The Emperor's New Show

A friend called recently to ask if I'd like to make a couple of extra bucks. He was having a hard time hustling a group of people to be "fake audience members." Now, I know what a real audience member is. They're extras who get paid $75 to sit through mediocre daytime talk shows. They are cued to burst into applause when hosts say things like, "At first I thought it was just a mole, but then I learned melanoma detection!" An audience member's job is to convince America, "If I can sit through this, so can you!!"
But a fake audience member?

In short, I had to go to The Grove (an outdoor mall made to look like a quaint village) and pretend to be a shopper who just so happened to run into a publicity stunt for an upcoming T.V. show. I was expected to quiver with anticipation because my enthusiasm had to draw in crowds. The execs were so intent on bringing hype to the poorly-advertised sitcom, that they didn't consider it was yet unknown and was cast with no-name actors. That is, except for the gentleman whom I will refer to as, "I-married-a-model/actress-oh-who-am-I-kidding?-she's-a-model" guy.

So there I stood, shopping bag in hand. I bump into a velvet rope. "Oh, what's this?" I said aloud. I then looked up to see a cluster of tiny men and women sweating through a relay race. The press snapped photos patiently as the heavily-powdered cast members had their every move tracked by a comedian. But each and every one of the cast members were completely useless and inconsequential to the gathering group of onlookers, save for the "I-married-a-model/actress-oh-who-am-I-kidding?-she's-a-model" guy.

But I had a job to do. I gasped and whooped from my measly civilian post across the velvet rope. I looked around to ensure I was making good on my word and drawing in a crowd. But as I looked around, I realized they weren't focused on the publicity stunt. All eyes were on me, the overly-hyper shopper screaming for no apparent reason.

In a town where everyone is hustling hype, we have got to get a little more sophisticated.

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