Monday, June 25, 2007
While KU point guards and quarterbacks may get all of the glory (and all of the glorious venereal diseases?) there is an unsung cadre of elite gladiators who also test their mettle on behalf of Lawrence pride.
Unlike their athletic counterparts, J.D. Warnock, Eric Melin and Andy Morton do not look the parts of chiseled, Apollonian stallions in a sports pantheon. In fact, if any of them attempted a lay-up, they'd probably shatter numerous vertebrae and then get beat up by small children.
Nay, these Lawrence luminaries-Warnock and Melin are hosts of Scene-Stealers.com, Morton the host of "One-on-One Trivia" on Channel 6 and the live "Trivia Smackdown," and all of them veterans of local bands-have opted to oil up their useless-general-knowledge-glutes and flex their way toward game-show god-head.
These trivial titans beat off a hoard of thousands to land a spot on VH1's soon-to-be aired second season of "World Series of Pop Culture." Team "Westerburg High" (an arcane reference to the film "Heathers," which was itself a reference to the frontman of The Replacements-these guys aren't f*cking around, although under a tight non-disclosure agreement from VH1 to not divulge the outcome of the "World Series of Pop Culture" before its July 9 debut, joined us to discuss their ordeal in this most special of Olympics.
No-fi highlights from the podcast
lawrence.com: What drives a man to go on national television and actually compete for the prestigious title of "Most Socially Retarded"?
Andy Morton: This was all Eric's idea.
J.D. Warnock: Yeah, blame it on Eric.
Eric Melin: I'll tell you what, when you watch the game shows on TV, and you sit there and you're just baffled at how idiotic the contestants are:that's pretty much what happened to me when I watched the "World Series of Pop Culture" last season. I knew right away I was going to try out for this show and that Andy and J.D. would be on my team:and that's exactly what we did.
Andy: I don't remember having any choice in the matter.
J.D.: I make it a habit, actually, of not arguing with Eric when he wants to get me in real good trouble.
- Video: VH1 interview with Melin, Morton, and Warnock
- Video: Westerburg High team TV spot
- Video: World Series of Pop Culture TV spot
- VH1 World Series of Pop Culture official site
- WSOPC fan site
- Podcast: Interview with team Westerburg High, by Gavon Laessig (32 min)
- First person: The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth, My time on VH1 by Eric Melin
The ads for the show are now running, one of them being a profile of "Westerburg High" that plays up the Kansas hick image with wheat and farm posts:did you guys have any input in how you were portrayed?
J.D.: Yeah, we didn't write the script. Let's make this very clear-we didn't write one word that showed up in there.
Andy: It was clear from the audition process that they were definitely interested in the Kansas aspect. At this time, we have no idea how they're going to play it up in the show. As far as the commercial, they gave us the script and the only control we had over it was how we were going to read these lines. We took great care not to give them any frat-boy, chest pounding, el douchery footage to use. They liked us because we were smart-asses, so that's what we gave them.
Eric: We saved all the chest pounding for the hotel room later:I hope all of America realizes that I don't usually flit my eyelids and tell people, "I'm sweet as pie."
J.D.: You say that now, but I've seen you order drinks like that twice in the last week.
The audition was in Austin, where you basically had to take a standardized test. From what I understand it was a bit of a ball-buster, with questions that are much harder than what appear on the show. When you saw that caliber of questions, did you start to doubt your nerd-cred?
Andy: Immediately. I look at the first question, and I'm like, "We are in way over our heads."
Eric: Andy and I actually had a very similar reaction when the test was over:then we turn to J.D. and he's got this huge grin on his face.
Andy: I was like, "Did you get a different test?"
- Wednesday, July 11, 2007, 7 p.m.
- Conroy's Pub, 3115 W. Sixth, Lawrence
- All ages / Free
Was it an open cattle call?
Eric: There were hundreds of people going at a time, every hour, for two days straight. There were about 2,000 people just in Austin.
Andy: There was a guy whose team didn't pass:I went into the bathroom and he was slamming the doors on the stalls. He shouts, "I guess now I can go back to crappy life!" I was just glad I wasn't on his team.
You ended up ranking second out of thousands, but that didn't guarantee you a spot. When you didn't know for sure if you had made it on the show, was the tension unbearable?
Eric: We got in the car and then second-guessed ourselves for 12 hours all the way home.
J.D.: About 12 hours of sheer torture.
You ended up getting a spot and flew out to New York. Did you spend all of your time taping, or did you get a chance to see the city-or was all of your free time spent drilling with flashcards of contestants from "Dancing with the Stars"?
Eric: All of the above.
Andy: It was painful. I don't know that I could do it again:it was almost overwhelming, the whole process.
Eric: You just have to fill your head up with everything. I transcribed all of the questions from season one, passed them out to the guys, and said, "They're not going to use these, so we should come up with questions like these."
J.D.: Essentially write the show. Try to imagine season two in our heads.
Andy: There was certainly Google-ing, Wikipedia-ing, IMDB-ing:everything.
Does all of that prep work fly out the window once you get in front of the camera? How does being on stage affect your memory and your bladder?
Andy: It affects your bladder badly. You're not sure if you have to pee or not, even though you may have just gone. When I went up for the first question, the lights came on and I'm starting to flip out. The brain is shutting down. They ask the question-and you'll be able to see it-my eyes start moving around and I look through the bottom of the stage into the hole where the microphone comes through:I'm actually thinking, "I wonder if there's a little man down there making the microphone go up and down." Then I realize I'm thinking this and I'm ignoring the question. Then I hear America screaming at me from their living rooms, like we do when we watch "Wheel of Fortune" or "Deal or No Deal."
J.D.: Everything that I had ever thought in my life just zapped out in one split second and it was just a loud buzzing sound in my ear. It's absolutely freaky.
Eric: My brain was processing things a little differently. Instead of actually hearing a question, it was like, "Val Kilmer:'Top Gun':Tom Cruise:Snowball?" "Um, could you repeat the question, please?" No monitor at the "World Series of Pop Culture."
J.D.: Especially at the beginning, it's a lot like the "Peanuts" mom voice.
Andy: The first moment you see us step on stage, that's actually the first time we stepped on the stage, looking at all of these bizarre dance lights and stuff, going, "What am I doing here?"
Is host Pat Kiernan really a condescending dick, or does he just play one on TV.?
Eric: I think he's hilarious. He's definitely my favorite game show host:
Andy: Hey! Go f*ck yourself!
Eric: All right:besides Lawrence's beloved Andy Morton.
J.D.: I'm hoping Andy takes over "The Price Is Right," personally.
Was there any trash talking with the other teams?
J.D.: Have you ever been in a room with improv comedy guys, where everybody in the room is trying to be funny? There was a time in the process where everybody was trying to out-reference the next person. It was a little bit of that "Top Gun" action-trying to size up Ice Man and see if he's got the chops. That didn't last very long, though.
There was actually another team from Kansas, from Kansas City-when and how did you find that out?
Eric: Andy was at an Oscar Party, when Robert Bishop announced to everyone at the party that he had big news-his wife and a friend had been accepted into the 2007 WSOPC. Andy was flipping out because he had the same news:
Who all was on the team..."Wocka Wocka," right?
Eric: Wocka Wocka refers to Pac-Man's "eating noise" and Fozzie Bear's catch phrase. It's Robert Bishop, his wife Kelly, and Rachel (whose last name I do not remember). J.D. and I got to know them more on the plane ride to N.Y. and the ride from the airport.
How did the producers package them vs. how they packaged you? Were you both "Kansas teams"? Did they stage a rivalry?
Eric: Not sure how they "packaged" them, but they were constantly referring to Kelly's pregnancy and the fact that Rachel said in her application that she had a crush on the show's host, Pat Kiernan. They definitely did not stage a rivalry because they seperated us into different sides of the tournament's brackets. They mentioned Kansas a lot more when referring to us.
What sticks out in your minds from the whole experience?
Andy: Total overload. I had a couple of dizzy spells. It got to be almost too much. Your adrenaline is going full force for hours on end. That was the most surreal thing. Sometimes I felt like I was walking just completely sideways. Probably my favorite thing out the whole New York experience was the night that we finished shooting. A majority of the teams all went out together and wound up at a Korean karaoke bar. I think that night ended somewhere around 5 a.m.
J.D.: That karaoke bar was completely insane. It was on the second floor of some New York building, and when you walked in you felt like you were walking into the Joe Pesci-gets-shot-in-the-basement scene from "Goodfellas," like something is wrong. Any time I've sung karaoke, things have gone completely off the rails. It was a blast. I had a really great time.