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Survivor Stampede

BW's reality show wannabe survives the audition


"We’re twins," says one of two women in matching pink shirts who would later wind up standing in front of me in line at the casting call for CBS's Survivor, the original gangsta of bug-eating reality shows.

These women are not twins. They might be sisters, but one is clearly a decade older than the other. "That’s our thing so they pick us," says the other twin with lipstick on her tooth.

A gimmick? Aw snap, I didn’t bring a gimmick for my audition at Cheerleaders, a dumbbell-shaped restaurant in Eagle. That means I will have to stand on my perky cuteness alone and unfortunately perky and cute are in surplus among the reality show hopefuls.

It's a great showing of Boise's handsome people, and peppered in between are the hootchies, punks, old hippies and lots of construction workers—which is OK since my limited understanding of Survivor's casting decisions is that, unlike MTV’s The Real World (for which being under 24, drunk and slutty are requirements), this primetime network show can take just about anyone.

Auditions are scheduled 7-10 p.m. My experience begins at 6. We get there early and maybe 30 people have us beat. Crowding in the handle part of the dumbbell, I fill out my novel of an application next to a handsome outdoorsy guy. Across from us is a chatty dude with headshots.

The application includes some easy questions about your swimming ability (I placed 16th in Connecticut in the breaststroke in 1995, thank you), your medication routing and if you’ve ever known someone on a reality show. And then there are more thoughtful ones like: "What non-survival items would you take?" and "List the top three adjectives to describe you." So psychological. It is a certifiable fact that the unfunniest thing a person can say is, "I’m really funny!" Take note, types.

At 6:50 p.m. there are hundreds of auditioners. "We’re just about to start," yells a man from KBCI, Boise’s CBS affiliate. He keeps talking but I can’t hear the rules because of the stampede; instantly it is like an Argentinean soccer game where people in front get crushed from mass pressure. But I ride the wave to where a camera, lights and a boom mike are set up in a sectioned off corner and score audition number seven.

Hey, man, if you can’t showcase your survival skills here, maybe you’re just not cut out for this kind of competition.

Here I meet the twins. And a nervous construction worker named Jim. And Peggy, who makes us greedy folk feel guilty because she wants the money to help her sister fight a degenerative disease.

"You each have two minutes," says Mr. KBCI. "Go!" And without additional instructions, the first six wannabes go.

It’s my turn in a blink. What to do? I’ll tell a joke. No, shit, I don’t know any appropriate jokes. I can’t think of one interesting tidbit. No time to think: The light’s not nearly bright enough to fade out the line snaking out of the restaurant or the Haylie Duff look-a-like making faces at me. Ain’t no thang. I default to perky cute and show them how I can take off my undergarments while still wearing my clothes. Uh, just kidding.

Over in no time, and I barely remember what I said. But I watch a few people after me. Jim’s up. In a monotone voice, barely looking at the camera, he mumbles: "MyNameIsJimAndIAmReallyOutgoing. And I am really funny."