Who wanted to be a Millionaire?

I have discovered that I am not cut out for rejection.

And no, I haven’t been dumped by a lover or told I am not wanted by a prospective employer.
On Sunday I auditioned for Who Wants to be a Millionaire New Zealand and failed to make it past the first hurdle.

I’d never tried out for a game show before so I was entering virgin territory when I hopped on the TVNZ website and registered as a potential contestant. I didn’t give it another thought until I received an email telling me that I had made it to one of the Christchurch auditions.

That’s when I began to spend the million dollars in my head. I imagined my partner and I swanning around Melbourne where the show is to be filmed and had even picked out my three ‘phone-a-friends’. I refused to enter into any negative thinking. Of course I was bright enough to pass the general knowledge test. And when I got through to the interview stage how could the producers refuse my dazzling (if somewhat crooked) smile and game-winning personality?

All I had to do was get through the audition. How hard could it be?

I turned up at Canterbury University and joined the long queue standing in light drizzle outside the lecture theatre. As we snaked our way inside for the audition the mood was friendly. One of the guys in front of me was an old hand at this game show thing. He had already made it into the contestant pool for Wheel of Fortune, but didn’t like his chances of actually getting on the show. “I don’t think my photo will pass the test,” he said. (The producers use photos of people in the contestant pool to help them decide who makes the final cut). “You never know mate,” said his helpful friend. “I’ve seen some pretty ugly people on that show.”

As it turned out the friend was lucky to make it past the registration desk himself. He had forgotten to RSVP to the show’s producers and hadn’t bought along his passport. He even had to cadge a pen to complete the audition’s written test. But as the father of fairly new twins he could quite fairly claim ‘baby brain’ as his excuse.

As I waited in the packed lecture theatre for a 30 question multi-choice quiz to begin the Australian producer told us that we had made the audition from tens of thousands of on-line applicants and that we shouldn’t be too upset if we didn’t make it to the next stage. We could always apply for the next season of the show (if there is one) he said. How comforting.

The quiz began. Each question was projected onto large screens at the front of the theatre and we had 20 seconds to answer each one. In Millionaire style, the questions were reasonably easy at the start, but became increasingly more difficult as the quiz went on. By half way through I had given up trying to make educated guesses. The questions were hard and I knew it would be sheer luck if I got most of the answers right.

We swapped our sheets for marking. Just four people managed 26 correct answers out of 30. Only the top 40 people (in the case of our audition everyone who scored 21 and over) made it to the next stage – face to face interviews with the show’s producers. I scored 20.The young woman in front of me had made the drive up from Twizel for the audition but was philosophical about not making it through. “I’ll have a bit more time for shopping now.”

So that was that. As I walked out of the lecture theatre I felt like I had a big neon-lit ‘L’ for loser sign above my head. The buzz before the audition was replaced with disappointment for the great majority of us who didn’t get the opportunity to wow the production team with our sparking wit and personalities. I saw Wheel of Fortune guy and the twin’s Dad leaving the theatre too.

With the benefit of hindsight (and several wines) I have managed to convince myself it was a good thing that I didn’t make it to the next stage. I didn’t have to try and hide my crooked smile in the photo that the producers take of potential contestants and I have apparently saved my 10 year old son a great deal of embarrassment. Last week he had quietly voiced his concerns about my possible appearance on the show to his 13 year old sister.
“What if Jason Gunn ends up being the host and he’s really funny so he would make Mum laugh and then she would end up doing that really horrible ‘haw haw haw’ laugh that sounds like a horse and that would be so embarrassing.”

He won’t have to worry now. And what of that lost potential to win a million?

Well, there’s always Lotto.