If Freakonomics is where a “rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything,” my journey to the Let’s Make a Deal stage was Freakylawyernomics- where “a not-so-rogue lawyer uses statistics, kindness and knowledge about Wayne Brady to win on Let’s Make a Deal.”
My friends may have thought I was a little crazy. Sure, lawyers getting to meet Judge Judy is one thing, but do we really want to dress up and go on a game show? As they say, when in Rome… I mean, Hollywood…
Curious about how Let’s Make a Deal works? So was I. I first read everything I could about other contestant’s experiences. There are great blogs like this one written by a former fellow winner. Take a break and study up.
The studio audience
Here is where statistics start. There are about 200 people in the audience. Of that, most people have 2 to 3 people in their group. So that means there are 50-100 groups to choose from, as the show isn’t going to separately select two people from the same family or group for different segments. Then, there are some people who are brought in who seem to be otherwise ineligible- they are interns, paid by the show or otherwise not among those who are random members of the public.We saw some people coming in and they handed them costumes just to blend in. There are some in the crowd who are wearing inappropriate costumes and others who simply aren’t “LMAD material.”
As 6-10 people are selected each show, it is still a long shot, but crunching the math, you have a better shot at being selected than you think if you have personality and a decent costume. You’ll never be satisfied just watching others win.
This is easy. It starts with a visit to On Camera Audiences website. The show also broadcasts a telephone number. They allow you to essentially RSVP to a future taping of the show. As a longtime fan of Let’s Make a Deal, Monty Hall and Wayne Brady, I thought it would be a fun thing to do on a trip to Los Angeles. It’s surprisingly easy to be in the audience with a little forethought. Tapings are usually in the spring and summer, so don’t expect to have a winter’s ball on the show.
I’d suggest picking the first taping available on the day you plan to go. They film multiple shows per day, so you can multiply your chances to come back to a later show while already conveniently decked out in costume. We attended the first taping that morning and did not get selected, but were placed in the front. We just missed the cut-off for the second show, as we were last to file out of the studio and people line back up to get in. We then were invited back for the third taping. Some people attended all three tapings that day. They say those who come back stand a greater chance. I agree. After all, I appeared as a contestant on my second of two shows I attended. With a little flexibility, you’ll be back.
Here are photos from our morning show appearance where we were not selected:
You unquestionably increase your odds of being a contestant by being someone the producers have on a list by following a few simple suggestions:
Now that you have tickets, you need to begin planning how to dress to impress. I picked out (a fellow lawyer’s) duds which would give me a good chance to be noticed. We told our stories while genuinely being nice to people and having fun.
We spent some time researching local LA costume shops, as I wanted to go with something Alexander Hamilton themed. I am: (1) a fan of Hamilton (the musical) and (2) knew Wayne Brady played Aaron Burr, Sir in Chicago’s run of Hamilton. It was an easy way to identify with him, give him something he could improv about and otherwise give me something relatable to discuss with producers, which showed I had interest and passion for the show. It was also a very fun costume to wear. That seemed to be the trend with people selected.
The inventory at Heritage Costumes is awesome and made the experience more fun. I highly recommend them. They even stayed open a little late for us, as we went directly there from the airport. We had a morning taping the next day. You can certainly make something at home or rent or buy something at the little shop where you sign in, but we wanted to stand out and have a bit more of a professional look without looking like we were extras from the stage production. We made a “Let’s Make a Duel” sign and bought some nerf guns (which were confiscated). We received lots of compliments and had plenty to talk about with fellow contestants.Make sure to bring a right hand man- our costumes matched and fit a theme, which is common with contestants of the show.
What’d I miss? Avoid trademarked costumes. Mickey mouse is on another network, as is spongebob. They will try to hide those with trademarks and logos with stickers or put those folks in areas cameras don’t usually film. They certainly won’t select candidates which will create issues for their legal department if they don’t have to.
Scary or provocative also don’t play well on a family show. Say no to this.
Be kind and respectful
What comes next? You walk in and go through a bit of an assembly line- giving information, having a photo taken, getting your assigned number and otherwise signing a contract and release. You don’t know who is in charge of making decisions at this stage. Be nice to everyone. Don’t be obnoxious, but say hello. Show interest. Tell jokes or sing a little tune within your group. Dance. Do you. If you’ve seen the show, they like people with personality. You can show you are interesting without being solely self interested or annoying. Decisions are being made at all times.
You will then line up in a group of 10-20 people and be interviewed for 30-180 seconds. Again, be relatable. This is them gauging how you’d do when called up on stage. How are you one-on-one and how do you handle awkward surroundings? If you are tired and disinterested, you probably stand a fat chance of being selected. Make sure to smile and maybe point out something interesting or a short joke between you and your friends. You will still have a blast if this isn’t for you or if you just want to watch the show, but you make your own luck. Not being charismatic here will leave you helpless.
Again, you never know who is watching, including possibly with other planted contestants. We were pretty sure some fellow contestants were affiliated with the show. One security guard asked one of the contestants about whether she should let our nerf guns in as if he knew her well. It was a weird moment. I am not certain of this, but if you look at everyone there as having power to decide your fate as a contestant, you certainly will be noticed. If nothing else, it shows you are real. That’s what they want. History has its eyes on you.
After the brief interview, they take solo and group photos of everyone. You can purchase these. I suspect they get associated with a file or make sure you won’t have a wardrobe malfunction, as they want you to pretend you won. Have energy if you want to be a contestant. Stay alive.
After a short bus ride, you will enter the room where it happens and be assigned a seat. Cameras are always facing the audience. Producers are making decisions based on how you act. Have fun, dance and have energy. Non-stop. Seating doesn’t matter. I was selected from literally the last row behind Jonathan Mangum.
Don’t wait for it. Have fun during commercial breaks. This is where their list turns of interesting audience members turns into contestants. Once selected, again, be respectful of the process and Wayne. Let him make the deals- don’t ask him for more than he offers or be rude or seem disinterested. They will have you sit back down. The shows don’t air live, so they can edit what they need to.
You know they are coming. The good news is even those zonked get $100. Luckily for me, there was a zonk right before I had to choose between $1000 and curtain #1. The odds were in my favor. Getting zonked would burn.
See Don’ts or SeaDoos
See, don’t take yourself so seriously. You are on a gameshow. Have fun with it.
My shot: I was selected along with two ladies who were prompted to guess my age. Wayne took my driver’s license and gave me $1000. Although I was dressed to look well over 200 years old, powdered wig and all, they both guessed 46. I was 42. They guessed the same thing, which was interesting as he acted like it was a surprise even though the cue cards prompted as if they picked the same age. It made no difference to the game or me and it gave both of them a chance to win. At the end, one of the prizes was bottles of gravy, a zonk, which Wayne and Jonathan drank, as they sometimes do. I made a joke about “that’s why they call it a gravy train,” which was a hit.
After a terrible attempted song and some back and forth with Wayne, I got the option of $1000 or the curtain. I took the curtain. My fate was behind that curtain- who lives, who dies, who tells your story?
Photos from show (more coming soon):
I won a SeaDoo and they invited me to hop on and have Alexander Hamilton ride off through a hurricane of winning.
A lot of the games- particularly the games where a car is a prize -involve statistics. Keep in mind what is being offered versus the chance you have to move forward successfully. For some, a 20-33% chance at winning a car is worth taking. However, cash is king. It is a lot easier to pay taxes on money than a bedroom set you never wanted. A trip is often priced at higher rates than what you could buy them and will be a distant memory one day. A family of 5 may not be able to run off for a week in Bali. People often play the game based on prize value, but they should play it based on what they want or need. If you live in an apartment, $1000 is probably far better than a $5000 sauna package.
B.D.O.D. – Big Deal of the Day
The person with the most valuable prize gets to trade it in for a chance at the Big Deal of the Day! Even Jimmy Buffett wrote a song about picking between doors numbered 1, 2 and 3:
Why should you stop playing statistics after you win once? You have a 33 1/3% chance at getting a prize worth $20,000 – $35,000. Yet, you have double that chance to wind up with a more random prize worth $2000-$5000, generally. My prize was perfect. A jet ski for a guy who lives in Florida? It’s like they planned it. My family had just traded in some jetskis for a boat and I frankly missed mine. Not only was it something I wanted and could use (or could easily sell), the $9000 prize value was statistically not worth the risk.
As I second-guessed getting another stab at being on national television and having more fun with Wayne Brady, my 18th-century co-counsel buddies, Reid and Phil, advised me to hold fast with the SeaDoo as I already had a valuable prize and a great story to tell. My friend Phil, quoting Ben Franklin, expressed “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” It was sound advice indeed. I still played out the moment as if I was deciding.
After the show
No matter what prize you won or whether you got to sit down with it or not, you don’t get to take it with you. Even the quickie-deal cash will be confiscated. You will be pulled aside after the show and taken separately with the other winners to a room where they will explain the rules of being a winner. These include a prohibition such that you cannot win on Price is Right for a year or win again on Let’s Make a Deal for 3-4 years. You also will not get any prize until the show airs, as the sponsor must get consideration by the show being aired before they provide the prize. Some prizes are the actual prizes you see on the show while others are drop shipped without warning as soon as the show air. So, yes, that sauna may be sent to your apartment.
Think that would be enough? It’s not. This is your chance to understand the tax consequences of your decision and forfeit your prize if you want to avoid taxes. For instance, I won a SeaDoo. I have to pay California income tax. I will then pay Florida sales tax and federal income tax. I can pick it up at a local dealer, which will probably come with various fees. Some people have not been able to afford the taxes on their prizes or basically lose money on things they otherwise do not want. Consider wisely.
All in all, I was extremely lucky and it was an awesome experience. I’d recommend it to anyone. Wayne and Johnathan were extremely personal and kind to me and my friends and the whole staff was wonderful. It was a blow us all away moment. One thing is certain- I certainly did not throw away my shot.