“Hey, who wants to be a millionaire?”
Some jackass at the Replay Lounge asked me that question last night after this article appeared in the Lawrence Journal-World. Hell yeah, I do. Are you kidding? Who doesn’t want to get paid a huge some of money for putting all that (formerly) useless movie trivia to work? Today is my first appearance on Netflix Millionaire Movie Week on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Click here to find out what time it is showing in your area. In my neck of the woods, it’s on at 2:30pm and 4pm.
Last year my friend Jill Ensley convinced me that it was worth getting off work early to drive up to a car dealership in Kansas City and try out for “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” At first, I thought she was crazy, because I really don’t know enough general trivia to get on that show. (This was proved when I didn’t pass the regular test later that afternoon.) But then she told me they were also testing for Millionaire Movie Week, where all the questions would be about movies. That changed everything.
Long story short– My boss Kim let me off work early (thank you!), I went to KC, passed the movie test, and here I am today. Or, there I was in the Hot Seat in October of last year, rather. I’ve been silent about what happened on the show, but I can’t wait for my friends and family to see it so that I have no more secrets to keep. Meredith was amazing. She was totally encouraging and everyone who works on the show were awesome as well– they really want you to win tons of cash. I met a whole batch of cool movie-geek contestants, and had a great time.
Start this video at 2:00 in to see one question right, then my ultimate downfall.
Watch Meredith read the question that tripped me up here.
Okay, so I’m not a millionaire. But I’ll take being a $25,000-aire any day. I kept telling myself over and over that I wouldn’t risk anything unless I was absolutely sure, and yet, there I was, risking huge amounts of money while trying to hold on to lifelines for later. I guess that’s why they call it a “game” show. It wouldn’t have been fun to watch someone guess everything right away and then stop when he didn’t know them anymore. Those third tier questions are designed to make you think and rethink and sweat and think some more.
One thing I noticed, but not nearly as much as when I was sitting in the Hot Seat, was how dry my mouth was. I was drinking lots of water backstage to try and compensate for it, but my mouth was dry as hell. Sometimes the body just reacts to things a certain way, and nothing I could do mentally seemed to control it. My lips were sticking to my teeth and I was licking them and moving them around and making weird faces.
The other thing I noticed is when Meredith told me I won $50,000 after a long, protracted battle with myself (where I pictured Alfred Molina in a snow speeder on Hoth fighting Imperial walkers), I went a little nuts. She did that disappointed “awww” thing to sink my spirits for just a second and then told me I was right. I screamed like a little girl and put my hands on my head. That was funny.
Meredith was hilarious. She’s so good at being charming and keeping everything moving. When the 50/50 thing didn’t go my way, she insisted (like the producers earlier) that it was a random computer program, and when the audience groaned, her reaction was very funny. She even did the “rock fist up” and the “Swiss fist” with me! She’s 100 percent on the contestant’s side, but when I was weighing my decision to go for $100,000, she egged me on there as well. She knows how to squeeze the most amount of tension out of these situations. I was worked up just watching it again, and I already knew what happened.
What a surreal exerience this whole thing has been. You have to embrace how strange life is, I think. Standing in my ripped up Chuck Taylors and shorts while sharing an elevator once with Celine Dion’s husband (René!) who was dressed to the nines and serious as a heart attack was so funny, I was giggling while he was still standing next to me. On one side, a multi-millionaire. The other, a scrubby kid who lives out of a van.
Opening for Miguel Ferrer and Ed Begley, Jr.’s rock band in Santa Monica during the grunge explosion of the early 90s was so exciting, that backstage I forgot what a bottle opener was. Thanks to my good pal Miguel, I had an open bottle of beer in no time. Most celeb sightings and stories I hear are about big stars and the like. I mean, I just interviewed Will Ferrell two weeks ago. But how many people can say that they opened up for a band fronted by a “Twin Peaks” cast member and the drummer for Spinal Tap?
Sitting on the set of a game show with dramatic sound effects, roving spotlights and cameras, and an audience that’s building up your confidence and cheering you on to act like a bigger and bigger imbecile ranks right up there with those surreal experiences. Getting the show’s host to make silly hand gestures that you made up with your friend one day in your living room is priceless.
What’s even more bizarre is that, when it was all over and I got my TV-sized fake check (they give you the one with your name and a million dollars on it, too, just for posterity), I was suddenly on a sidewalk in New York City, outisde the ABC studios, looking at Central Park. All my friends in NY were still at work, so I strolled on over there and spent the next hour and a half just walking around with a big grin on my face knowing that life had just thrown me another wild curveball. And why not?
It’s a good thing I decided to ask my boss if I could leave early that day in July last year.