Temporary TV Fame
(Originally published in the San Diego Reader February 13, 2013.)
Michael Binkow stands onstage in the event room at Valley View Casino wearing a headset, gray jeans, and a black zip-up jacket. A seven-piece band stands quietly at stage right while Binkow instructs the audience of 200 or so to clap and cheer according to his directions.
“You guys are doing a great job not looking at the cameras,” Binkow tells everyone.
He pauses to listen to the voice in his headphones. “You need a small clap?” he asks into the mouthpiece. He listens again, then turns his attention back to the audience.
“Okay, let’s do a small laugh, like I told a joke,” he says. “I’m going to tell this joke, and if you think it’s funny, laugh. If you don’t, pretend.”
The woman next to me laughs as if this is the joke. But it’s not. When Binkow does tell his joke, it’s lame. But the audience laughs as if it’s hilarious.
When the fake laughter dies down, Binkow mumbles something about not being good at anything except producing and doing chores around the house, which causes more fake laughter.
Tonight’s taping of local reality/talent show 3 Minutes to Stardomwill air a week from tomorrow, and the fake cheering Binkow generates now will help with the editing process.
His next instruction is for us to boo the judges.
“For example,” he explains, “if someone you brought [here] sang, and you thought they were great, and the judges gave them, like, a five — what would you do?”
The three local music dignitaries who serve as the show’s judges aren’t even in the room yet, but there is an eruption of loud, angry booing.
“No, not that big,” Binkow shouts over the sound. “You wouldn’t do it that much.”
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