USCB staffer to be featured on ‘Ellen’s Game of Games’
When she had to go get fitted for a harness, Erin Nerstad realized just what she was getting herself into.
The associate director of UCSB’s Interdisciplinary Humanities Center will be featured this Sunday on NBC’s “Ellen’s Game of Games,” hosted by multi-award-winning TV host, producer, writer, actress and Montecito resident Ellen Degeneres.
Mrs. Nerstad competed against three other contestants in the game show’s “See Ya Later, Alligator” minigame, which required them to solve pictograms, and if they correctly did so, choose an opponent to eliminate.
She laughed as she referred to sending other contestants home as “pretty terrible.”
“Having to eliminate someone was a bummer because you just met everyone and everyone’s really nice,” Mrs. Nerstad told the News-Press. “But I was pleased that I was put on a puzzle solving game. I feel like I was able to compete in that — I think if they had put me on one of the other games, it would not have gone so well.”
While the local game show contestant wasn’t able to spoil the results on who won the big cash prize of up to $100,000, she did offer the following: “I am pleased with how everything went. … I felt like I was able to participate well and use my problem-solving skills.”
Mrs. Nerstad has lived in Santa Barbara for almost four years, and is married with two daughters, ages 9 and 5 years old. She’s new to the game show scene, and started her journey with her sister-in-law when they attended a taping of the “Ellen Show” in March 2020, just prior to the pandemic.
After the taping, the two women did a 30-second audition tape, and Mrs. Nerstad was chosen for “Ellen’s Game of Games.” However, up until the day of the episode’s taping, she was convinced she was simply an alternate.
“I was thinking that maybe I was just kind of along for the ride,” Mrs. Nerstad said. “I don’t know why, but when I got there, I actually saw my name on my station where I was going to stand and it sort of all sunk in … You’re so full of adrenaline and then out comes Ellen and you’re just thinking, ‘Oh, it’s really happening. I’m on Ellen’s Game of Games.’”
The game show features several wacky minigames, using all kinds of equipment including bungee cords, blindfolds, cannons, balloons, shaving cream, slime, umbrellas, toothpaste and, indeed, harnesses. Contestants are selected to play in one of four preliminary games, and the winner of each game advances to the semi-final round to play “Know or Go,” where players stand on trap doors and drop down a chute if they answer incorrectly.
Then, the last contestant standing advances to “Hotter Hands,” the final round where the individual has one minute to answer a series of questions. Each correct answer increases the winnings, but each incorrect answer requires them to start over. The cash prizes range from $1,000 to $100,000.
“One of the things I really appreciated about the process was seeing how they make the show,” Mrs. Nerstad said. “It’s pretty impressive, all the different layers of planning and different divisions or departments of people with different types of expertise.”
While the players and host had to remain fairly socially distanced because of COVID-19, the Santa Barbara resident said she did get to briefly chat with Ms. Degeneres before the taping, which she described as “surreal.” However, she laughed as she said one letdown was, “I didn’t get the ‘Ellen hug’ that a lot of people get to have.”
The contestant added that she did plenty of research prior to her filming of the show, but “See Ya Later, Alligator” was the one game she didn’t watch ahead of time. However, she said she quickly learned the rules and how to decipher a sentence out of pictures and emojis.
In addition, COVID-19 prohibited an audience from watching the show, which Mrs. Nerstad said probably calmed her nerves more.
“You feel like you’re performing, but not for anyone,” she said. “The expectation is everyone’s going to be watching you, but no one is watching you.”
But, in a matter of days, many will get the chance to watch her shine on the popular television program.
Mrs. Nerstad said she could see another trivia-type game show in her future.
“I liked the game show experience and I liked flying through the sky in the harness, but I don’t know that I would want to combine those together again,” she said. “I had a good time and I thought it was really great that I was able to do it during the pandemic…
“It was fun being on the show, but it was also fun to go to a TV show set and to just be in this alternate universe of being in a Hollywood production setting. I thought that was really neat and I was glad for the break from my pandemic life to be able to go and have that experience.”
To see how one of Santa Barbara’s very own fared in the competition, tune in to NBC at 5 p.m. Sunday to watch Mrs. Nerstad’s episode, “Peaky Blindfolds,” episode 419.