'Easy Money:' An Explo Alum Takes on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'

October 3, 2013

Keith Roamer — Writer, New Yorker, and Explo Alum — once had a chance to win $1 million. Thankfully for us, we get to tag along for the journey.

"They were giving away money. That was the reason I took the long subway ride from Brooklyn to Harlem one Sunday morning in August. Once I arrived, though, it was all too clear that I wasn’t the only one who had heard about the opportunity. The open audition for “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” was supposed to run from noon to five, but already, a little after eleven, a line of would-be millionaires snaked out of the lobby of the Apollo Theatre and down the sidewalk. We were a diverse bunch of dreamers."

And thus begins Keith Roamer's journey into the frayed and frenzied world of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." In a funny, frank, and moving essay published in The New Yorker, Roamer takes us on a journey into the hopes, dreams, and decision-making of a game show contestant. And why, perhaps, the name Carson Daly will haunt him for years to come.

To have a shot at winning any money, I needed to intuit the qualities that the producers were looking for from the thousand or so people who would audition in the course of the day.

Beyond the normal qualifications a game show contestant needs on any multiple choice question show — such as vast amounts of otherwise-useless knowledge — Keith guessed that he'd need the qualities that would actually get him screen time, such as being "voluble and emotional and wacky." So when the producers wanted to get action shots of prospective contestants waiting in line, he danced for the cameras. And on his questionnaire, he listed that he could do a "serviceable impression of Chewbacca," on cue.

Did I offer that up to them as proof of my willingness to give them whatever they wanted in exchange for a chance at their money? Yes. Yes, I did.

To find out how much Roamer won, what mental training it took to get him there, and why he was wiling to walk away from actually becoming a millionaire, you'll have to read the rest. Luckily for you, we've got a link for you right here.

Illustration by Maximilian Bode, courtesy of The New Yorker.

By Lisa Merlini

Tag: Alumni News

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