We were channel surfing last month and settled on a familiar-looking contestant on the GSN game show Lingo. Sure enough, it was Matt DeNoto, former WOW coworker, rock star, wordsmith, and avid high-fiver. We got him on the phone and asked him to relate the experience in five letters or more. He writes:
$5,000 for 30 minutes’ work. Now I know how hookers feel. And not the crappy, street corner hookers with a three-item menu and a rubber hose hanging from the arm. Classy ones. Recently, my roommate Greg and I competed on an episode of Lingo, the Game Show Network program where two teams try to guess five-letter words.
Of course, it isn’t just 30 minutes of work. You have to arrive early, review the legalities, and go through the highly scientific process of pulling a numbered ping-pong ball out of a bag to determine what team you’ll be competing against. Then you learn how to introduce yourself (never say “hi”) and the proper method for pulling out a Lingo ball and announcing the number to the camera (always reach across with your outside arm, don’t look down, swirl once and pull). Then your team is put in a small waiting room with a dry-erase board (so you can do some last minute practicing).
As it is with most things on TV, the set looks smaller in real life. There’s no studio audience, just Chuck Woolery sitting back behind the cameras strumming his guitar. Greg and I are brought to our podium to wait. And we wait and we wait. We begin chatting with the crew and the opposing team. A pair of young, good-looking girls, the perfect adversaries for a pair of young, good-looking guys. We discover that the girls are actually girlfriends, and that they plan on introducing themselves as such. One will say, “I’m Sarah, I’m a grad student. And this is my girlfriend.” So Greg looks at me and says, “Do you want to be boyfriends?” He checks with the girls to make sure it’s cool with them. (Why wouldn’t it be?)
Who Greg doesn’t check with is the producers. Apparently it’s not cool with them, because after the taping begins, and Greg introduces me as his boyfriend, someone yells “CUT!” A woman wearing a headset and carrying a clipboard comes over and tells us to be roommates, like we were in rehearsal. She then tells the girls that they’re just friends. That’s right. Greg and I fully de-gayed the show. Whoops.
The game begins. They want a lot of energy, a lot of celebrating and personality. But I’M there to win! Not to dance around wagging my arms! I need to concentrate! So I take all my celebration cues from Greg, who actually seems to be having fun.
Greg and I don’t have cable, so we’ve never actually seen the show. If we had, we might’ve understood the rules a little better. In a moment of confusion over who is supposed to be guessing, I blurt out the answer during the girls’ turn. Chuck rebukes me, the girls get the points.
Despite being down 200 to 50 at the end of the first round, Greg and I manage to pull through and win. Five grand to split between the two of us. And thank goodness. If we’d lost I’m sure I never would’ve heard the end of that whole “giving away an answer” thing. (Watch the clip)
– Matt DeNoto