Ladies and gentlemen, a time comes when you have a lucky break. Show business is a very volitile industry. Our next guest has proved that, he’s Mark DeCarlo. You may recognize his voice from Jimmy Neutron, or if you’re a game show fan like me, you know him from Sale of the Century.
Yes, now that you’ve seen his face, you should know who he is. I had a chance to interview him via e-mail, he is truly a nice guy. However, some of his candidness will have to be edited. In the words of Paul Dean and Mike Reno, “I gotta do it my way, or no way at all.”
Greg Palmer: Hello, Mark. First off, how did you get involved in show business?
Mark DeCarlo: I started off doing plays in high school at Benet Academy in Lisle, IL. I got the lead in my first play, a Neil Simon show, and didn’t look back.
GP: What really intrigues me is your appearance on Sale of the Century. First off, I can imagine that the audition process wasn’t exactly Jeopardy. Did you try out for other shows other than Sale?
MD: I tried out for several, and didn’t make the cut. Then I went to the SOC audition on a Sunday and was in a funny mood, I guess. We all took a test, then they let some people go. Then they did verbal interviews, and I was funny so they told me they’d call.
And unlike most Hollywood producers, they did!
GP: Tell us, in your own words, the step-by-step process of how you tried out for Sale. If you don’t remember too well, then just tell us what you know.
MD: Once we got to the studio they book 2-3 times more contestants than they need each day. At the end of each show, they pull a name out of the hat, and that player comes down and plays the game. I went to the studio THREE DAYS before I got picked. Then once, I was on the show, I went through 11 shows without losing, then retired undefeated as the champ.
GP: So, you got on Sale. The host at the time was Jim Perry, a few years off of Card Sharks. I’m watching your video on YouTube and you and Jim seem to work pretty well together, yet I also know that security prevents most game show contestants from getting in contact with the questions. Did you ever get a chance to talk to him in person, while off-camera? If so, what was it like meeting him?
MD: Jim Perry is a GREAT GUY. He went way out of his way to be personable and nice to us, and I think he took a shine to me and bantered with me on camera. He’d set me up for jokes, spend a little more time with me than others, and the audience seemed to think we were funny together. Years later, after hosting many of my own shows, I realize that when you get a ‘good’ contestant – someone who can be themselves and be funny or real, you lean on them because they don’t come along every day. But without a doubt, Jim’s kindness and openness to me helped me relax and do well. He’s my favorite Canadian. [He’s actually from New Jersey, but currently lives in North Carolina.]
GP: With a game like Sale, it’s easy to drive bargains with the host. I also know you’re a comedian. Did you use that national exposure to test out potential material?
MD: NO. At the time, all I was focused on was making enough money to buy a used convertible. Turns out, I won one.
GP: Your run was during the Winners’ Board era, what I consider the zenith of Sale‘s history. I’m watching your final game, and it looks to me like you aren’t exactly a brain trust. You let your opponents do a lot of the buzzing in. Of course, I can’t argue with a guy who won over $110,000. Did you have any strategies in mind as you were playing?
MD: Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was scared [out of my mind]. I was tight and nervous. If you listen to that show, compared with the previous 10, my voice is an octave higher. Also, time of day was bad for me. We shot [the] first five shows on Tuesday, 2-10pm, next five Wednesday 2-10pm, then had Thursday OFF, then had to be in the studio at 7AM on Friday for 8AM show so Jim could catch his afternoon plane back to Canada. So the combination of reality setting in during the off day, and the early, early morning call time after celebrating with my college pals for two days of late nights had me down. I played like crap and won by a stroke of luck and overconfidence from the woman from NYC who was in my face all day long.
GP: What sorts of prizes did you win, in addition to the $50,000 cash and the car? And how much of that did you actually get after taxes?
MD: Computers, trips, appliances, drapes, pearls, TV’s, Stereos. I paid about $33k in taxes and sold off the stuff I didn’t want to pay the bill.
GP: If there is anybody looking at this interview right now, and may be a future contestant on a game show, what would you suggest to them in the tryout process?
MD: BE YOURSELF. BE RELAXED. BE CLEVER. BE NICE.
(and for those of you wondering what was playing during the credits of that particular ep, along with all the other big win episodes, here it is:)
GP: 5 years later, the shoe was on the other foot as you have joined the rare group of people who have appeared on and later hosted a game show. In this case, Studs. How did you get involved with this series? Do you think your run on Sale was an influencing factor?
MD: Studs was a fluke. It was supposed to run 6 weeks. But becasue the producers didn’t really know what the show was at first, there was room for improvisation and comedy… and since we did it in front of a live audience, the comedy showed. That first season we worked for a year and a half… the show was white hot and they didn’t want to stop making them.
GP: I’m reading about the show on the Internet, and it sounds a lot like Love Connection (and that’s not just because Wikipedia says it follows a similar format). That meant you were in direct competition with Chuck Woolery. I’m sure you’re a likeable enough guy. Did you ever try to measure out the competition that was Love Connection?
MD: Not really. LC was a more middle aged show, more tame. Studs was cutting edge, young and funny. Similar but like Apple and the PC, very different.
GP: What was it like working on the show? Do you have any experiences you’d like to share?
MD: It was fantastic. Lots of fun coworkers and sexy women around all the time. There are worse ways to make a living. The rest must remain secret.
GP: According to the Studs article on Wikipedia, which links to an interview of yours, the show was canceled in 1993 to make room for a talk show with Chevy Chase, considered to be one of the biggest flops Fox has ever had, and #16 on TV Guide Network’s 25 Biggest TV Blunders. I admire Mr. Chase, loved him in The Three Amigos and the Vacation movies, and if it were me instead of you, I’d be honored. What did you think of all this? Did Fox ever try to make it up to you?
MD: We went off in 1994 after making 580 episodes. Then I did a show called Big Deal for Fox, great show. Five years ahead of its time. It was a comedy game show, with a studio band…. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Really fun, didn’t cut it for some reason. Too bad, ’cause it was very fun.
GP: Now, you’re the voice of Hugh Neutron on Nickelodeon’s Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which is now canceled. You also played an integral part in Mormon culture with the film Mobsters and Mormons. (I saw the movie, it was great.) You manage to get yourself mixed in with all these celebrities who now have successful shows in primetime (namely, Neil Patrick Harris and Chevy Chase) and also with the American people.
MD: I love America. I live here. What’s not to love. Show business has been good to me, and I am grateful for the support of the public. Without fans, I’d be out of a job.
GP: What are you doing now, Mark? Do you have any projects you’d like to promote?
MD: Doing a new Eco show, EconomicalECO and a new cartoon show starring BOFFO the BEAR. Google him!
GP: Finally, Mark, what advice do you have for people who want to enter your field of work?
MD: Don’t. Show business as a viable career has been consumed by the web. Incomes are falling, ownership is impossible and most of the stuff on TV is horrible. Films are still good, but TV is troubled right now… ‘course that means that it’s time for a youngster to come along and reinvent it.
GP: Thanks a lot.
MD: You’re welcome a lot!
All righty folks. Interesting bit of advice we have there. We have Mark DeCarlo, telling it like it is. Thanks again, Mark. If you’re interested in his stuff, go to his website.
I’m getting an interview with Marianne Curan, and hopefully her husband, Bob Goen. Stay tuned.