Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is a truly spectacular show; in my opinion anyway, because I really enjoy the thrill of game shows. I guess it's not too much unlike the thrill of horror movies and Internet stories and so on, other than that, instead of being ax murdered and having your guts grinded into sausage while a guy with a crooked, bloody smile plots his next killings, people have the chance to win and lose money. In hindsight, I guess that's really not the same thing. Unless we're talking about what happened to me. Which I am...
In any event, I really enjoyed the Millionaire television program. It had just the right amount of suspense, a short, smiley Irish/Italian American host--not that I'm ethnically biased or anything, I'm not like that--and even some laughs worked in, too. Especially when it came to the celebrity specials.
So, before Regis left, I auditioned to be a contestant. I thought the questions were odd, and I was really nervous about it the entire time, but I went for it anyway. They asked me how Hank Hill murdered Peggy on King of the Hill, which is pretty strange given that I'm pretty sure Hank was a wholesome small town Texan propane salesman who'd never fathom such a thing, but whatever. They asked me how the kids opened the door on the Barney the Dinosaur program when it was locked, and apparently some kid found a knife inside of a sandcastle? Who the fuck would store a knife inside of a kid's sandcastle? Well, whatever. It also struck me as crazy that they kept asking me questions about television shows. They even asked me what you can't buy on Wheel of Fortune. Apparently you can't buy a person. Imagine that. Anyway, they didn't seem to care if I answered the questions right or wrong, and I won a trip with my family to Upper West Manhattan. It wasn't easy for us to leave our Torontan row home, but since the cartoon production building next to us burnt down, things have gone rather awry. Some time away couldn't have hurt of any us, I mistakenly concluded. We sang along to a Ronald MacDonald cassette tape that my son blared on his boom box, and off we went on the 500 mile ride in my 1945 Volkswagen Beetle.
I'm going to spare you the details that went on in the hotel, at my wife's request. There was a lot of cussing, and as a proud Mormon dad, I think we're better off not discussing that sort of thing. Let's fast forward to after I was briefed... when I walked out of the tunnel toward an internationally televised dream come true. Or so I thought. Hint hint.
The moment I stepped out of the tunnel and toward the set, I should've known that things were going to be nightmarish. Instead of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?", the words "Who Wants to Win 576 Dollars?" hung over the set, in some sort of juvenile looking font that reminded me of the one people on the Internet hate so much. When I looked over at the host's seat... it wasn't Regis, either. I didn't have my glasses on, but I could tell from a distance it wasn't him. It was a person of African American descent. Again, that's fine, I think that's really cool. It's just that it wasn't Regis, so it felt... different.
It was Jaleel White; the actor who played Steve Urkel! Oh man. What was he doing hosting the 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' program?
"Please welcome to our stage, Mr. Lewis Diggs."
The audience applauded. Admittedly, it was a very small audience, but I figured maybe they put all the people in later using special effects. Also, Lewis Diggs isn't my real name, but I didn't care, because I was about to win money, right? I sat down in the hot seat, smiled, and shook Jaleel's hand. It sent chills down my spine. It was... bony, as if his skin was a Star Trek style hologram that covered up the shocking truth that he was death himself. I gulped.
"Well, hi, uh, Steve, I mean, Jaleel. It's, uh, nice to be here in New York. Gotta love that Brooklyn style pizza... am I right, or am I right?" I was hoping my cool demeanor and fake New Yorker accent would win over the audience, if not Mr. Bones himself.
"That's totally cool, Lewis! I guess you could say... that everyone wants a pizza the pie!", Steve, I mean Jaleel, snorted.
The audience laughed until they vomited. Several children nearly choked on their own puke. I considered calling 911, but I figured it would be too late. Thankfully, nobody died.
"That's because they're already dead!", Urkel chuckled, as if he could read my mind. My blood froze, but I snapped out of it after a few seconds. I had to keep my Toronto cool.
"It's time to play Who Wants to Win 576 U.S. Dollars!", Jaleel enthusiastically announced. A PlayStation 3 flashed on the screen. Which was interesting, because the PlayStation 3 hadn't even been formally announced yet. Instead of PlayStation 3, some Egyptian hieroglyphic letters flashed on screen, and scrolled like the stock market. The classic Super Mario Bros. underwater tune played, as Crash Bandicoot displayed on the screen and he winked at me. I felt a chill rush down my spine.
I started feeling better when I noticed that the $10 question came up. It was only $10 because this was no longer the millionaire show, I guessed.
"In the classic American comedy Home Improvement, Tim 'The Tool Man' Taylor ties this object to a radiator. Is it: A) His tools, B) The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, C) Al's Flannel, or D) Fat kids?"
I paused, and thought it over. Like the questions I was asked over the phone when I auditioned, I knew that none of these were the right answer to anything.
"Mr. White, I'm pretty sure that none of those answers are correct."
"And I'm pretty sure that you belong in a fucking mental asylum!" The audience laughed. Couldn't say I disagreed with any of them. Pretty strange that there wasn't any hesitation or a cut from a director or anything, but with the upchuck moment that just happened, I guessed cussing wasn't off limits.
"Well, he loves his tools more than life itself, and I'm iffy on them product placing Zelda like that. Al'd probably get pretty pissed if Tim did the shirt thing, and I think he'd rather stick to the mom jokes than do something like that to poor Al. Still, the fat kid thing is a total non-sequitor. I can't imagine anyone writing that, it really doesn't make any sense at all..."
"Do you have any friends? You could phone one of them now!". Jaleel did that pig noise, again. "Of course, I'm sure nobody likes you, because you're fat and have a lisp and you live in New Jersey."
At that point, I got really, really mad. I rolled up my sleeves and was ready to clobber Jaleel back onto the set of Family Matters. Speaking of which, this question and the ones I was asked over the phone weren't family friendly at all... and as a matter of fact, I didn't understand them. I got up, aggressively stomped my way over toward the king of the uber dorks himself... but then...
"I wouldn't do that if I were you!"
I was zapped. Like a dog stuck inside an electric fence. It was too late for me; I had been imprisoned. I didn't understand why any of this was going down. Was it because I'm Canadian? I fell to the floor in pain. Not only was I not going to win any money... but I was beginning to think I was going to die. This wasn't the Millionaire show at all! I had been scammed; this must have been some sort of abandoned New York factory, dollied up to look like the real thing but was actually a trap for some of the most devious thieves I could have ever fathomed. Creating a fake, high effect Millionaire show like this, with a highly realistic audience and hiring a disheveled skeleton hologram Steve Urkel! I...
I got on my feet. I stared at Mr. White, or whoever he actually was. A lengthy stream of blood was oozing out of his nose. It wasn't a simple nosebleed, and it wasn't special effects, either. It was blood.
I paused. I stared. I'd ask him if he was okay, but I knew that none of us were, anymore.
Eventually, the bleeding stopped. A demonic smile spread across Jaleel's face, and that sent a chill right down my spine... and, somehow, it spread into my heart. But I knew exactly what he was going to say next. It was so, so... predictable.
"Did I do that?" His snorting and laughing went on for what felt like an eternity. As did my feelings of concern for me, and my family, who were supposed to be in the audience though I didn't see them anywhere.
"Okay, Regis Philbin imposter. You listen, and you listen real good. Your question was fucking fallacious, you're bleeding like Oprah Winfrey on the rag..."
The audience 'ooh'ed.
"... and this audience... I don't get them. I want to go home. And back to my wife. And my kid, even if he's obsessed with McDonald's to the point that he fetishes the clown. I don't know why you picked me. I'm going home."
Steve's smile changed, without hesitation, into a frown. He sighed, really depressed like. It really didn't make sense at all.
"You really... don't get why we chose you?"
"No. And I'm fresh out of ideas. Sure, there's continuity in whatever the hell's going on here, and I think there's some sort of rhyme or reason going on in your brain ultimately, but it feels like whatever deep conclusions we're coming to are the result of trying to tie together loose ends after the fact. You couldn't explain at first why you invited me and my family to this fake TV show, but you have some ideas now, or you're working on them right now... aren't you? And before, all the time, whether you're there yet or not--oh, you're working on them. Because you're very, very intelligent. Very creative. Unlike the people I'm used to meeting in this life. But part of me thinks that you had no idea where you were going when you started doing this... this thing. You just thought it would be fun, and you had the technology available to you, to play with people's brains and their deepest insecurities and proneness to conspiracy--for fun. You earned an audience, and those people love you... and I think they should, honestly. I wouldn't be surprised if you get bored of it at times, because let's face it--even they don't really understand you, because your ideas are way too deep for them. I bet it drains your inspiration at times. Isn't that right, Jaleel? Sometimes it feels all for naught, but you know, and I know, that doing this, this game, in and of itself, is worth all the while. You're back to entertaining the unsuspecting--hoping that some of them will get it, and the very few who do get invited into this audience, don't they? And I'm sure some appreciate your work--after all, they kind of asked for it, sort of, in a way, though not really--but a lot of people don't get it."
"But I get it, Jaleel. It turns out I wasn't out of ideas at all--though sometimes, it feels that way. In fact, I think you're just like me. I think we're both very creative. I think you chose me because you think I'm every bit as capable as you are. To think and feel this deeply. That I get the psychology of all of this too... just like you do."
There was a very, very lengthy pause. Maybe a minute and a half. The audience said nothing. No laughing, no crying, no vomiting. No gasping. It was all just very, very quiet. It felt like you could lit up a faggot (that's how you say 'cigarette' in Canada) and no one would notice.
"I can't believe it...", Jaleel White finally stuttered.
"You can't believe that I figured this whole thing out?"
"... No. I can't believe how fucking retarded you are."
He snorted. And storming out of the very same tunnel I entered in were skeletons, wearing top hats and holding baseball bats with the words "It's a Government Conspiracy" scrawled on them in that... that Comic Sans font! I searched for a staircase and a chandelier so that I could pull that off that trick from The Three Amigos in which you crash land it on your enemy to earn precious seconds, but no, there was nothing! I tried running, but I was... zapped. Like a dog inside of an electric fence, yet again.
"DID I FUCKING DO THAT!!?!!?!?" Steve screamed and snorted. Then I screamed, as my face got pounded in by Louisville sluggers and Steve Urkel repeatedly kicked me in the nads. He laughed like Lucifer himself as his head reared back in a demonic howl, like when a kid tools with Audacity to sound like the Chipmunks but fucks it up really badly. The last thing I saw was Steve Urkel towering over me, taking a great big bite out of a New York style pizza and snickering. ... Fuck my life.