What Taylor Hicks and ‘Canada’s Got Talent’ Have in Common
by Caryl Zimmerman
Last night I sat in on a taping of “Canada’s Got Talent” in Calgary. I won two tickets from Tim Horton’s and City TV in a contest I found on twitter. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of CGT or its American version, but it sounded like fun to see how a TV show gets made.
My friend and I arrived early and were disappointed to see a long line outside Jubilee Auditorium. The email I received instructed me to pick up my tickets at Will Call, so I approached a security guard to ask where that was. Unfortunately, another man got to him before I did and was apparently asking about tickets as well.
“She’ll have to get on the end of that line,” the guard said to the man, gesturing past me.
“Really? But she’s got that e-mail,” the man said.
Damn, I thought. All those people on line won the contest?
Security Guard Guy pointed at the e-mail in my hands and said, “See, you need to have this logo on the e-mail in order to go right in. Her email doesn’t have that, so she needs to get on the line.”
“Oh, wow, that sucks,” I said to the guy.
No Logo Guy seemed disappointed but accepted the news and walked away. I was told to go through the theater doors to a table inside for contest winners. We wouldn’t be able to take our seats yet because they were still filming the afternoon’s auditions, but we didn’t have to get on that line, either.
Sweet! My friend and I loitered around by the entrance, feeling pretty darned special. There was a big trailer parked across from us with “Canada’s Got Talent” splashed across the side. A camera man set up a tripod and aimed his camera at the long line. Several other people walked around with an air of importance, talking into headsets. This was getting exciting.
“Good luck!” someone called to us as he entered the theater.
“Why did he wish us good luck?” my friend asked me.
“I think that was for me,” a voice replied, behind us.
Turning around, we saw a small young woman leaning against the building, smoking a cigarette. She had a number stuck to her shirt.
“Oh! You’re a contestant?” I asked.
“Yeah. I already went on,” she answered. “It was so weird to have Martin Short like…right there!”
I didn’t know Martin Short was one of the judges! She told us she did stand up and that this was her 150th performance. One-Five-Oh and it was in front of Martin Short. She beamed. I didn’t get to ask her how it went because suddenly there was a small crowd around us and the doors were opening.
We were swept into the theater lobby. Occasionally, someone with a number stuck to their shirt walked by. Free coffee was offered from Tim Horton’s. I was digging the atmosphere. People seemed happy and excited, ready to get the party started.
Maybe it was the electricity in the air or maybe it was all that caffeine, I don’t know. But when I saw a table where you could make a sign, I pounced. I didn’t care that I was the only person at the table who wasn’t out past her bedtime, I joined the group who were writing the names of the people they were there to support.
I had no clue who was auditioning, so I wrote the name of the only Reality Show Contestant I’ve ever backed. Ignoring the puzzled look I got from little Billy, I tossed my black marker on the pile and entered the auditorium proudly waving my “TAYLOR HICKS” sign:
Well, I thought it was funny. Wrong year, wrong show, wrong COUNTRY. Anyhoo, let’s get back to the show at hand!
Cool stage! Unfortunately, we couldn’t sit because our entire section was covered with a heavy black cloth. I gotta say, I wasn’t feeling so special anymore. There was much confusion as more people in our section arrived, clogging up the aisles, and various ushers squeezed through, looked at the situation, left and were never seen again. Apparently, the problem was a camera which needed a clear shot of the stage without a bunch of heads (or a Taylor Hicks sign) in the way.
Finally, one of those important looking dudes with a headset lined us up and marched us through the auditorium, looking for empty seats. “Who are those people?” I heard someone say. Ha! We were contest winners with nowhere to go. Well, two seats here, four seats there, and we were all finally seated. Some in our group got to sit in the front row! Grr!! We wound up in the middle of the middle of the right hand section. My friend convinced me the seats were better than the front row. (She’s a good friend!)
Once everyone was settled, we received instruction on how to cheer and boo correctly. “Louder!” “More energy!!” When our spontaneous reactions met with the approval of the director (and were recorded to be dubbed in later- spontaneously), we had to practice wild, standing ovations and the possibility of responding to something overwhelmingly cute. “AWWW……”
We were very proud of ourselves as we were the “BEST AUDIENCE EVER!!” Loud applause for us, though not quite a standing ovation moment. We had been trained well.
The emcee or hostess or whatever was introduced. Dina Pugliese is a co-host of Breakfast TV Toronto. She’s adorable. Throughout the evening, I spied her watching every audition from the wings, reacting if she disagreed with the judges and dancing when a particularly good song was played. This was all off-camera. Well, as far as I know.
So let’s talk about the judges! Unfortunately, the only one I’ve heard of is Martin Short. I tried to grab a photo of him coming down the aisle to take his seat, but all I got was this blurry shot of him hugging a kid in front of me.
A quick word about photography. After we practiced our heart-felt reactions, we were told NOT to take any flash photography during the show. The director didn’t say we couldn’t take ANY photos, but I still took mine on the sly with my phone. I didn’t want to be a bad little audience member. The result is some pretty bad, fuzzy shots.
The other two judges are Measha Brueggergosman, an opera star and Stephan Moccio, an award winning songwriter. They were all very good, doling out their opinions eloquently and with a lot of humor. I won’t give away anything that may wind up on the show, but some of the most fun moments happened when the cameras weren’t rolling, anyway.
In between acts, the stage would be cleared and cleaned, the director would walk over and speak quietly to the judges and maybe their makeup would be retouched. “I love you, Martin!!” rang out from the audience several times. Martin Short always spun around in his chair to yell back some kind of acknowledgement. “I love you, too, man!”
If the pause between acts was going to be longer than a few seconds, some loud, fun music was piped in. At one point well into the third hour, when everyone was getting a little punchy, the judges suddenly got up and danced to our between-acts-music. It was all fun and games until the director cut the musicand chimed in with his usual, “Big applause! Here we go!” and our next act came out on stage.
And damned if the next act wasn’t No Logo Guy! “Hey!” I said to my friend. “I talked to him outside!” I don’t want to ruin the surprise but I will say that this guy KILLED! He received a rousing (and sincere) standing ovation. I hope to be seeing more of him.
I’ve seen snippets of America’s Got Talent and my impression is that CGT is a kinder, gentler version. The buzzers WERE used (Causing many of us to suffer minor cardiac events. Those suckers are LOUD) but all of the contestants got advice on how to make their act better even if they weren’t moving on the next round. There were several surprisingly polished and impressive performances during the night and only a few…well…ODD ones. You’ll see it all when it hits our TV screens. (Well…you will if you live in Canada.)
One thing you won’t see was the way the crowd cheered every time the floor sweeper came out. Give us a break, we were bored! The show took almost FOUR hours to complete. As soon as a contestant got his “Yay” or “Nay” and left the stage, this guy would come out pushing a big mop that shined up the stage for the next victim. We all cheered for him. After one contestant criticized Judge Stephan’s scarf, Floor Sweeper Guy came out pushing the mop wearing a scarf. Wild applause.
Late in the evening when our floor cleaner came out for about the 15th time, Dina Pugliese told us, “I know you’ve been enjoying him- let’s hear it for Dennis!” Dennis paused in mid-swept to wave, but quickly got back to work. Later, as he made his very last pass over the floor and headed for the wings, someone yelled out, “I love you, Dennis!!”
The fat lady sang and that was it. The judges left their seats without fanfare, disappearing through a door by the stage as the audience filed out. Someone grabbed a microphone and thanked us for coming. “Look for this episode to air sometime in March 2012!”
It was late, we were tired, but it had been a very interesting experience. And if you happen to see something overwhelmingly cute and need someone to give the perfect, “Awww,” I’m your girl.