“America’s Got Talent” Taping Experience

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Season 13 of America’s Got Talent is taping around the country now and last night, Tim and I went to the one in Pasadena. Most important thing I learned? Don’t go if it’s pouring out cause you’ll spend most of the night standing outside in the rain, miserable and drenched.

I used to watch the show all the time back in college, so I realized there were many changes to it. First of all, when did Tyra Banks start hosting? On a related note, Tyra is my queen. She actually came out to push the Golden Buzzer for the very first act that came on stage, so it was a great start to the night.

We were seated pretty close to the judge’s table actually, which meant we got a front and center view of the stage. I can’t go into too much detail about what exactly the acts consisted of, but it was clear there are many talented people around the world…and many who are not. The judges’ buzzes are a LOT louder in person than on television, and I literally jumped out of my seat each time they were pressed.

The in-house entertainer was terrible. He only told jokes about relationships, was creepy and said “come to daddy” a lot, and danced like a dorky dad trying to embarrass his kids. He was giving out tickets to his stand-up show in April and yeah, I wouldn’t go to that even if it were free.

Crew setting up

I wasn’t a huge fan of how many times the male judges interrupted Heidi and Mel B. And how many times they said the phrase, “What she meant was…” like they were professional translators of Woman. But the thing that got to me the most was when Mel B was giving some constructive criticism and Simon drowned her out by meowing into the microphone. Then when it was his turn to speak, he basically said the same thing she did and took credit for the idea. And when Mel B spoke out about it and told Simon that’s exactly what she just said, he stated, “But I said it classier,” which got major laughs from the audience. And how everyone started booing Mel B but cheering for Simon. Jesus, the microaggressions women deal with on a daily basis… But you know, other than that, the experience was great, right?

Final thoughts and observations:

  • Every crewmember looked like Ron Swanson
  • The first few rows are on camera quite a bit so they do rearrange you according to level of attractiveness (of course they would never say that outright)
  • Some acts got my heart rate up to 105 (yes, I checked)
  • They should make two women’s restrooms for every one male restroom
  • Maybe don’t say “come to daddy” to young women when you’re a 45 year old man
  • Simon gained a lot of weight
  • Celebrity culture is stupid
  • It’ll take a good 20 minutes to get out of the parking garage after the show, so prep accordingly (aka use the restroom before you leave the auditorium)

Would I go back? Only if it’s not on the one day a year it’s raining in Southern California.

My Experience at “The Price is Right” Taping

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Today, Kevin and I spent the entire afternoon at CBS Studios to attend a taping of The Price is Right. It was a very fun but very long day. Ultimately, I would love to go back as I didn’t get picked as a contestant this time (gotta come home with that yacht!) so here are a couple of tips, notes, and general observations if you decide to go to or find yourself at a taping of the show.

  • Prep t-shirts in advance! We realized too late we needed to wear somewhat creative/graphic shirts to the show and had to priority ship them, which just in time arrived for the day. Plan in advance to save yourself the money and the stress.
  • Park at The Grove for peace of mind. We decided to make a day of it and got lunch there too. We did reach the daily maximum parking fee, but it was well worth not worrying about the car for 6-7 hours.
  • Try to get there early, even if you have Priority Tickets. Look for the line on Fairfax. We got to the studio a little past noon and made it into the first 100, which means we also got to enter the sound stage earlier. However, this doesn’t mean you necessarily get better seats. The staff brings your party down to where they want you to sit. I’m not sure if there’s any rhyme or reason to this though. We were lucky enough to be seated in the second row, right at the end, so there will be lots of Regina and Kevin on camera when this episode airs on May 7, 2018.
  • Be prepared to wait around for more than half the time you’re there. There are three holding areas (I think we spent approximately an hour in each place) before you’re escorted inside and upstairs to the studio. Personally, I think this is the time to get to know your fellow audience members. After all, some of them might be called to “come on down!” or maybe even win the Showcase! (We conversed with the man who won it during our show.)
  • It’s totally okay to freak out a little when you receive your coveted Price is Right name tag. You’ve earned it. Kinda.


  • You’ll be interviewed in groups of 25. Stan, the producer, will ask you what you do and converse with you a little to get a feel for your personality.
  • Drink water and use the bathroom while you can. Once you get inside, you will not get any breaks to leave the studio.
  • There are snacks, food, and beverages sold while you wait in line, but they are overpriced and it’s cash only, so prep accordingly.
  • It’s cold in the studio, so maybe bring a jacket. Probably my only regret of the day because I was freezing in my short sleeve shirt. However, once we started clapping and cheering, the cold went away.
  • Which brings me to: you will be clapping, cheering, standing, jumping, whooping, hollering, smiling, screaming, high-fiving A LOT. By the time we were done with the taping (approximately 1.5 hours), my hands were red and raw. You gotta keep your energy level and enthusiasm up the entire time because you will be on camera at some point in the show.
  • It should go without saying, but find out how the show works before you go to it. It was painfully obvious that some contestants had never watched the show in their lives and it made for lots of awkwardness. At least watch a couple of episodes on YouTube.
  • If you’re called up, you’ll probably be in a daze.
  • The studio is a lot smaller than it looks on TV, George Gray looks fantastic in person, and Drew Carey likes to talk to people during commercial breaks.
  • The stage manager is the real star of the show. Major hats off to all crew, including all the CBS pages who had to manage huge quantities of people.


  • Maybe hold off on buying the souvenir photos. When we got home, we discovered they posted them all online on their Facebook page…
  • All in all, enjoy yourself during your time there. And definitely keep your name tag afterward!

Rest in Peace, John Sweet

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John Sweet wore cowboy boots to class and everyone teased him for it because who wears cowboy boots in Los Angeles? But he was from the south, and a real Southern gentleman at that, and I feel lucky to have had him as a teacher for one quarter.

A week and a half ago, through our program’s Facebook page, we found out that John had passed away during the holidays, right before the New Year. No further details are known at this time, but we know he was with family.

I debated writing this up for a while because to be completely honest, I didn’t feel justified in doing so. Others were closer to him, have known him longer and to a greater extent, and are feeling more pain than I am. They’ve been lucky enough to call themselves his colleagues or had the opportunity to take multiple classes with him. But the more I think about it, the fact that I’m heartbroken too is enough justification for me. At the very least, I needed to do this for myself. Writing is my catharsis, and anyone who knows me will agree.

Our Tuesday night classes, although long, were fun. I can’t stress that enough. John liked to keep the room loose, laughing, and supportive, and it helped that he had a witty sense of humor. In those ten weeks, I wrote a script about a pregnant nun, which he tentatively titled “Sister Naughty Ignatius.”

Writing a script is hard. Writing a script in ten weeks is even harder. Halfway through the quarter, I realized I had no idea where my story was going and freaked out. I was stuck between two genres and couldn’t move past the first twenty pages. John spent almost an hour before class with me, listening to my struggles with the character and her motivations and guiding me back to shore. The next morning, he followed up with me to check in on how I was feeling. Without a doubt, he was the reason I was able to complete that script in ten weeks, and the commitment to his students is what I’ll remember most about him.

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John’s follow-up email

John was extremely personable too, and I think anyone who has met him can agree. After we submitted our final scripts, he and I jumped on a call over the summer to discuss notes for my upcoming rewrites, but we spent the majority of the time talking about his trip to Vietnam in the coming weeks and the potential layover in Korea. We reminisced about the class for a bit, surprised at how quickly it zoomed by. He briefly touched on his experience visiting San Francisco because I was back at home in the Bay Area by then.

I think what this all comes down to is John’s keen ability to touch each and every student he has taught. Anyone who goes into teaching does it because they love the level of interaction and influence that is involved, and I definitely saw that firsthand with John. I came out of his class a stronger, more confident writer than before, which speaks volumes about him as a teacher. I’m just shattered that I won’t be able to share future successes with him.

Two nights ago, John showed up in my dream. In it, he had grown a mustache, so I was naturally making fun of him for it. He was laughing a lot, happy, in a good mood. I know it was just a dream, but I hope this means he’s in a good place now and that he’s making others laugh and smile wherever he is.

Rest in peace, John Sweet.


Aladdin at SF Orpheum

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Angela and I went into the city last night to watch Aladdin, the musical, at the Orpheum. Even by intermission, we were already blown away. The set design, costumes, and choreography were beyond amazing, and of course the songs were a big hit with the audience too.

At the end of the show, we had thoroughly enjoyed the whole production. I was even more ecstatic about the fact that Adam Jacobs, the original Broadway Aladdin, was playing the role here in SF. Overall, a great night out in the city with a classic 90s story, one we both grew up with.

I, Tonya Screening and Q&A

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Because I was a baby when the Tonya Harding incident was prevalent, I didn’t even hear about the story until early reviews of I, Tonya came out. The movie was already getting Oscar buzz two weeks before its release this weekend, so Tim and I went to see it in the Dome at the Hollywood Arclight tonight.

Margot Robbie is in the house

After the showing, there was a brief Q&A session. Director Craig Gillespie, Writer Steve Rogers, and Actress Margot Robbie were there to talk more about the making of the movie and the inspiration behind it, which included the real Tonya Harding of course. I was surprised to hear that the cast and crew only took 31 days to film the whole thing, which is beyond impressive to me. The Q&A lasted about 30 minutes, then the three of them had to leave.

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Before the Q&A, Margot Robbie also took a selfie and posted it to Instagram. You can barely make out my face there in the picture, but I’m there! I remember the girl in front of me put her hand up in a peace sign and thought to myself, “I’ll just look out for that.”

The movie itself was funny, witty, and dramatic at times. I could feel my heart racing during a few of the figure skating routines, but mostly because I didn’t know the outcomes of them because I didn’t watch the Olympics in the early 90s. Allison Janney made the movie for me by far. I personally wouldn’t say I, Tonya is an Oscar-worthy film, but I’m also not in charge of making that decision so what do I know? Either way, a fun movie to see in theaters and a great story to explore.

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