Almost six months after I originally taped my episode of GSN’s trivia bowl The Chase, I can now divulge what’s crossed my mind at least once a day since that dank August afternoon: I won $38,000 and sneered like Tallulah Bankhead’s spoiled barista nephew as I did it! It was a thrilling day of questions, answers, nervous energy, and salty badinage. (The show’s resident trivia god Mark Labbett — a.k.a. The Beast — and I exchanged a few quips during the game). Precisely what I wanted out of my game show experience. You’ll be able to catch reruns on GSN for quite awhile.
It’s been a long time coming, my game show debut. Ever since I was a toddler watching reruns of Split Second, Name That Tune, and Tic Tac Dough on the USA Network, I’ve wanted to be a game show contestant. Competitive people like to show off, and game shows allow you to do it on neon sets with buzzing audiences and apocalyptic sound effects. It can be glorious. Of course, game shows can also be un-glorious, and when you sign up to appear on your favorite quiz series, you’re setting yourself up for some potential embarrassment. I’ve always been aware of and allured by that risk, and even though I ended up winning The Chase with my two tremendous teammates, my takeaways from the decadent adventure have been both fabulous and a little sobering.
1. Before you go on a game show, get used to the sound of your own voice.
Recording Weeklings! and Verbal Vogueing has acquainted me with the sound of my own speaking voice. And thank God. This may sound like a meager point, but I think it’s very beneficial for everyone to cope with how they speak before they appear on camera. I remember cringing as a kid listening back to my “radio” show on cassette tapes, and I’m only cool with my normal voice now thanks to hearing it constantly. Competing on a game show means you’re going to sound stressed, relieved, exuberant, and sometimes angry. Being accustomed to your own voice is the key to watching it all back and tolerating it.
2. Chase host Brooke Burns looks like a young Jane Fonda.
Don’t worry, I told her this. They edited it out on camera, but I definitely said it. Phew.
3. The Beast is easily 6’6 or taller.
Here’s the Beast with my team in what looks like a photograph from Weekly World News. GIANT TRIVIA BANDIT MAKES STATESIDE ATTACK. The name “Beast” sounds overdramatic, but in fact it’s one of the few available words we have to describe someone of this staggering build.
4. Even if you win, your wrong answers can haunt you for months.
Before we filmed our episode, I wandered around the contestant cloister, fiddled with my bow-tie like a meth-addled Bill Nye, and kept thinking about The Piano. Don’t ask why. You read this site. You know our nostalgia gets random. Here were some scattered thoughts I had about the 1993 prestige pic: “Jane Campion! Wonder if she knows Lina Wertmuller?”; “No one talks about that Anna Paquin performance; we wasted that Oscar”; “I have no reason to think about Harvey Keitel ever again.” Charming, urgent insights. That’s why I was astounded during “the final chase” when Brooke Burns read the question, “In what country does the movie The Piano take place?” Uh, well! What luck! So I rang in and answered Australia.
That’s not where The Piano takes place. Jane Campion is based in Australia, but the movie takes place in her native New Zealand. I knew that. I knew that! How could I have guessed anything else? That’s the real thrill and horror of trivia: If you’re expected to answer questions quickly, you can misremember your fundamentals.
5. Your wrong answers about gay-specific areas of interest can REALLY haunt you for months.
I blew a couple of other gettable questions, notably a Golden Girls Emmy query where the answer was Betty White, not Bea Arthur. Ugh! I know and knew that the top three Emmy-winning actors of all time are cast members from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. (Cloris Leachman is pole position with eight wins). Why would I say Bea? The clue mentioned the 1970s, and I immediately thought of Maude. See? Dumb. Why didn’t the enduring power of my homosexuality save me?
6. Your personal obsessions can help you win money.
I got a question correct about Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Have I read that book? No. But I’ve seen the movie since it stars my king-of-kings Anthony Perkins. How fancy is that? Being obsessed with a comely male movie star has bolstered my knowledge of early 20th century literature. This should be a life-affirming moment for everyone here.