Drew Carey is going to Google his name and find all the pictures on this blog, and he'll be all like, "Whaaaa?"
Once we’d been seated in the studio (which, might I add, is a good deal smaller in real life than it is on TV, leading me to believe that Mark Wahlberg’s penis at the end of Boogie Nights is probably half as big as it looked) the current announcer for The Price Is Right, Rich Fields, a former TV weatherman whose hair gets a solid 8.429 on the Capps-O’Brien Follicle Scale, appeared from backstage and greeted us.
I’ve sometimes wondered if voice talent like him are ‘always on,’ so to speak – that is, do they always talk in deep, booming tones, or is that just something they do between 9:00 and 5:00? In the case of Rich Fields, I’m inclined to think that he’s always got a throaty, grandiose lilt to his voice, because even when he was just shooting the shit with Drew during commercials it still sounded like he was talking about an amazing vacation getaway.
“Well, everybody,” he said to us all once we’d done away with the formalities. “I think we’re going to have a great show today, and you know how I know that? Because when I was walking from my dressing room down that big ‘ol hallway behind the prize door, it was full of BRAND NEW CARS!”
Everyone cheered, and I found myself cheering too.
You idiot! Common Sense yelled in my ear. You know that free cars on game shows are basically the world’s biggest scam! You get cornholed with taxes so bad that you’re better off selling the damn car!
“…and SPEEDBOATS!” Rich Fields continued, whipping his non-microphone arm around in a Pete Townsend windmill.
People went batshit, myself included.
Speedboats, Truman? You hate the water! Mean ‘ol Mr. Common Sense spat. And the taxes! Oh, the taxes you’ll pay! Obama’s going to laugh his way to the bank on your speedboat!
“Yep, those are all prizes for our second taping today…” Fields continued with a wry smile. “But for this show I saw a lot of really nice razor blades and vacuum cleaners!”
And we cheered regardless. At that point, he could’ve said, “And after the show, we’re going to take you all into a small room and fill it up with DELICIOUS ZYKLON B!” and we’d still be happy.
He explained the rules of the game to us – both in the sense of the games played on The Price Is Right and also the broader game of television with a live studio audience, wherein the one rule is that you have to cheer and clap for everything, but only when they tell you.
And then he said, “And now, who’s ready to meet our host, DREW CAREY?”
And the music started playing and the cameras turned on, and a bunch of production assistants onstage held up signs with the names of the first four contestants on them, and like that the taping had begun. Drew Carey came out from behind some wonderful door and presided over a few games until the first commercial break, at which point, cameras off, he stepped up to the edge of the stage and started an informal conversation with the audience.
I once read a glowing review of Drew Carey’s personality from someone who had briefly worked with him on a TV show. I believe the exact phrase she’d used had been, “He oozes cheeseburgers and love.” At the time I didn’t quite understand what she meant (nor was I enticed by the thought of cheeseburgers coming out of a rotund man’s pores), but what I saw at the taping really clarified it. Drew Carey is just plain nice. He’s just a really friendly guy from Ohio who also is a celebrity, which he treats as though it happened by accident.
Looking out at people in the crowd and reading their oversized nametags, he questioned them individually. “Hey, Carl! Where are you from? What brings you to LA?” When talking to an ex-cop from Nova Scotia, he suddenly burst into song. “Yes, we have No-va Scotia! We have Nova Scotia, today! Hey, hey!” People loved this and clapped along, encouraging him to go through a couple of choruses. When he was finished, he explained that he’d just repurposed “We Have No Bananas Today,” but if he hadn’t I’m sure most of the people who didn’t know would have nominated him for a Grammy.
This man of the people thing carried over to the on camera segments as well. During one game, a prop failed at the last second and the contestant was able to see the actual price of what he was bidding on. In the heat of the moment he still lost, but the producers decided during a break that they should reshoot him losing with the real price covered up, so that they wouldn’t look incompetent on television. The guy came back up onstage and diligently recreated his failure for the cameras. The producers were all ready to send him home empty handed when the audience began to boo.
“I’ll be right back.” Drew said, disappearing backstage. A moment later, he returned with $500 cash, which he handed to the double-loser. “Tax free.” He pointed out. “Thanks for helping us.”
Rich later said that this was Drew’s own money from his own pocket, upon which I called shenanigans – because seriously, who carries $500 cash around? – but the gesture was still heartwarming. Drew didn’t have to do a damn thing. He could’ve let the guy leave with some lame-ass consolation prize, and at the end of the day he’d still go home to his crystal kingdom at the center of the Sun with the undying support of all his fans, but he didn’t. He is a just and loving man, that Drew Carey.
Eventually during a commercial break, he saw us, a cluster of 20 people in the back, all wearing green shirts with “OREGON” written on them, and said, “So I guess you guys are from the University of Oregon. What’s your deal?”
We yelled to him that we were from the Oregon Marching Band.
“Oh, no kidding!” He said. “I used to play trumpet in the marching band at my high school. How many of you are trumpet players?”
He spent a solid five minutes talking to and about us. He asked my friend Jefe what kind of trumpet he played (for the record, Drew Carey is not a fan of the Bach line of trumpets) and told us about how he’d created the marching band for the Seattle Sounders, the soccer team he owns a quarter of. He talked about how he had a subscription to Halftime Magazine, and how whenever they show Drum Corps International finals on television he watches them.
“Hey,” he said to the whole crowd. “How many of you have seen the movie Drumline?”
About 30 people raised their hands, and we, the band, cracked up, because not a day goes by that we don’t make fun of that movie.
“Well,” Drew said. “Here’s what you do. Rent it and fast forward through all the plot and everything, because that all sucks, but watch the bits with the marching band in it, because that stuff is pretty awesome.”
And then one of the stage directors started playing one of the marching band hip hop covers from the movie, and Drew started dancing like a Southern drum major on stage, kicking his legs out and bending over backwards, and I suddenly knew what true joy was.
Truman Capps cannot comment on whether anyone in the OMB won or not, for fear of them losing their prizes which they may or may not have.