Getting the chance to go head to head with TV's so-called "Queen of Mean" is not as easy as it looks.
Just ask the people auditioning Thursday and Friday in Miami for The Weakest Link, the NBC game show hosted by Anne Robinson.
The auditions started at noon Thursday at the Doubletree Biscayne. The throngs of people waiting, each with a number taped to his or her chest, came from every walk of life. Some brought their babies. Some were dressed in power suits. A man wore his U.S. Marines uniform in an attempt to stand out. And this is the place where you want to stand out.
Many said they were there on a dare from either a spouse or from coworkers - you know, the ones who know all the answers to the Who Wants to be a Millionaire questions. Others were game show tryout junkies - people who have failed in their bid to get on any game show.
Then there were the ones who wanted to meet Robinson.
"I'd say, 'I'm so glad to be here, but don't be so mean,'" one hopeful said about confronting the British game show host.
On a first-come, first-served basis, the wannabe contestants each received a number and a questionnaire to complete. The questionnaire required contestants to describe who they are and what they do, as well as to add some interesting tidbits about themselves. They also needed to answer some Link-type questions to test their knowledge.
Groups of 125-plus people were then led into the Grand Ballroom. The group was narrowed down to 28 people based on their questionnaire responses.
Finally, the fun part. This selected group was lead into another room, where the lucky few got to shine. Brought up to the "question" table in groups of seven, each person was briefly interviewed on camera.
One group included two members of the media: the editor-in-chief for Cracked magazine and a freelance entertainment journalist, who also ran a self-esteem seminar.
When asked why he was auditioning, the entertainment journalist said he wanted to meet Anne Robinson.
"She's my hero," he replied.
The group also included an attorney, a 52-year-old housewife and a 67-year-old game show veteran. Wearing a bowtie, the veteran had competed four times on Jeopardy, including during the Tournament of Champions. He had won a total of $50,000 on Jeopardy. He said he was tired of qualifying for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and never making it onto the ABC game show.
Lastly, there was a married couple. The husband said he enjoyed embarrassing his wife in public. Robinson would likely have a field day with these two.
After the interviews, the group played a mock game, with questions fired off in two rounds. Carefully planning your strategy is the key to not being voted off as the weakest link - that, and of course, answering the questions correctly. At the end, they had to decide who was the weakest link and put forth legitimate reasons. In this round, the Cracked editor-in-chief was voted off for his apparent lack of knowledge.
The auditions in Miami were part of a search group that started in Atlanta and Nashville and will continue in Dallas, according to contestant coordinators Diona Pavinski and Harve Selsby. There also is a second search group working its way through New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee. The search groups are recruiting contestants for shows to be taped later this month. This wide search also creates a contestant pool, which can be dipped into for later tapings. Although the ratings are slipping a little, NBC has picked up 13 more episodes of The Weakest Link.
Prospective contestants in Miami were told that if they are not contacted within six months, chances are pretty slim they will face Robinson's line of questioning.
The business of auditioning game show contestants can be rather interesting, Pavinski said. People sing, dance, wiggle their ears and do just about anything to stand out, she said.
Selsby has selected contestants for many years, most recently for Comedy Central's Win Ben Stein's Money. He remembered when one contestant hopeful showed up to audition for Win Ben Stein's Money dressed in a clown costume. The man was politely told he couldn't wear the costume in the audition and left. He showed up a few days later in front of the studio, holding a picket sign saying the show was unfair to clowns.