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How to be on America’s Got Talent

1. Audience

2. Be talented or …

3. Be a compelling contestant

4. Pass the psychological evaluation

5. Play the role

6. When you go, don’t go quietly.

7. Repeat the process

1. Audience

Whether it’s for American Idol, Survivor, Big Brother, America’s Got Talent, or any of the many shows out there looking for eager contestants, you can’t participate without an audition. If you are a singer, choose a song that is within your range. If you are a magician, do a trick that is guaranteed to work. If you are a juggler, get flashy, preferably something with fire. And if you are a mime, move to France.

Be courteous in the room, don’t brag, curse, or yell when blocked. If they tell you it’s the end of the road, walk out with dignity. There is no need to compound the humiliation by having his collapse televised nationally. YET.

Never touch the judges while performing, avoid strong perfumes, but please shower. And above all, dress with care. Don’t risk more teasing by dressing up as a corpse or a stripper.

2. Be talented …

As you can imagine, this step is important. Generally. As a singer, choose a song that shows the best parts of your range. Don’t try to hit notes you’ve never hit before – this is not the time for that. It’s a good idea to practice beforehand in front of friends and family, so your audition isn’t the first time you’ve sung it outside of the shower. Nerves can kill 50% of your preparation, so it is important to be 150% prepared. If singing isn’t your strong suit, find a skill that is. Whether it’s dancing, juggling, magic, or cooking, use the skill you believe in, not the skill that on a good day you might be half possessed. If talent is not your strong suit … continue with step 3.

3. Be a compelling contestant.

I mean, be interesting. And I mean very, very interesting. You need a great backstory here, and the danger of making it up is that they’ll probably figure it out, but if you’re willing to take that risk, go for it! If you’ve beaten incredible odds, tell them. If you used to be a man, tell them! If you grew up with a debilitating fear of clowns and are now juggling the circus, we want to know. Stun us In a good way. If your criminal record is the most compelling thing about you, this may not be the scenario for you.

4. Pass the psychological evaluation.

This is out of your hands, up to a point. A trained psychologist is in charge here. The evaluation is done in the later stages of the listening process, to measure how well you will hold up in a pressure situation. Producers love a little craziness, but not a LOT of craziness. Not insane “criminally responsible”. They will evaluate every corner of your personality when you interact with others. Do you go crazy in the blink of an eye? Are you always the first person to break down in tears? Drama Queen can be great, Homicidal Maniac can’t. At this point, your criminal record should have been verified and cleared so that you can move on. The psychologist is there to determine how well you will blend in with the other contestants. Are you cunning, snobbish, aggressive, shy? Would you be the initiator of the fight in the house or the peacemaker? Everybody has a role. You can’t have a tribe of eight fight starters or you could exhaust the audience at home. The key to producers is having the perfect mix of personalities. Your key is to pick one and stick with it.

5. Play the role.

Once you are officially a contestant, the game will begin. You have a role to play and it’s time to do it to the core. It is about the time of the camera. Make an attack in the kitchen or hide the nut mix from the team for no reason. Get the camera crew to follow you. Be so convincing. If you’re the peacemaker, do a lot of talking-head interviews about group dynamics, about wanting everyone to get along. Talk to other contestants off the ledge. Agree to sleep near the jungle latrine when no one else does. This gives you the underdog status, and everyone loves an underdog. Except your teammates, who can quickly vote for you off the island. Pick an element of your personality and expand it. Your job is to “make good television” without seeming to do it on purpose. To survive after Survivor, make the most of your time on the island. And when your time comes, and your tiki torch goes out … to quote a Welsh poet: “Don’t go gently into that good night.” Which brings us to …

6. When you go, don’t go quietly.

Contrary to the dignity that you are advised to display at your audition, this is the time to let your freak flag fly. Cry, sob, promise America that the game is not over, that you will return! Shoot frowning and sinister glances at your former comrades, the ones who just betrayed you. It implies that you have the knowledge to bring down each of them, that a judicial error has occurred, that one day the world will know who really won. Unless you’re on a talent-based show, like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Project Runway, and that guy. In that case, replace your collapse with a worthy, self-promoting snap on how America knows which star you are, how you’ll release your first single on YouTube a month from now. Decide yourself as the best to hit country music as the credits roll and the band tries to get you off stage. Raise both arms in a victory pose so anyone fast-forwarding through the home show can mistake you for the victor. When you feel like your disappearance from the show is near, start wearing a t-shirt with your website and asking for donations the next day. Whatever the reality show, use that last minute of guaranteed fame as a stepping stone to the next. Do not waste it. It is your final interaction with several million viewers. Make the moment count.

7. And … repeat

They kicked him out, turned down a rose, voted off the island. You left with a flourish only to come home to find that no one treats you differently. The camera crews are gone, the limos are no longer in the front, the constant stream of alcohol has dried up and no one seems to care. YET. This is an important window before the show airs, and reassembling is crucial. Get out there, audition again, audition for every new reality show that’s coming up. When the show premieres, you’ll get your taste of fame, and it’s your job to spread it out in any way you can. Present yourself to anyone who will listen as the most spin-off player. Aim for various programs and work on the skills necessary to play the game. Keep your fanbase alive via Facebook and Twitter – Post all your auditions online. And if all else fails, star in your own reality show. Even if it’s only on your mind.

By Suz Parker

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