How Not to Behave on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, actress Patricia Heaton sucked it big time on the back-in-primetime Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Monday night. Check it out:

[youtubevid id=”WybeLYArlXQ”]

While utter fails like this (and this!) amuse me no end, they also make me want to rip out my own spinal cord. The anger probably stems from not being able to appear on the program myself; as a former Millionaire question writer, I am forever ineligible. But it might also be coming from my head-slapping hatred for the many contestants who, even after all these years, seem to have no idea how conduct themselves on the show.

Luckily for future contestants, I have put together a handy primer on how not to behave on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

1. Don’t try to be funny. Sure, tell your god-given anecdote. Make your hilarious “I just got a $50,000 question about crustaceans right — whroarr!” face. Be sarcastic when your phone-a-friend blows it. Just don’t go on the show purposely trying to make the world laugh. The world never laughs.

2. Don’t sing. I’ve actually seen a few contestants break into song, whether prompted by Regis Philbin/Meredith Viera or not. This is not American Idol. It’s not even your shower. And you have a terrible voice and horrible taste in music. Just shut it, you dough-faced loser.

3. Don’t thank the audience. So they helped you get the “What color are peas?” question. Who cares? Most of the time, only a fraction of the audience is actually giving you the correct answer. Not surprisingly, this is the exact percentage of people in the audience whose intentions are altruistic. Everyone else hates you and wants you to fail. Why? You are in the hot seat with the opportunity to win big bucks, and they are not. So if you must thank the audience for helping you get a question right, be specific and just give props to those decent few who gave you the right answer. Say something like, “Thanks, 47 percent of you. The rest of you can chew on this [point crotchward].”

4. Never refer to it as the hot seat. This phrase, except in the paragraph above, is reserved for Regis Philbin/Meredith Viera alone, because he/she is the man. But feel free to call it a swiveling doohickey. As in, “It’s so hard to mount this swiveling doohickey!”

5. Don’t bring someone with goiter as your audience guest. This should go without saying.

6. Never use your spouse as a Phone-A-Friend. Chances are you are only using your spouse because you have no friends. And your spouse is stupid. How should you know this? Because he/she married you, someone who would be so dumb as to use a spouse as a Phone-A-Friend (like Patricia Heaton!). It kills me how smart many contestants think their betrotheds are, but we have to be talking a 97 percent failure ratio here.

7. Don’t read the whole question. I am amazed that after ten years most people still read the entire question and all of the answers when using the Phone-A-Friend lifeline. You only get 30 seconds — use them wisely. Instead, treat your friend like the Google search he/she is — exactly like this perfectly sensible human being. So, rather than laboriously intoning “What bumbling food-additives researcher did Chevy Chase portray in a series of movies, including the 1983 comedy National Lampoon’s Vacation?” and then running though the four possible answers, simply say “Chevy Chase’s character in Vacation — bring it, monkey!” (The belittling command isn’t necessary, but is strongly encouraged.) If the person on the other line doesn’t play along, you shouldn’t have used that person as a Phone-A-Friend in the first place. Especially if that person is your spouse.

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6 thoughts on “How Not to Behave on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'

  1. I won’t watch the YouTube; I have some kind of empathy disorder wherein seeing somebody embarrass themselves really, really badly makes me uncomfortable literally for days afterward. For example, I cannot watch Sacha Baron Cohen movies.

    You wrote Millionaire questions? You should hook up with Microsoft and the Xbox Live people – they need serious help with 1 vs 100.

  2. Thanks for a supremely entertaining post. My family was addicted to this show when it first aired (I was 11 at the time), and I’ve always noticed that announcing the two answers you’re stuck between before using a 50-50 is always a recipe for doom too — it’s like you’re begging whoever pushes the buttons to screw you over. P.S.: I’m strongly considering using “bring it, monkey!” as a motivational phrase in every day life. Thanks!

    1. Ah, the 50-50 conundrum — forgot about that! They always say “Computer, take away two random answers” — but that seems like such a load of hooey.

      Meanwhile, I think it would be great if one of the lifelines involved eating something. I always think better when I’m eating peanut butter off a spoon, for example. Phone-A-Friend-While-Munching-Funyuns would really up the ante.

  3. John: Good list, but you missed one: Don’t attack one segment of the viewing audience in a ham-fisted attempt to curry favor with another. When Heaton tried out her “People in the heartland are just better folks than those Godless liberals on the coasts” line, you could actually hear her lose half the studio crowd.

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