This week, I’m posting highlights of Part 2 of my interview with Michael Pope, where he talks about his time as Executive Producer on Bert’s Family Feud. This was a great discussion, and contains loads of useful tips for anyone wanting to be a contestant on Family Feud. We covered a bit of ground here, so I’m going to break it in to two parts, and post the second part of this discussion next week. The entire interview will be in my forthcoming eBook How To Win Game Shows, but for now, here’s the first part of my Family Feud discussion with Michael Pope.
SH: I’d like to move on now Bert’s Family Feud. Of course, Family Feud is a format that is running all over the world, so I think everyone’s pretty much familiar with the format; one family versus another family in responses to surveys. You were involved in the selection of the contestants and families through the audition and interview process. Could you talk about the sort of things you were looking for in families applying to go on?
MP: Yeah. The thing that I would say to contestants – and it’s applicable for The Price Is Right or Millionaire or Deal Or No Deal or any of them – is to be yourself, but on a really good day. What the auditioners are NOT looking for is someone saying “Oh, sorry I’m late. Jeez, the traffic was crap, wasn’t it? Whoa, you’re holding these auditions really far out, aren’t you? And this is right at dinner time.”
BUT we can smell a put-on kind of “Oh, I’m having the best day and this is fabulous!” and all of that kind of bullshit. We want to see the genuine you, because the game show – if it’s a good game show – takes the contestant through a number of different emotional states, many of them unexpected, and so you hope to see a real person reacting to a real situation. And so at the audition, we want to get an inkling of who the real person is.
If you’re the kind of person who brings negativity into a space let alone a job interview or an audition, we certainly wouldn’t want them on the show.
I was talking just the other day to Michael who auditions for Millionaire and he says
“Okay, you’ve got a minute to impress me. I’ve seen 10 000 contestants; why should I get you?” And do not sit there and say “Hi, I’m a 44 year old teacher, I’ve got 2 kids, I live in…”, cause that’s all written down on their form. So the ones who jump out to him are the ones who talked that opportunity and say something surprising, reveal something of themselves. Or do something that isn’t rattling off information.
SH: I remember when I was interviewing people for Shafted, we had a little quiz as part of the audition process and one of them came up to me and said “Gee, these questions are stupid, aren’t they? No really they are. They’re stupid, aren’t they? Cause how could you get that?”
And I said “Erm, would you like to be on the show?”
“Oh. Ah, yeah, yeah! But, No but really the questions are stupid, aren’t they?”
And she didn’t realise that I was involved in the decision-making process. But then she did and was very, very contrite… but I don’t think she got on.
MP: I don’t think she got on. Family Feud has the unique situation where “the contestant” is actually a family and so what we were looking for from them is everything I just said… but you could maybe get three out of the four. So long as you had three people who as individuals you would cast, we could do with the lame uncle who’s a bit more quiet and reserved because we know that A) he’ll rise to the occasion with his family around him but B) there isn’t much time. If you divide the contestants’ time from 2 teams – 8 individuals – by the amount of actual interaction, you can cope with one… lame dog.
And so you put the focus back onto them (the family) as a unit. We’d ask questions like “how often do you guys get together?” And if they say “Oh we haven’t seen each other for 6 months”, you’d go “Nah, forget it”. If they say “every Sunday we go around to Mary’s house and she cooks up this awesome big Italian soup thing and the cousins are there, and-” you go “Right, we’re onto something”. Because people who are comfortable with each other and have a close bond, that’s what you want to see on Family Feud.
SH: And I guess if they have comfortable banter, and even rib each other a bit, that’s all good stuff, isn’t it?
MP: And so you would say… “so, of the four of you, who’s the cleverest?” and they go “She is!” “Oh no, I am!”, and all that.Or “of the four of you, who works the hardest in your own job?”, etcetera, and see how they deal with that. So we’re looking for that 14-18 year old spirit of ribbing each other and having a bit of fun, rather than all very polite adults.
SH: The families that did best on the show; what stood out about them?
MP: Well, you don’t win on the show just by being a nice unit. You actually win by being in sync with the answers. And so that I think requires a different brain, which is… to not edit yourself; to say the first thing that comes into your mind. But having said that, live a normal life. I’m thinking of an individual who was a very bright person, who would do brilliantly on Millionaire but lived in a very rarefied environment and just bombed at Family Feud. Because he didn’t know the name of a dog.
“Give me the name of a dog.”
He’d go “What? We don’t have any pets”.
And we might leave that there for now. Next week, I’ll post the remainder of the conversation, where Michael discusses the types of questions they have on the show, the show’s host, and some of the biggest winners. That’s next week, see you then!