned for that instead.
Now PYRAMID is my kind of show. You get to sit in a chair, partner up with a  celebrity, and impress everyone with your charm and wit. I would much rather make 25 grand by guessing “Sounds You Hear on a Farm” rather than sticking my snout up some gross guy’s hairy butt.
I guess then lesson here is to try to find out as much information about a show before you try out. Decide what you’re willing to do and not do. And never sign a release form unless you’re willing to face the consequences.
Because you never know what might be waiting for you in the dark. It just might be a man’s naked ass!