The Weird, Wonderful World Of A Paid Audience Member


The announcer shrieks at the audience, “Who’s ready to have some fun?” The crowd roars its approval.

He yells, “Get up on your feet and dance!” Everyone else in the room jumps to their feet and starts rocking out. I sigh as I slowly rise from my seat and paste a smile on my face. I am the only one here who is not having the time of her life.

“Who wants to come up here and bust a move?” The announcer bounces up and down with a deliriously happy expression on his face. He points at a woman who is excitedly waving her arms in the air. With a gleeful yelp, she runs down to the stage and begins to dance like her life depends on it. The announcer tosses her a t-shirt and then gently pushes her back in the direction of her seat.

Am I at the meeting of a particularly bizarre cult? Is the next dancer going to start speaking in tongues? Is a member of the audience going to roll around on the floor in ecstasy? Dear god, I hope not.

While this is a religious experience to some, I am merely there to pick up some extra cash. I am a paid member of a taping of the Dr. Phil show. Not only do I not belong to this cult, but I have never seen a single episode of the show before. Please keep this information to yourself. I might experience some major wrath if they find out that I am not one of them. They will most likely offer me up as a sacrifice to the High Priest.

Here’s a little secret: Many TV shows that are taped live pay actors to be in the audience. The Dr. Phil show is different—the crowd is mostly made up of real fans who got tickets in advance. These people adore Dr. Phil with all of their Midwestern hearts, and they are ready to show him some love. There are only a few actors scattered throughout the crowd.

The announcer hurls various types of Dr. Phil merchandise toward the screaming fans, who scramble and shove each other out of the way to grab the precious prizes. When the lady two rows down from me manages to snag a stress ball with the Dr. Phil logo on it, tears of sheer joy begin to stream down her face. She only had to trample three other audience members to get it.

“And now…are you ready for Dr. Phil?” The announcer is giddy with power. “Here… he… is!”

The audience goes wild, jumping around, clutching each other tightly, howling so enthusiastically that I fear some of them might faint from the sheer excitement of it all. High Priest Dr. Phil strides onto the set, hand in hand with his wife. The hollering stops abruptly as everyone takes their seats, eager to lap up whatever wisdom Dr. Phil has in store for them today. Will a set of long lost quintuplets be reunited for the first time in a decade, only to discover that they are all dating the same man? Will a woman who claims to have been abducted by aliens appear? Will it be an intervention for a wild 12-year-old who is addicted to crack and carrying her uncle’s baby? In the world of Dr. Phil, anything is possible.

I slowly exhale, a grin still plastered on my face in case the camera pans the audience. This is going to be a long day. Tomorrow I’m scheduled for Judge Judy. For the actors who work as extras and audience members, the fun never stops.