“WIPEOUT” MEMORIES (PART 1): BEFORE THE BIG BALLS
Nestled on my iPhone, right between Foursquare and Instagram is a little app I downloaded called “Timehop,” which basically looks at all of your past social media postings to remind you what you were doing on this date over the past few years. Well, Timehop showed me some pictures of what I was up to this week back in 2011. It made me smile, a tad nostalgic and I wanted to share the story with you… serial style (over the next few days).
Don’t worry, it’s not an overly mushy experience. In fact it’s quite funny and you get to read about me getting smashed in the face repeatedly, plunged into freezing water and flung head over heels into a giant mud puddle. Interested?
You see, I was a contestant on the gameshow “Wipeout.”
Yes, that Wipeout.
For those of you not in the know about Wipeout, it’s a gameshow on ABC where 24 contestants compete through a series of challenging obstacle courses for a chance to win $50,000.
For those of you in the know about Wipeout, it’s really just a 1-hour smorgasbord of hilarious pain as two dozen poor souls get the ever-lovin’ snot knocked out of ’em… all for your viewing pleasure.
With that in mind, why would any idiot willingly subject themselves to bumps, bruises and repeated public humiliation (on a national level, mind you) for a mere 4% chance of winning some cash?
Those of you who know me don’t need to ponder for long as to why I’d happily volunteer for this exercise in televised brutality.
It sounded like a helluva lot of fun.
So shortly after running the Chicago Marathon in 2009, I decided to I wanted to take a crack at the “Big Balls.”
Many people have asked how I got on the show… well, it only took about a year and a half.
Thanks to Google, I was able to locate the production/casting company (Mystic Art Pictures) for the show and thankfully they were located in Burbank (same town I was living in at the time). I filled out the online application and not too long later I received a call asking me to come in for an audition. The audition consisted of me filling out an even lengthier application, followed by a 5-minute on-camera interview asking about myself, why I wanted to be on the gameshow and what I’d do if I won the $50,000. I told ’em I’d use the money to fund a dream trip where I’d go scuba diving with great white sharks (seriously, I want to do this). I figured if I showed ’em I was truly crazy they’d have to let me on the show, right?
Well, the casting person told me I was funny, energetic and exactly what they were looking for (a veritable shoe-in to get cast) and sent me off to fill out the “big” contract. I can honestly say this was the longest and most invasive document I’ve ever filled out. They wanted to know everything and I mean EVERYTHING about me. This beast was about 30 pages long and took about an hour to fill out. Once I gave them my basic statistics it was onto the health stuff. The next 5 or so pages basically dealt with listing every medical condition or injury I’ve had in my entire life… broken hand in 2004, whiplash from a car crash in 1997, tonsils out when I was in kindergarten, a boo-boo on my elbow when I was 3 (my mom kissed it and made it better, btw).
And then it started getting personal. First I had to list every police transgression (no matter how small) that I’ve ever been involved in. I certainly hoped that doing that “rolling stop” back in 1998 wasn’t going to dash my hopes for gameshow stardom. Next up, they wanted a listing of every girlfriend I’d ever had (including addresses and phone numbers)… really? And how would my proclivity toward being single impact my ability to dodge giant foam barricades? I could picture the potential phone conversation…
WIPEOUT: Hi, did you date Scott back in 2008?
EX: Yes, I did.
WIPEOUT: Great. We’re just getting information to see if he qualifies as a contestant.
EX: Do you have people operate the hydraulic rams that smash contestants in the face?
WIPEOUT: Yes we do.
EX: Great, can I volunteer to operate the one you plan to use to hit Scott?
Back to the application, y’all.
Next up, they wanted to see if I’d ever sought mental or emotional counseling. I was thinking, I’m actively volunteering to get tossed around like a giant chew toy. Clearly things are not quite right in the brain pan.
And then the capper… had I ever performed in pornographic films or had nude pictures posted on the internet? Hmm… well, there was that one night in South Padre Island on spring break way back in college where I’m still a little fuzzy. Fortunately, that particular experience pre-dates Instagram, so I think I’m in the clear.
By the time I finished the application I think I had developed a serious case of writer’s cramp… which I quickly added to my list of injuries. I handed it in and was told to probably expect a call within a week or so.
Cut to 12 months later… yup, apparently I didn’t make the cut for 2010… I received an e-mail from Mystic Arts asking if I wanted to audition again this year.
Cool another chance to get shot down. So, once more with the on-camera audition, then the same assurances that I was a perfect contestant candidate and another opportunity to fill out my life story on an application form. As I walked out, I was again told to expect a call within a week or so. I wondered if I was actually being filmed for the reality show “REPEATED REJECTIONS” and I asked the casting director how many applicants they get for the Wipeout. She informed me that between their auditions and open casting calls around the country they get about 75,000 applicants per year. Oof.
Cut to a week later… my phone rang. Unfortunately, it was a telemarketer.
But the next day my phone rang again and it was a casting associate from the show saying that I’d been selected for an episode. All I had to do was pass the physical and I was in.
Now I had just had my annual physical three weeks prior and the doctor had given me a good bill of health (and a lollipop), so I felt pretty good.
But the Wipeout physical was not your normal physical… not at all. This shit was rather hardcore.
It started with a drug test. Yup, fill up the cup… or two in my case (after all I had drank a lot of water that day and was a bit nervous).
Next it was a lung capacity test (aka blow into a tube until it registered or you passed out, whichever came first).
After some poking, prodding and the wonderful hernia test (drop ’em and hop while the doc shows you how cold his hands are) came the “pièce de résistance” or rather the EKG test. Well, since I’ve got a rather “manly” (aka hairy) chest, the electrodes wouldn’t stick without some makeshift “man-scaping.” Three swipes of a safety razor later and I learned that my ticker was indeed ticking properly, but the experience did leave me looking a bit like Steve Carell’s “man-o-lantern” twin from “40 Year Old Virgin.”
After a few minutes of cavorting with his colleagues (and probably laughing at my impromptu chest pattern baldness) the doctor walked back into the examining room looking at my chart.
“What’s up doc,” I said.
He smiled and somehow refrained from hitting me for saying something so cliche.
“You’re going to be on Wipeout, dude.” Yes, he actually said “dude.”
And like that, it was on. Over the next week or so I received calls asking about availability for filming dates. The magic date was selected, January 11th, 2011.
I got a huge e-mail packet listing contestant instructions, wardrobe suggestions, directions to set, emergency contact numbers and such. And on the bottom of the call sheet with my call time (6:00am, btw) I saw a line that stuck with me: “Don’t worry if you don’t sleep well the night before filming. We guarantee you’ll sleep well the night after.”
So, my alarm went off well before dawn on filming day. I grabbed my bag o’ gear and headed down to my car.
I was going to be on Wipeout today.
Run on… and “Big balls.”
Tomorrow on TTK, “Wipeout” Memories (Part 2): “You’re Going to Get Wet.”