Wheel of Fortune hosts teacher


Colleen Adenan

Mazzarella poses with his students in a picture that will appear as part of a “Wheel of Fortune” commercial.

A game show, a do-it-yourself home board game, and an American punchline that has included the likes of Vana White and other famous celebrities, ABC’s Wheel of Fortune has dominated airways since its debut in 1975. If you are watching on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m., then you’ll see math teacher Michael Mazzarella take the stage as part of the show’s “Teacher Week.”


Mazzarella has been a fan of the game show since he was a toddler, watching contestants flamboyantly compete for money by solving difficult puzzles on his grandmother’s television when she used to babysit him. The former University of Maryland mascot thought of the idea to apply randomly to be one of these contestants on the popular show’s site, and seven months later he was selected to come in for a closed audition in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 1.


“There were 50 people [at the audition],” Mazzarella said. “The were looking for enthusiastic people who could yell loud and always had a big smile on their face — just like on the show.”


The audition was three hours of simulated games in front of contestant producers who would monitor contestants reactions. The contestants had to go through the puzzles yelling and clapping with enthusiasm before taking a written portion with 16 different puzzles.


“I only got eight [puzzles] right,” Mazzarella said. “But then I was looking at everyone else’s and saw the average was about two, so I knew I was in pretty good shape.”


The 50 contestants were then cut down to eight and Mazzarella was selected to be one of them. From there, more difficult tests were given to the contestants, such as a real-life Wheel of Fortune game that Mazzarella excelled at.


“[The producers] said they would send a letter in two weeks to those who they selected to be on the show,” Mazzarella said. “But they were filming ‘teacher week’ the following week so they needed a teacher to fill in for someone who had dropped out.”


Mazzarella volunteered, though there were several other teachers of the eight who were chosen to go onto the next level.


“They said they would call us that night if we got chosen for Teacher Week,” Mazzarella said. “So I was driving home to see my parents in New York after the audition when a producer called me and said ‘Hey, it’s Gary from Wheel of Fortune!’ and I had to pull over because I was so excited.”


After learning that he would be filming for the show that Friday, Mazzarella, his parents and his brother flew out to Los Angeles to film for the show’s “Teacher Week.”


“I had to sign a really long contract saying that I wouldn’t cheat and that I won’t say how I do,” Mazzarella said. “All I can say is that the studio is very small and I was very underwhelmed by the wheel. It’s very small, but very heavy.”


The famous “wheel of fortune,” Mazzarella would go onto explain, is around 2,500 pounds and nearly impossible to turn. Mazzarella would give it a full-strengthened spin and it would only turn about two-thirds of the way around, leading Mazzarella to believe that they may digitally enhance the number of turns the wheel goes around for television.


“Pat Sajak [the host of the show] was very nice,” Mazzarella said. “Vana White came in before we were about to film our show’s commercials and encouraged us saying that we’d do great. I only got to see them briefly, though.”


Filming turned into an all-day ordeal, but is an experience that Mazzarella couldn’t be more ecstatic about.


“I’m very happy with how I did, but if I walked away with no money then I would still be completely satisfied,” Mazzarella said. “Make sure you watch—it was a blast.”