The Underpaid Grunts of TV Talk Show Land
The smiling, screaming audience on your favorite daytime show might not be so ecstatic after all.
Illustrations by Sarah Glidden
Call time at the Paramount Studios is seven a.m., and I arrive thirty minutes early for my latest freelance adventure: “working” as a paid audience member for “The Doctors,” a syndicated talk show featuring physicians discussing health and medical issues that people are often embarrassed to talk about.
Following the hiring agency’s instructions to avoid elaborately patterned clothing, jeans and the color white, I am wearing black pants, a formal red sweater and high heels, and I left my cell phone at home, as mandated.
Agencies like this one put out regular calls for paid audience members for court shows, game shows, sitcoms and talk shows. Their client list has included “The Singing Bee,” “The Steve Harvey Show,” “The Weakest Link,” “The Newlywed Game,” “The Montel Williams Show” and dozens of others that you might stumble upon in the course of a lazy afternoon on the couch.
I am the first one to arrive, but within fifteen minutes the line stretches all the…