Archive for the ‘inside scoop’ Category

WWTBA Millionaire lifelines

September 14, 2015



Phone a friend, email a friend/podcast; Tony in New York writes:

I listened with great interest to the segment from AMT322 about the use of Google on Phone-A-Friend for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and I realized I may be able to shed a bit of light on how things are done on the show now in the States.

You are correct that they don’t have phone-a-friend anymore, because it’s become far too easy to search the answers on the fly, but the other lifeline games you mentioned (Ask the Expert and the others) were, at best, one-off games in previous seasons.

I was on last season as a lifeline, and this season as a contestant (my episode airs in two weeks, so I’m still sworn to secrecy as to how I did), but the lifelines have been as follows:

Last season, there were four lifelines:
• Jump The Question, which allows you to move to the next question up the ladder without receiving the money associated with it;
• 50/50, which removes two of the four possible answers;
• Ask The Audience;
• and your “Plus-One” Lifeline, who had to be with you in the studio. This Plus-One comes in with the contestant in the morning, at which point everyone’s phones are immediately taken away upon entering the building. There’s no more phoning out, there’s no connection to the outside world during taping, and they mic the lifeline’s chair heavily, to discourage coughing-clues or other shenanigans.

This year, they’ve dropped the Jump The Question, leaving contestants with just 50/50, Ask The Audience, and Plus-One. This sucks. On the upside, though, they’ve stopped scrambling the relative difficulties of the questions, and are now laying the questions out in steadily increasing levels of difficulty.

Hope this helps.

It helps US, Tony, but did it help YOU? Once your episode has aired, please write back with the full inside scoop.


fans’ underwear: the aftermath

April 14, 2015


Here’s the stage-eye view of the practice of impassioned underwear-throwing at concerts, as discussed in AMT308. Connor writes:

I recently worked as a lighting technician on One Direction’s Sydney show.

On their tour Down Under, bras and garments from down under so to speak were tossed on stage. As one of the first people on stage after the show, I saw the cleaning staff just scooping them up with gloves on and tossing them in the bin.

In a rather lovely moment of classic rock behaviour intersecting with the digital age, the few bras that were still on stage as I was working all had the Twitter handles of the throwers with pleas for the boys to follow them, as having 1D follow you apparently is the ultimate achievement these days for some tweens.

What an analogue approach to web 2.0 comms.


Hooters hooters

November 25, 2014
Physically diverse Hooters staff

Physically diverse Hooters staff


We love it when you listeners give us a peek behind the tight T-shirt curtain of your varied and interesting jobs, and following AMT301,
A Respectable Probate Attorney
has been in touch – and not about probate:

As a probate attorney I would prefer to remain anonymous, but I’m happy to clarify that NO there is not a cup size requirement to be hired by Hooters.

However, there was an ass size requirement in 1999. On my first day of work I was asked what size shorts I wanted to wear; and when I asked for a size medium the manager gave me a size XXS. The short sizes available to servers were XS, XXS, and XXXS. One of the waitresses was able to get formal permission from Hooters Headquarters to wear a size small. The reason being that she was in college to become a certified public accountant and needed to dress more conservatively (less cheek showing).

To back what Olly said, Hooters servers do have to be charming. We were expected to wear our makeup and hair “like we were going to senior prom.” I would say it’s all harmless flirtation; we were never expected to dance or entertain for tips. If someone made advances, he’d be tossed out.

It’s also worth mentioning that in 1999 there was no policy that bathroom masturbators had to leave. The manager caught one of my customers in the bathroom and I still had to politely wait until he finished his meal to give him the bill. I’m glad to hear the policy has changed since.

So there we go! Perfectly standard workplace policies. Hooters really is all about the chicken wings, and NOTHING ELSE.


Fraud in the stone

April 24, 2013



Herron has written in with eye-witness experience of the Disney sword in the stone experience as speculated upon in AMT253:

As of 2006, it was still being done. My wife & I took our 2 boys, ages 4 and 7 at the time, to Disneyland in California. Merlin (long white beard, purple robe & hat) gathered people around a rock with an anvil on it and a sword handle sticking out of the anvil. He had some burly man try to pull the sword out but (ha ha ha) no go. Then, Merlin called to my older son, Cole, to try. Shazam….he pulls the sword up (though it never came completely out … Merlin’s good, but Disney lawyers are more powerful). There were cheers; burly man looks sheepish; all are happy.

Contrary to what you said, there was no ruling over the Magic Kingdom for the day (just as well, not sure I want to live in a land ruled by a 7-year-old). He got to wear a crown for about 30 seconds. But he did get to take home a special medallion.

Kris has also written in with the inside scoop on this magical weapon-pulling. WARNING: If you don’t want THE MAGIC RUINED, do not continue reading this post. If your eyes are still following these words, we are NOT responsible for the destruction of your dreams. Ok? Kris says:

I’ve worked at Disneyland Paris now for ten years, in the show department, imagineering and I’m even one of the voices on the phone when you call Disney.

I felt I should settle the discussion about the sword in Fantasyland. I’m afraid it really isn’t that exciting and does spoil the magic slightly.

Quite simply there are two swords. The sword that is there during the day is only a partial sword that is bolted to the floor. It has a slit through the blade where the bolt attaches that allows it to move up and down slightly but will never come loose. (You can hear it clinking when you try.)

There is a tiny door themed into the side of the rock which a technician can access the bottom of the blade and release it. I’m afraid no mechanics, no tricker, no clever release.

In the past, when they have done show with merlin the sword is simply changed prior and after the show. Most times in the shows it isn’t even release and just comes further out of the rock.

(Disclaimer, this is only true at Disneyland Paris – the other parks could be very different.)

Sorry to spoil the magic.

I’m crushed, Kris. CRUSHED. But not so crushed that I can’t wonder what an ‘imagineer’ is and how I can become one.


Singin’ in the WHAT NOW????

June 7, 2012


Apropos of last week’s question about the water in Singin’ in the Rain, John writes in to tell us something which, in its own way, explains why the hosepipe ban might not pertain:

As a painter in theatre, I meet a lot of crew with many and varied stories about theatre, T.V. and rock stars. My friend Steve was a member of the crew of the touring version of Singin’ In The Rain which led directly to the West End revival; he is usually a reliable source, and tells me that one of the stars was such a massive cock that a part of the set-up in any new venue was for the amassed crew to meet in the fly tower to piss in the water tank.

The tour consisted of 64 dates of being pissed-on in the rain.

Readers, if you’re thinking of attending a watery stage show, do NOT sit near the front.

Do not get a job in the orchestra pit either; those poor guys are effectively working in a latrine.


I brake for hearses

March 21, 2012


It seems a large number of you have ridden in hearses, despite being still alive! Apropos of our discussion of the funereal vehicles in AMT209, we’ve heard from Stephen from Greenock:

I play the bagpipes and in my student days made a good side-business piping at funerals. The one problem is I don’t drive. At one particular funeral, I asked the funeral director if I could hitch a lift in the hearse, as I’ve been known to do.

Most hearses are two drivers’ seats plus three behind, then the area for the coffin…but not this one. This has the two front seats (taken by the funeral director and priest) and a seat behind each of these. And instead of the third middle seat, the top end of the coffin went there. I therefore spent a very uncomfortable ten minutes sitting alone in this hearse at the church with the coffin (and within, the head-end of the deceased) right at my shoulder while the priest and funeral director chatted with mourners!

That, I would say, is an occupational hazard.

As we suspected, there’s a lively market for second-hand hearses, confirmed by Kevin:

During the summers my father was in college/university, he worked for a harpsichord builder who loved used hearses. You get them incredibly cheap because no one wants to be buried in a used one, they have very good suspension, and they already have rollers in the back for moving boxy wooden things about the size of a coffin or a harpsichord.

Very sensible! Far more so than the pre-owned hearse of Celeste from Elephant and Castle‘s acquaintance:

My uncle used to drive a hearse, in the 1970s or earlier. He is a bit of an eccentric, been a professional violinist since the age of nineteen, and has an interesting history of weird cars and motoring in general – buying a car without a reverse gear; leaving a jar of pickled gherkins in an old car of his, and having not screwed the lid on properly it leaked vinegar everywhere so he had to sell the car; and buying a gold-coloured Mercedes (to the horror of my aunt), as well as losing his license pretty much every year.

Back in his hearse days, I believe he was involved in a car crash (not his fault) and he, his now ex-girlfriend and her daughter suffered relatively few injuries because he was driving a hearse at the time, which was especially well padded/armoured/hardcore. So hearses are very safe – which seems a bit pointless as normally the people in the back are already dead.

Yes, but they are also in a big heavy wooden box, which could cause very comprehensive damage if it shot straight through an inadequate crumple zone. In a way, the death industry is foolishly protecting itself against getting extra work.


continuity announcers: the inside scoop

March 6, 2012


We love it when you people reveal your myriad jobs to us – maybe because how we pass our days can no longer be termed a ‘job’ – as Pete has done here:

My girlfriend was listening to AMT207 and told me that one of the topics of conversation was regarding the role of Continuity Announcers. Which is funny. As that’s what I do.

You seem pretty clued up about it all, but just to confirm, all main channels have live continuity announcements. Well, 1-4 definitely do; I’m not too sure about Channel 5.

Whilst a lot of digital channels have historically been pre-recorded, more and more of the larger ones (especially the entertainment ones, such as E4, BBC3, ITV2, etc) are now live during the evenings, to sound more immediate and “in-the-moment”. Since the advent of Twitter and what’s rather pretentiously known as “real-time water-cooler moments”, live announcing is more in-demand than ever.

And it’s not just talking on the telly that we do. Sometimes we make cups of tea too.

But of course – proper throat lubrication is essential in a profession requiring vocal excellence. Each cup of tea should be covered by some Occupational Health mandate.


I Can’t Believe It’s Called Yellow Fats

October 26, 2011

Luckily for us all, James from Oxford has spent much of the past two decades in deep cover, just to provide the inside scoop following last week’s question concerning I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter:

I used to work with Unilever in the mid 90s on various projects, including the development of their delicious-sounding ‘yellow fats’ strategy for Asia.

Ever fond of an acronym, ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’ was shortened to ICBINB within the company. My team had to regularly feign excitement about the prospects for ICBINB and other yellow fats.

Eventually as our fake excitement for fake butter wore thin we further shortened the name internally to FMIM, or ‘Fuck Me It’s Marg’.

This small act of childish subversion somehow gave us the morale boost necessary to soldier on with our meaningless lives.

Meaningless? You brought yellow fats to Asia! A continent that didn’t even know it needed them! Hold your head high, conquering hero.



the true price of partworks

May 24, 2011

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Episode 175 feels like a lifetime ago to us, but stirring in the depths of memory is something to do with partwork magazines and who the hell buys them and at what lifetime outlay etc etc…you remember, right? Well, anonymous newsagent has been in touch to confirm the financial and emotional devastation they wreak:

I work in a newsagent’s, and the tragic fact about those partwork magazines is that some people do genuinely buy all of them. One man has bought more than 120 of The Pocket Watch Collection (£7.99 fortnightly), with no sign of the end of the collection as yet. The poor old man can’t stop buying them, as he wants the whole set, and has spent about a grand on them altogether so far! Poverty befalls all who purchase, but he does have a rather large collection of watches now, if that’s any consolation.

With some, they extend the initial run half way through, so will cost way more than originally expected and run for even longer than the 80 or so expected, or just stop making them a few issues in if they’re not making enough money.

Now I have betrayed the secrets of my trade, I am prepared to be clapped in irons and slung out of the print media selling community.

Don’t worry, you still have chewing gum and jazzmags to fall back on. As it were.

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Meet The Zaltzwicks

May 1, 2011

So, Helen and Martin got married last weekend.

I’ve been waiting to blog about it because I was waiting for the right photos. These beauties were taken by Rick, Helen’s brother, and only emailed to me today. He was lugging around a camera the size of a labrador at the wedding, so I’d suspected they would be worth waiting for.


It was a really charming event, perhaps the loveliest wedding I’ve ever been to, and VERY Helen and Martin. They were super-relaxed – greeting guests as we arrived at the service, rather than making a grand entrance, and cracking jokes throughout – and the grub was a slap-up home-made afternoon tea, washed down with a LOT of pink champagne (they’re not drinkers). Oh, and a fish and chip van at 11pm. And a cheeseboard. Awesome.

The ceremony was al fresco, in a beautiful park in Kent (alongside a craft fair and fete – and even a meet-and-greet with celebrity porkchop PEPPA PIG!), but luckily the rain held back for the ceremony, despite hilarious and dramatic thunderclaps as the happy couple made their way down the aisle. Well, if you are going to have a resolutely secular wedding at Easter time, God will make His feelings known…

Back at the Zaltzman family pile, there were cracking tributes by various folks including friends-of-the-podcast Alex Thomas and Andy Zaltzman, but, it must be said, Helen and Martin’s dads pulled off the funniest speeches of the night.

Helen and Martin are now on honeymoon somewhere in the States, no doubt listening to discordantly intellectual audiobooks as they speed down the highway, stopping frequently to photograph funny road signs, or further snapshots of Martin sucking yet another ice lolly that looks a bit like a penis. They claim not to yet know what their new surname will be, but for me – as for all true AMT! fans – they will be Forever Zaltzwick.

Well done, chaps.

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Private investigations

March 16, 2011

** Click here for Episode 170 **

Our next correspondent wishes to remain anonymous. And for good reason: because he’s only a bona fide PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR! So let’s call him Magnum, because we so rarely get the opportunity to call someone that:

Many Police Services utilise the skills of Private Investigation and research firms.

This is because (and I do not mean to criticise) most Detectives are not aware of the wealth of information available on-line both in the UK and internationally and they rely on their special powers (legislatively, not super-heroes!) to solve crimes.

My employers have assisted with intelligence to convict terrorists, paedophiles and a wealth of money laundering and financial crimes.

Additionally many large insurers, investors and mega national companies instruct us as investigators to gather evidence in order to pursue multi-million pound frauds etc perpetrated against them through the civil courts, as Police cannot or will not investigate such matters.

It sounds like Magnum here has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about the police. We like to think that at 6pm they all lay down truncheons and plastic disguises, and head out to a car park to settle their differences with a big dance battle.

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Wherefore art thou Wally?

February 23, 2011

** Click here for Episode 167 **

You know how much we love getting feedback from the horse’s mouth, and in this case, we equally love getting feedback from the horse’s nephew’s mouth. Behold the following email from Marc:

I was explaining to my aunt your explanation about why Where’s Wally? is called Where’s Waldo? in the US, as she used to work in children’s publishing (for the company who published Where’s Wally?), and she is friends with Martin Handford. She got quite cross – but then she’s a bit mental and tends to get cross about most things – like errant apostrophes and men with obvious haircuts.

I’m afraid you got the Where’s Wally? thing wrong on both counts.

Martin Handford didn’t name the book. He was an illustrator who liked doing complex crowd scenes. A writer friend of his suggested that he do a kind of puzzle book in which you have to find a character in the crowd scene. So he drew this hapless stripy geeky bloke. An editor at Walker Books gave him the name Wally – because it was a word in popular usage at the time.

When they sold the rights to the US, the American publishers were worried about copyright infringement because there was already a children’s book called Where’s Wallace?. Waldo seemed like a good alternative. No focus groups were involved. Publishing, especially children’s book publishing, in the 1980s was not that advanced.

So hope that clears things up. We used to get hand drawn Christmas cards from Martin Handford back in the 80s – to be honest I always used to hate the Wally books though. We had all of them. Plus all the merchandise – such as it was. All shit. Much preferred TinTin and Asterix books.

OUCH. I hope Martin Handford is not reading this.

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