During my senior year of college, The Real World production company arrived on my campus to host auditions for the upcoming season. My friends and I scoffed. This was toward the end of the year and after four years of college, I think we all excelled at scoffing at things we found below us. Which was a lot at that point. Waking up before 10 A.M on a Monday. Scoff. Not talking during a class we found boring. Scoff. Auditioning for a washed-up reality show. Scoff.
I scoffed so hard at the entire idea of the audition that I signed up to do it. Not to actually do it of course. To pretend to do it. For a good story. Doing something ridiculous for the sake of a good story fell right next to scoffing on the list of things I most enjoyed. So I showed up the first day ready at the bar where they held auditions with the thought that I would walk right in. I figured they couldn’t have more than 5-8 people on the campus who would actually audition for this thing. This thing that my babysitters watched after I went to bed in elementary school. And this thing that I later pretended to like to watch in middle school even though I’d so much rather just watch Boy Meets World reruns.
Imagine my shock when I saw so many of classmates waiting in line to audition. I kicked myself mentally. (Much more painful than a physical kick, I assure you.) Why hadn’t I assumed that everyone else would have my brilliant idea to mock The Real World production staff to their face? I felt like an idiot. A moron, really. A joke’s not funny if everyone’s in on it. I began speaking to someone I recognized from classes in front of me, sharing my concerns about the fact that so many people signed up to do this as a joke.
“This isn’t a joke to me,” said someone who regularly raised her hands in my English classes and made intelligent points, “I actually want to be on the show.”
“But,” I stammered, “It’s 2009, everyone knows that reality TV show hurts your career.”
“Not if you do it right,” she responded.
And that’s when I realized that all these people in line with me weren’t doing this as a joke. This wasn’t some afternoon diversion to pass the time and talk about at happy hour. These people actually wanted to be on the show. These people I semi-respected after spending four years together wanted to be on a reality show.
Scoff-a-palooza in my head.
The first step in the audition process is filling out a questionnaire that’s full of generic answers. But generic in the way that you know exactly how a crazy person would answer them. A normal college student might fill out “most regretabble moment” with a time she threw up in her crush’s bed after finally hooking up with him. A crazy person might write about the time she stalked a professor’s wife to the point of arrest because she wanted to know how to best murder her so she could marry her professor.
After we finished our questionnaires, they invited us to the downstairs level of the bar. This is where we sat in groups of about 8 people and talked about our questionnaire answers. Within seconds it bcame clear that this would be the “I’m crazy enough and wild enough and gosh darnit it willing to have sex on camera enough to be on the show” portion of the audition.
People I just spent four years getting to know in dorms, during class, at parties, waiting in bathroom lines at the bar turned into animals. Worse than animals. Sex-addicted human beings with stories would that make your skin crawl. Stories you know aren’t true. Not only because what was being described bordered on illegal, but because I knew these people. I knew their hook-ups (or lack therof in one very distinct case). I knew the way they interacted with other people. There’s just no way the quiet girl from my freshman year dorm who wore a floor length bathrobe to the bathroom possibly had a threesome on the top of a bar while everyone watched. It’s just impossible.
Nor was it true that the girl who never spoke once during a group project we had together “fucked two dudes during half-time at a basketball game in the bleachers.” Sorry, that did not happen. Not even because she’s quiet. But because people woud have noticed. At a school where you knew who carried which STD, you definitely would know if someone “fucked two dudes” during a basketball game.
After everyone finished telling their COMPLETELY false sexcapades, we began my favorite part of the process. The part where you turn to the person to the right of you and use one word to describe them. Considering we all went to school together and attended class together and ordered drinks at the same bars together, I figured everyone would keep it tame.
This was the moment to show exactly how they would bring drama to the show.
WHAT!? The school year was ending, but we still had about 6 weeks together. Was this really the tone people wanted to set? For the chance to get on a reality show that no one watched? I stood up in disgust and left.
Just kidding, I participated in the entire charade.
I did not get a callback. And no one from my school made it on the show that year. But I’m glad that my last impressions of some of my classmates includes their absolutely ridiculous made-up stories. I will forever remember one girl as Sarah I-Got-It-On-While-High-On-Meth-With-A-Girl-Dressed-Like-Shirley-Temple-While-She-Did-Lines-Off-A-Passed-Out-Frat-Boy.
(Photo: Ben Axelrad)