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Unattractive, selfless people need not apply

Feb. 16, 2001

re*al*i*ty, n., 1. The quality or state of being real. 2. The totality of all things possessing actuality, existence or essence.

What exists and what doesn't has always been kind of a fuzzy question for philosophers. Plato wondered if the things we see in this world might only be shadows of what is actually real. Berkeley and Hume questioned our knowledge of any absolute reality, saying our world may only be the illusion of our senses. Some sociologists even theorize that reality is ultimately shaped by the semantics of individual languages, suggesting that no two cultures have identical perceptions of what's real.

However, I've developed my own theory: The only way to approach an existential belief system is through a comprehensive knowledge of the inner workings behind MTV's The Real World.

You know what I'm talking about --the mother of all reality shows; the week-by-week saga of seven photogenic 20-somethings stuck in a large, over-decorated house for five months. They may be petty and immature, but they're attractive and famous and you know you love them.

And after so many seasons of watching cast members like Teck and Ruthie expose themselves, the question that naturally follows is 'How can I do that, too?!' The answer is simple.

Step 1: Know what they're looking for. Real World cast members have to be between the ages of 18 and 24. Apart from that, MTV insists it has no other standard for deciding the cast. Still, unless you're unusually attractive (and you know you are), you probably need not apply.

Step 2: Get to an open-casting call or send in a video. If you live in or near a big city, an open audition should be held nearby at least once a year. There, you'll fill out a short application, then mingle with 5,000 other attractive people until your number is called. Then, you'll have a short interview and be sent on your way.

If you can't get to an interview, you can send in a 10-minute video of yourself. The MTV Web site says the only guideline is to 'be real.' Even better, though, you should be creative. The next step is to camp out by the phone. If you get called, then:

Step 3: Go through further interviews and callbacks until you get to the finals in Los Angeles. A rigorous process follows, designed to test if you really want it as much as they want you. These rounds include a 15-page application essay, tons of taped interviews and a few free flights to major cities. Again, the next step has you waiting back at the phone. If you're called after Los Angeles, then:

Step 4: You've made it onto the Real World. MTV tapes between January and June of the year prior to airing. Of course, statistically, you won't make it this far. Of the 35,000 applications MTV sifts through, only seven get that final call. That's a .02 percent chance. Still, if it happens, pack your bags and get ready for free food and forced confessionals.

Shortly after you arrive, you'll probably realize (if you hadn't already) you fit into one of seven static character types: the Innocent Virginal roommate; the All-American; the Token Homosexual; the 'Playah' (remember Teck?); the Ethnic roommate; the Drama Queen (i.e., every cast member ever); and the Instigator (to keep things aggravated).

If you recognize yourself as one of these stereotypes, then this column is for you. Auditions for next year's New York season have come and gone, but 2003 is still up for grabs.