My eBook ‘How To Win Game Shows’ is now HALF PRICE!

Hello!

I have a bit of a special announcement for you this week. As you may or may not know, a little while back, I wrote my first eBook, which was on the subject of how to win game shows. Its title is (unsurprisingly enough) How To Win Game Shows.

And you can get it here. 

I originally priced it at $19.99 AUD, but now, for 2017, I’ve decided to chop that price in half, and just make it $9.99. The eBook is 208 pages long, and features some of the best tips from the first 2 and a half years of this blog, all distilled, organised and summarized into bite-size chapters. There’s also heaps of new exclusive content in there, that I wrote specifically for the eBook, along with quite a few random Interesting Yet Highly Unlikely Facts*, and lots of pretty pictures.

So if you’re on a quest for Game Show Glory, and you’re looking for a comprehensive reference text on the subject that’s 208 pages long, and is divided into 14 chapters and is easy to download as a pdf, so that you can read it on your iPad, laptop, Kindle or Kobo, well then….

Your requirements really are unusually specific.

But you could do a lot worse than having a look at the eBook. Just head over to www.HowToWinGameShows.com/products for all the info, and to order.

Or you can just click on this link.

Or this one.

Or even this photograph of Benny Hill in a ginger Afro

Benny Hill in a ginger Afro.

They all lead there.

Thanks for your time, the sales pitch is now over, and I’ll talk to you next week!

 

 

* Oh alright then, they’re gags.

 

 

 

Book review – ‘How To Win TV Quiz Shows’ by CJ de Mooi

cj-de-mooi-book-cover

‘How To Win TV Quiz Shows’ by CJ De Mooi

Hello, and Happy New Year, to one and all ! Here’s hoping that 2017 is happy, healthy and fun for you… and that this is the year that all your game show dreams come true.

My first post for this year is another one of my occasional game show related book reviews. Today I’m looking at the first book by former quiz show champion, and Eggheads star CJ De Mooi. It’s called How To Win TV Quiz Shows and I picked it up as an eBook a while ago from Amazon.

It’s a quick read – just 152 pages – and although it does contain some good information, I wouldn’t say it’s an essential text book on the subject. But if you’re a fan of CJ’s slightly snarky, bitchy onscreen persona, then you’ll probably quite enjoy the ride. He writes in a breezy, chatty style, throwing in plenty of his trademark sarcastic barbs along the way.

The book begins with a potted history of CJ’s personal journey – from being quiz show contestant, to being a quiz show winner, to being a quiz show regular cast member. I must confess, I found his personality a bit hard to take during the relating of his life story. A pattern seemed to emerge in this part of the book; he’d repeatedly big-note his wins, then describe his losses as ‘injustices’, while assuring the reader that he’s over them now anyway.

An example of this comes when he relates how on one game show, he was only one second away from answering the final question in a 60 second round, when the timer went off. He complains that contestants not being able to see the clock is a major game flaw, and that this is unfair. To be fair, that’s how it’s usually done, CJ.

This very personal chapter concludes with him telling us that he’s now quit Eggheads, in order to pursue his dream of acting. And he’s happy; he goes to the gym every day, moisturises, and doesn’t care in the slightest what anyone thinks of him.

Hmm….

I can’t help thinking that if he’s telling us that he goes to the gym and moisturises every day, then he cares very much what everyone thinks of him.

Chapter 2 goes through the processes of getting on to quiz shows. This is a UK-centric book, and so the practical tips are all UK-based. He breaks down the reasons that people might have for applying for game shows and goes through them in more detail one by one. There are some useful tips here, such as the middle-aged white man (a demographic that’s generally over-represented on quiz shows) being selected time and time again due to drawing a little rainbow flag on the top of his application forms. Sometimes, positive discrimination works!

This is followed by a very comprehensive account of what you can expect on a studio record day.

Later chapters see CJ interviewing some other quiz show winners; Pat Casey (winner on The Chase and Tipping Point), serial WWTBAM contestant Paddy Spooner and British and European championship quizzer Gareth Kingston. But I’m not sure if I liked the way that he did this; rather than laying things out in a question and answer format, he’s reworked the content of the interviews into a prose, indirect speech format. Along the lines of “Paddy has an illuminating point”… “Paddy mentions his six year old daughter”, “Gareth advised always going in with a game plan”, and so on. This left me wondering exactly what CJ’s interview subjects did say to him in answer to his questions, and exactly how much has CJ paraphrased their responses.

As the book comes towards a conclusion, there’s a chapter titled ‘The Future’, which contains more practical tips about the why and how of getting on game shows – how you apply, etc., etc. It’s all sound advice, but not exactly inside knowledge. He’s a great advocate of joining an organised quizzing league (such as the ones that can be found here), which I think is certainly a good way of brushing up your knowledge, and exercising those question-answering muscles. He also recommends writing quiz questions, in order to get into the mindset of a quiz question writer. I’ve always thought that this is a great tip, and we’ve mentioned it many times here on the blog over the years.

The final chapter goes into more detail about how to write questions, and contains one list that I found interesting. It’s CJ’s Top Ten Topics that you should be well-versed in, if you’re looking for quizzing success. (I think the first one may be a bit anglo-centric, but here they are:)

Continue reading

EXCLUSIVE interview with behind-the-scenes game show legend Michael Whyte – Part VIII

Michael Whyte (right) with host Eddie McGuire on the set of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?'

Michael Whyte (right) with host Eddie McGuire on the set of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’

Last week’s part of my interview with Michael Whyte ended with us discussing the poor teaching that can sometimes go on in the media industry. In a discipline where sometimes the teachers are people who haven’t quite made it in the real world of the television industry, some of the knowledge they pass on to their students can, at times, be less than authoritative….

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MW: Now, the opposite to that I think, is my son, for example. He shoots, with a digital camera, skateboarding, BMX and scootering, and he’s got his own site. He has about 15 sponsors and he shoots on a regular basis and makes short films and is now being hired by people to shoot stuff.

SH: That’s smart.

MW: Well, exactly. So when he goes to do a course like that, he’s already done the editing side of things… because he does that every day.

SH: Self-taught.

MW: And he’ll pop that up on his own YouTube channel or on his own site and he he’ll get 80,000 hits for one of those. Quite easily. So he’s got that part of it done. So the theory side of it… I don’t know if it works for him. He can actually do what people require already.

SH: Or he can be his own business, his own entrepreneur, his own TV station. And with sponsors, then you wouldn’t need to go anywhere else if you can scale it and make it bigger and bigger… and there you go. You can do what you love and get paid.

MW: Yeah. But I think if he took that to Channel 9, depending on who interviewed him, they’d say “you need a Bachelor of Communication or something like that”, whereas if you took it to a small production company and just said “Here’s what I’ve done”, they’d go “Fantastic. Go and shoot this, and I’ll have a look at it at the end and if it is any good we will give you some work”. Will it be as simple as that, you know?

SH: Is that where he sees his future?

MW: Well I think so, because he enjoys it. More and more into the extreme sports because he likes extreme sports and when he goes, he shoots. People are going “that’s really good”. He puts some music to it, chops it up and there it is. He shouldn’t have a problem getting any work – just as long as the interest is still there, he’ll be great.

SH: You mentioned a moment ago that you’re currently working on Millionaire Hot Seat, which is a version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. Do you have any tips or hints for people considering going on either Millionaire Hot Seat or Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?

MW: First of all, get off the couch because mostly people sit there and say “Yeah, I know that”. And you would have had so many people say “Yeah, I could have done that”.

SH: Ah, yes – But you didn’t, did you?

MW: It’s fine to say afterwards “Yeah, I would have got that, no problem”. It’s those people, every time we record there’s a studio full of contestants and I say to them “you were sitting on the couch, you were watching the show and your husband or your wife or your boyfriend or whoever it was said ‘Get off the couch and go and have a go… because you are driving me mad!’”

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It may sound facetious, but I think that point IS really important; you DO have to get off the couch. “Fortune Favours The Bold” may be a cliche, but it’s absolutely true. In fact, I think the point Michael’s making was perhaps expressed most eloquently in these wonderful words from the 26th American president, Theodore Roosevelt;

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Nice one, Teddy. See you next week.

EXCLUSIVE interview with serial game show contestant Vicky Jacobs – Part II

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Vicky Jacobs

Last week, in my chat with serial game show contestant Vicky Jacobs, we discussed her appearances on Greed, Temptation and Million Dollar Minute. But Vicky’s game show contestant career certainly doesn’t end there….

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SH: You’ve also appeared on Millionaire Hot Seat, whose format is very different to the original Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. What strategy did you employ – if any – to make sure your time in the actual ‘hot seat’ was as advantageous as possible?

VJ: I had lots of permutations of strategy in my head going in, but when it came to the actual day, none of them made any difference. I answered the most questions right in my episode, but with the way the day panned out, there was pretty much no chance of getting back into the hot seat. In my opinion, there’s a huge amount of luck in that game and it will only be with a certain set of events that strategy will do you much good.

SH: And most recently, you took to the stage on The Chase: Australia. How did you go, and as a former contestant, what tips or tricks would you now give any future contestants?

VJ: I had a great time on The Chase. I’d been watching the British version avidly and was busting for a chance to play myself. I knew the odds were low of going home with money – I just wanted to play! I got through to the final round – there were only two of us left – but we got caught by the Chaser, losing $22, 000. My advice would be to do everything in your power to have four people playing at the end. Chat about it when you’re hanging out backstage (they don’t seem to mind this).  And if you do get to the end, have a “passing” strategy, with a clear leader who is boss of the passing!  I think we may have squished in a couple of more questions if we had have worked something out beforehand.  Also, this is a small thing but I think could be helpful – don’t stress too much about the chit-chat bit with Andrew O’Keefe beforehand – if you say something goofy, it really doesn’t matter, just keep your head in the game.  I reckon we lost one of our players to this on the day I was on. 

SH: Vicky, obviously game shows are a recurring theme in your life, and you’ve applied and been accepted time and time again. What do you think are the keys to being selected as a game show contestant?

Continue reading

EXCLUSIVE interview with serial game show contestant Vicky Jacobs – Part I

How To Win Game Shows Vicky Jacobs

Vicky Jacobs

A brand new interview for you this week, with someone who’s “been there and done that” a number of times! Vicky Jacobs is a musician, musical director and vocal coach, but she’s also a serial game show contestant, having appeared as a contestant on at least five different game shows. In fact, it could even be said that game shows are in Vicky’s blood, being, as she is, the daughter of a genuine Sale of the Century champion. I was curious to ask Vicky about her diverse game show adventures, and whether she had any hard-won tips, drawn from her wide and varied experience.

And so I did. 

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SH: Vicky, welcome and thanks for chatting to me today for www.HowToWinGameShows.com

VJ: My pleasure!

SH: I’d like to start our chat today by hearing about your dad – you mentioned he was a Sale of The Century champion. When was that, and what did he win?

VJ: I think it was 1992. He’d won all the prizes except for the car and was playing for the car when he got beaten. It was the fifth episode they’d filmed that day and I think he was probably a bit tired and hungry by that stage. But we won heaps of cool stuff! It kept turning up at the house for months – all the game show classics: saucepans, luggage, ski gear, a home gym, a giant Garfield (still got it!) and we even got a family trip to Vanuatu… so not a bad couple of days work!

SH: How did your dad’s win change your family’s life?

VJ: I’m not sure I’d say it changed our lives significantly, but was definitely lots of fun while it was happening and a real talking point at school (I was in Year 8 at the time)!

SH: Was it your dad’s win that started your fascination with game shows? Or did you “catch the bug” later in life?

VJ: Funnily enough, Mum had actually done Sale of the Century first – she didn’t win her episode but did bring home some prizes so I think she probably gave the bug to all of us. Who doesn’t love free stuff?!  My whole family loves a game of Trivial Pursuit and are highly competitive, so it was kind of inevitable! 

SH: Which was your first game show appearance? Would that have been Greed, in 2001? How did you go during that appearance, and looking back now, was there anything you would have done differently?

VJ: I’ll start this story by pointing out that I was quite young and didn’t know much stuff in 2001. But essentially what happened was: I got a 50/50 question wrong which lost our team $100,000 and put us out of the competition. And that wasn’t the worst bit! The worst bit was being put in a room with them after I’d stuffed it up, while they filmed the rest of the episode. Small talk with strangers who hate your guts – not the funnest hour of my life! I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, as it was a luck-of-the-draw type situation: I simply didn’t know the answer. For anyone playing at home, the question was “Which of these is a currency: ‘punt’ or ‘kind’?”  I now know it’s ‘punt‘ !

SH: Then a few years later, you were a contestant on Temptation (the rebooted version of Sale of the Century). What advice and / or training did your dad give you, as you prepared to go on? After all, he’d been there and done that…

VJ: Dad told me to buy everything that was offered to me!  It was great advice for that particular competition. I was ahead for much of the game so I took everything that was offered. I got beaten in ‘Fast Money’, but when I did the maths afterwards, I still wouldn’t have won if I hadn’t bought, so it was excellent advice.

SH: And what did you end up winning on Temptation? Continue reading

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part VII

Russell Fletcher and 'Family Feud' host Grant Denyer, with the 2016 Logie award for

Russell Fletcher and ‘Family Feud’ host Grant Denyer, with the 2016 TV Week Logie Award for Best Entertainment Program!

This week’s instalment of my chat with Family Feud studio host and audience warm up man Russell Fletcher includes one of the best strategic tips you’re ever likely to get for playing Family Feud. It’s just below, and highlighted in blue bold, as all the best tips on this site always are.

See if you can spot it…

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SH: Any words of advice – or warning – for anyone who’s keen to go on Family Feud?

RF: It is really fun coming in to the studio because you will actually pick up on some of the nuance that we try and coach people about and that’s all about just staying focused and relaxed. And dealing with nerves, maybe possible strategies. Some people are learning the strategy of getting the top answer and it is a slightly difficult question, they will know the question will be difficult so they pass it over to the other side, in the hope to have time to consult. Because the only time you get to consult with the rest of your family and chat about the answers is when the answering contestants are on two strikes. SO you have that little moment to huddle together and brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm… That one! That’s the good one. 

SH: Does that often work or is it just 50/50?

RF: Steals often work. We get very few clean sweeps of questions, very seldom that Grant would be asking a question and they will get all the answers out in one hit. Very seldom.

SH: That would make sense. 

RF: Quite often a team that’s attempting to steal will also fail at stealing. There are always one or two elusive answers that people cannot get from a survey of 100 people; “Name a famous Australian desert”.

SH: The Simpson Desert.

RF: 43 of 100 people put down “Pavlova“.

SH (LAUGHS) Ha! That’s great!

RF: Yah. So some questions we can’t put to air.

SH: But that’s in the writing, not in the spoken.

RF: That’s right. That is in the written answers to the survey.

SH: But if Grant was to ask that question verbally it would be a different answer because he wouldn’t be pronouncing “dessert”, he would say “desert”. 

RF: “Name something that comes in a carton”. 

SH: Milk. 

RF: Yes. SpongeBob Squarepants…. comes in a cartoon.

SH: Oh, for goodness’ sake.

RF: Bugs Bunny.

SH: Really?

RF: Yeah. So the hardest part of the show is writing questions because I am not  a fully skilled question writer like your good self, it is a muscle that you have to adapt and you have to develop techniques for writing questions. What is going to be fun to play with? What is topical? What is going to capture the zeitgeist? It is a really inexact science. Questions that are going to be fun for Grant to ask and fun for the contestants too. Sometimes you’ll get Fast Money questions which are so easy for that family, and sometimes you go “wow, that was a hard set of questions”. And that is a really hard judgement call. I write 500/600 questions per year and that is the hardest thing to do. 

SH: Also to make it answerable enough, and not too hard and not too easy, and not too accessible and not too inaccessible. 

RF: Yes because it’s not a factoid. There are no facts, it’s not trivia. 

SH: It’s not right or wrong, it’s not yes or no. 

RF: People will answer and say the most reasonable things and it won’t be there on the survey.

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… which all just goes to show how much thought, effort and care goes into the questions you see on the show. Family Feud, like all game shows, is very much an “iceberg proposition”; we only see the 10% that’s “above the surface”. So many hours, days – even weeks – of work has already been done by the time the network delivers that half hour of TV content each night. Which I think’s really cool. 

It also goes to show the reading levels of many people auditioning for the show. Is that also cool?

Not so much. 

See you next Tuesday!

 

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part VI

 

Russell Fletcher

Russell Fletcher

Hey, I must say it was great to chat to Angela and Andrew on Weekend Sunrise about How To Win Game Shows on Sunday! If you didn’t see our brief interview, you can catch it right here. But now, back to business. And this week, as my chat with Family Feud‘s studio audience host and warm up man Russell Fletcher continues, Russell lifts the curtain on how to find out when the show will next be auditioning, the best mindset to have when playing Family Feud, and what not to say when you’re asked to name a city beginning with D…

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SH: This is the third year now of Family Feud‘s run on Channel Ten – it started in 2014?

RF: That’s right. 

SH: It’s been a big success for the network. Has it been renewed through to the end of the year?

RF: Well, we’re going up to June, but we didn’t start until the second half of 2014 so we haven’t been 2 years yet. I guess something that the wider audience might not know is that when auditions opened in May 2014, eight and a half thousand families applied and basically broke the system. Because there are only 2 or 3 producers that can work with the contestants! Everyone else has got other jobs. So we closed auditions down immediately so people who applied back then… we are still working through that number of families. That is a lot of people; that is eight and half thousand by four. 

RF: I am doing auditions tomorrow night in Melbourne and then we have Adelaide coming up very soon. And we just spent a double header this weekend in Sydney with 40 families per day. So we do meet a lot of people. That may be something that the general public might not know. We are about to finish working through that backlog of people. I think they are going to open up the auditions again too. 

SH: That’s good to know, because I did get a few questions on the Facebook page asking “how do I audition for it?” and saying “I went to the Family Feud website, and it said auditions are currently closed”… Well, now we know why. That’s huge. 

RF: It is always worth maybe emailing Fremantle or maybe having a look at tenplay because we are just about to announce that auditions will be opening. I think that would be really good fun because it almost will be like a different market, like a fresh pool of people come to the show. It is really interesting how many  different school groups, media groups who kept coming along for the records, I find that every school teacher, especially the primary school teachers actually play Family Feud with their classes. They do their own survey questions, they survey the class and they have the top answers because it is a fun way of getting to know how everyone thinks. 

SH: It is a Social Sciences exercise, I guess. 

RF: Yes, in a way. How do people think? We have a bunch of camera rehearsal questions and there is one question in there: “Name a city beginning with the letter D” and the first thing you would say….?

SH: Me? Dunedin

RF: Dunedin’s very good. That is on there.  

SH: Or Darwin

RF: Darwin’s the top answer.

SH: Düsseldorf.

RF: Düsseldorf is not zare, sadly, for za cherman peeple. Düsseldorf peeple, don’t be dizappointed. Out of 100 Australians – and I’m not saying these surveys are like Morgan Research or anything – but out of  100 Australians, “Darwin”, “Dublin”, “Dallas”, “Denver”, the greater city of “Dandenong“… Most of our contestants say Denmark. 

SH: (PAUSE) As a city?

RF: Yyyesss…. and all the camera guys know that I hate that response – because I am an atlas guy – and they go “Ooohh….” (LAUGHS) 

SH: The great city of Denmark. Knowing what you know, if you were a contestant on the show, how would you approach it?

Continue reading

Confessions of a ‘Family Feud’ warm up man… Part IV

the-kitchen-sink

Here’s Russell in his pyjamas, pouring some milk onto the floor.                                                    Note: this is not one of his ‘Family Feud’ duties.

This week, as our chat continues, Russell gives us an insight into the mechanics of contestant selection for the show, and a rundown of what those successful families can expect when they turn up to the Family Feud recording session…

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SH: Just in terms of the practicalities, for those who do get through the audition and then get called in for the studio record day, you generally record five episodes in a day. So you’ll have how many families there? You’d have a couple of spares, wouldn’t you?

RF: That’s right.  We always have standby families who are Melbourne-based families just in case the car goes off and we need two new families for the next episode, not just one. Or someone  who hasn’t been able to turn up. Someone’s been crook, a flight has been delayed for our interstate contestants, all those sorts of reasons. These standby families will get a shot at the next recording day. 

SH: They get bumped up to the top of the next record? 

RF: That’s right. Selecting people and then getting them to turn up on the record days is just a war on logistics. Who is available? Is that exact 4 people available for the record? It seldom happens, but it has happened that they’ll have to get a replacement person because they really want to play but what we told them at the end of the morning sessions in the auditions when we say, “we might not be calling all of you back. So if you haven’t had a phone call by 12:15 you aren’t coming back to play Family Feud and we hope you had a good morning. And thank you and good bye.” 

SH: Just on that – you have a morning session and presumably a lunch break?

RF: Yes.

SH: Do they just hang around?

RF: Yes, they go for a walk.  We do it in South Melbourne, they go up to the Shrine, or they go to South Melbourne Market, or go up to Southbank and come back. Generally they just go and have a coffee.

SH: And then during that break, the producers make their decisions for each family? So they will either get a call while they’re out at lunch saying “thanks but no thanks” or –

RF: No we won’t call those people who are not coming back. This is show business, Stephen – I don’t know if you know it. Sorry about your audition for that insurance commercial, Stephen…

SH: Well no – that was only just in 2012. I’m still waiting to hear… Any day now…

RF: Can you come in for some counselling? Because I can hear there is a bit of shattering in your voice… 

SH: I’ve just got something in my eye, that’s all. 

RF: (LAUGHS) It always gets a laugh. You know that showbiz rule; “don’t call us – we’ll call you”. I say that at the start of the day, at the end of the morning session. All throughout the morning session I will say that, because we say goodbye to them after the interviews. I might not see them again. So I do say to people – as they are going out the door and also at the end of the day – that they might get a call on Monday to say “Can you come in next week?” They might get a call in 3 months, they might get a call in 6 months. It’s like we develop a CIA profile on these people. 

SH: How do you mean?

RF: Just because they give their photos, what they’re like on the form. It’s a very efficient archiving system of those who are successful and those who are not successful. 

SH: So, on the day, during lunchtime, if they don’t get a call by…?

RF: I say 12:15.

SH: If they haven’t heard, you’d say…

RF: Enjoy your life. Thank you. We hope you keep watching. So that’s why I make sure that I am pretty entertaining for the first 15-20 minutes when I work with them and we have fun with those exercises that they do, doing the survey. 

SH: So on the day you record 5 episodes. Are they called there really early? Like way earlier than recording begins? Is there a bit of a wait for them?

RF: Oh yes. Some families are called at about 10 AM, and have to make sure they have 5 sets of clothes in case they go all the way. And that they (their clothes) are camera friendly. We’ve got two wardrobe people who help with that. There’s a green room they go into. Standby families are called a little bit later. We do a camera rehearsal at one o’clock and I host that as well. So I just walk them through a quick run-through for each family, where to stand for fast money, etcetera. That’s obviously for all our camera guys and technical people running the game machine. We make sure the buzzers are working and all of that stuff. It is a good little warm up for them to go “Oh, okay, this is what it is going to be like”, before we load an audience in. We coach them to be energetic with it because once the audience is in they will be shouting out “Pass” or “Play” in certain stages as well. So that is fun. I host, camera rehearsals and we just muck around and make sure it is as relaxed as possible and they don’t have to remember too much. 

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And that’s where we’ll leave it for this week. Next week, we discuss Good Contestants versus Bad Contestants, managing energy levels and the time-frame of the actual record day. And I’ll try to include a picture of Russell where he’s not ruining the carpet.

Until then!

Tales from the ‘Jeopardy!’ Rabbi…

Hello! Well, after all the excitement and publicity of last week’s big announcement (rather odd to be so celebrated for something I haven’t actually done yet), it’s now back to business as usual here at HowToWinGameShows.com.

And this week, I want to share with you an article – or a series of four articles, really – by Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman, from Westchester, New York, about his experience as a contestant on Jeopardy!

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Alex Trebek with Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman on the set of ‘Jeopardy!’

The series is entitled My Jewish Approach to Being on Jeopardy. I found Rabbi Mitelman’s perspective fascinating. I’d never seen a faith-related approach to game show contestant preparation and performance before, but his approach is far from exclusionary; these articles are chock full of ideas that can be applied by absolutely anyone who’s serious about winning game shows.

The articles are chatty and engaging, but Rabbi Mitelman is clearly someone who takes game show preparation very seriously. In the first article, he gives three great essential principles for game show success, which also happen to be great principles for the wider world, and life in general, that have also served him well in his career, and his education. They are, in essence:

1. Control what you can – and realize you don’t know how much control you have

2. Pay attention to the small — and seemingly irrelevant — things

3. Remember that remembering requires effort

Then, in the second article: How I Prepared, he discusses studying, practising, test-playing / rehearsing and buzzer technique – all pillars of a solid preparation regime. he even recommends an app called Jeopscore which allows you to keep track of your score as you play along at home. (I think it’s an Android app. I’ve searched, but haven’t had a lot of luck finding it. Please let me know if you fare better!) There are links to other great Jeopardy! resources here too, such as The J-Archive, the Anki flashcard app, and this great article by Karl Coryat.

The third article (The Lead-Up) covers the nuts-and-bolts of the online test, the audition, and receiving The all-important Call; The Call that means you’ve been selected to be on the show. This article is really more anecdotal in tone than the previous ones – it’s mainly outlining that particular part of the Jeopardy! contestant journey… although there is a mention of another training app called Knowledge Trainer, which I haven’t tried, but it does look pretty good!

The final article in the series of four – The Day Itself – chronicles Rabbi Mitelman’s in-studio Jeopardy! experience, and as such, contains spoilers. Spoilers which I certainly won’t reveal here. To find out what happens, you’ll just have to go and read it yourself!

All in all, this is a really great series of articles for anyone interested in winning game shows in general, and winning Jeopardy! in particular. As we see so often, there is so much more to winning game shows than meets the eye, and the well-prepared contestant will have the edge over the unprepared contestant each and every single time. In this series of articles, Rabbi Mitelman outlines a series of tips and hints that he used, and that anyone contemplating an appearance on Jeopardy! would do well to consider.

It’s an entertaining read, it’s jam-packed with useful tips, and I recommend it highly. So thank you again, Rabbi Mitelman, for taking the time to chronicle your Jeopardy! experience so thoroughly – I absolutely loved reading it!

“You CAN do it… because you’ve already done it.” Or ‘Sisyphus v 2.0’

Sisyphus – a King in Greek mythology, doomed by Zeus to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill, for all of eternity. According to the story, at the end of each day, Sisyphus succeeds in rolling the boulder to the top of the hill, only to watch it roll back down to its starting point, forcing him to roll it up to the top again. And so on, and so on, and so on… This myth is often used as a symbol for any futile, repetitive action. In fact, the word Sisyphean is used to refer to “a task that’s endless and unavailing.”

Bummer.

I’d like to encourage poor old Sisyphus to look on the bright side, though. Think about it; after all the times he’s rolled that boulder up the hill, he must be really, really good at rolling a boulder up a hill. In fact, if “practice makes perfect”, there’d be no one better at uphill-boulder-rolling in the entire world than Sisyphus. Now, while there’s no denying that Sisyphus’s situation is pretty frickin’ dire, at least he can take comfort in the fact that each morning when he wakes up, he’s going to be able to do what he has to do, and he’s going to be able to do it really well. He’s done it before. Heaps of times, in his case.

Which brings me to the subject of today’s post: “You can do it… because you’ve already done it.” This is a really powerful thought. And it’s a thought worth memorising and locking away, because when you revisit it at the right time, and remind yourself of it, it can give you a real boost. A case in point….

Three days ago, I went for the biggest audition of my life*.

It was for the lead role in a big new play, that’s adapted from some very well-loved original source material. I’ve never been better prepared for an audition. I learned the lines and did every bit of homework and research I could on the source material – even looking up a couple of unfamiliar words. I wanted to know the source material inside out. I recorded my lines, made them into a playlist for my iPod, and played them back to myself repeatedly, when driving, walking the dog, or just doing jobs around the house. My initial audition was on Monday. I did well enough to get through to the second round, and auditioned again on Tuesday. I did well enough in that audition to get through to the third and final round, which was on Saturday.

I did a lot of self-talk during the whole process. And one of the things I kept telling myself, like a mantra, was “you can do it, because you’ve already done it“. I had got through the first audition, I had got through the second audition – I just had to keep doing what I had been doing, and I’d be okay. It was largely a matter of doing the same thing and tweaking it.

Saturday’s final audition was a marathon – from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, performing scene after scene, interspersed with long stretches of waiting in a theatre foyer and trying not to get too chatty with the 6 other actors who were going for the role I so desperately want. They were my competition. I didn’t socialise with them. I wrote notes in my notebook, I put my iPod on, and just kept myself to myself. I didn’t want to buy into any conversations, potential mind games, or give too much of myself away.

Having said that, from time to time I did try to listen to their conversations, to see what pieces of intel I could pick up about the day’s proceedings, about how well they thought they went, and any other useful nuggets of information. In this way, I discovered:

  • The day of auditions I was attending was the one and only day of final auditions. (This was good news, as I had previously understood that there were 2 days of final auditions, and this was the second one. This would have meant there’d have been twice as many people going for “my” role.)
  • One of my competitors didn’t bother to learn the lines of the 3 additional scenes they’d sent us 2 days before the audition.
  • That same competitor said during his auditions, he saw the big boss doing a crossword. (This was good news for me, as I had the big boss’s full attention during my auditions)

“Well, that’s all well and good and fine and dandy, Stephen”, I hear you say, “but how does all this relate to game shows and game show strategy? Hmm?”

Well, much like a game show, last Saturday’s audition was a competitive situation. I had opponents. And I had to share a waiting room with them for quite some time. I had to wait, to manage my energy levels. When called upon, I had to bring my A-Game, I had to perform in short bursts in a high-pressure, competitive situation. And I had to do it repeatedly, between 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM.

So some of my own game show training came in handy. I approached it as I approached my run on Temptation. Although they gave us an hour-long break for lunch, I had brought a couple of muesli bars in my bag, just to help with blood sugar levels. At about 11:00 in the morning, I saw one actor – who hadn’t been called in to audition yet – duck out of the foyer to go and get something to eat; he was “starving”. One minute after he left the building – you guessed it – he was called in to audition. He wasn’t there, so they bumped his audition time back to later in the day. More stress, more suspense for him. And completely avoidable, if he’d just packed some snacks beforehand.

If you’ve auditioned for a game show and got through that initial interview, and you’re about to appear on the game show for real, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”. If you’re on the game show, and you’ve won your first episode, and you’re about to play your second episode, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”Or your third episode, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”Or your fourth episode, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”. Or your fifth, “You can do it… because you’ve already done it”.

This mantra was exactly what I told myself each time I stepped up to the plate during my 7 night winning streak on Temptation.

This mantra is what I tell myself now, as I tweak and revamp my iPhone app Step-By-Step-Story, for a Version 2.0.

On game shows just as in life, once you’ve actually got the ball rolling from a dead stop, you’ve already done the hardest part. Once you’ve got some momentum happening, a large amount of the work is already done. I think we need to remind ourselves of that sometimes. We are all capable of achieving truly great things – and once you’ve taken that all-important first step, you’re on your way. So take that step!

* At the time of writing, I haven’t heard back as to whether I got the part or not. In case you’re curious, I’ll let you know what the audition was for when the results have been announced. 

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Next week, I’m very pleased to present the first part of my first ever interview with a real live game show creator! I was excited to get a chance to talk to this person, since I’ve never interviewed someone who actually invented a game show before! “But which game show is it?” I hear you cry, “and who is this game show creator of which you speak?”, I hear you ask, in an unnecessarily formal fashion. All will be revealed next week. Just as my eBook How To Win Game shows (still available at the special price of $19.99 AU) will be revealed** if you click this link. See you next Tuesday!  

** This has been the latest in my series of ludicrously tangential eBook plugs at the end of my weekly post. Thank you.