Can I buy an L-O-L? Pitt student brings comedy to Wheel of Fortune


Image courtesy of Andrew Lafferty

Andrew Lafferty, a sophomore political science major, on “Wheel of Fortune.”

By Julia DiPietro, Staff Writer

Andrew Lafferty started off his appearance on “Wheel of Fortune” last Friday with a joke.

“What do you call it when your oldest son gets on ‘Wheel of Fortune?’” Lafferty asked. “Apparently not a big enough deal for my parents to come.”

Lafferty, a sophomore political science major who prides himself on his comedy, is involved with the improv comedy troupe Ruckus and staff writer for the late night show “Pitt Tonight.” He found out over winter break that his application was selected to be on “Wheel of Fortune.”

At the end of the game, Lafferty finished with $11,100 in winnings and came in second place. Contestants on game shows have many goals and, according to Lafferty, his was to incorporate love for comedy into his half-hour of fame.

“Something I was really excited about was getting the opportunity to tell a joke on TV during my intro. I do comedy stuff and I very much wanted the opportunity,” Lafferty said. I remember thinking I don’t care at all about the money, I just hope they let me tell a joke, so that’s what I was focused on.”

There was a big discussion minutes before the episode was filmed about whether or not Lafferty’s joke would be allowed on air. Five different producers had to screen it and he said the planned joke introduction was almost cut.

“Someone else comes in and I tell her the joke and she goes, ‘Let me get someone else.’ I had to tell the joke five different times, no one laughed because everyones heard it a bunch and someone was like just scrap it,” Lafferty said. “This was all going on two minutes before I went on stage, I was like “I’m gonna tell the joke and you can cut it later if you don’t like it.” You’re only on ‘Wheel of Fortune’ once, this is your opportunity.”

Besides the process of getting his joke on air, Lafferty said comedy was effective when applying to the show. For his audition tape, he performed a skit of him mistakenly trying to audition for “Survivor” instead of “Wheel of Fortune.” According to Lafferty, his twist to the video assisted him in getting selected.

“I think that’s actually what set my application apart from other people because I made a joke video where it became apparent that I thought I was auditioning for ‘Survivor.’ It was me saying ‘My name is Andrew and I should be on Wheel of Fortune because I can handle the physical challenges,’” Lafferty said. Then I went to do a handstand which I cannot do and I fell down, the camera zoomed in on me crying laying down and I asked ‘Why would you ever ask me to do a handstand? I hate you. I hate this show.’”

All of college week was filmed in a single day. According to Lafferty, because “Wheel of Fortune” could incorporate any references of culture or media into their puzzles, they kept the contestants in close quarters when shooting the episodes and away from the outside world to eliminate possible assistance.

“They take your phones and you’re not allowed to have any books or read anything because they said anything could be a puzzle, don’t want anyone to have an upper hand as to what might or might not be a puzzle,” Lafferty said. “If I had to go to the bathroom, all of the contestants had to go together, if I wanted to get water, we would all go together. We were next to each other the whole time. It was fun, it led everyone to getting to know each other better.”

Besides the new friends he made on the show, according to Lafferty, while preparing for the show, many people showed their support for him — specifically his friend Jillian DeSando, a sophomore business information systems major.

“She was one of the people I would watch the show with and helped me practice a lot. People think it’s cool when you’re gonna be on the show,” Lafferty said. “Then every single day when you’re like, I gotta watch three episodes of ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ not a lot of people will stick around. Jillian was very helpful and very cool about it.”

Lafferty has a knack for comedy, according to DeSando, and is a perfect fit for a career in television.

“Andrew is one of the funniest people I know, he is very spontaneous. I think he can have a very good career in comedy and television in the future, such as ‘Saturday Night Live,’ which he loves,” DeSando said. “Last year in our dorm building hallway I filmed Andrew’s audition video. Once he found out he was going to be on the show, he would come over and we would watch several old episodes to help him prepare.”

Lafferty’s father, Brennan, went out to California with his son during the week of filming. According to his father, Brennan’s love for comedy brings their family closer together and was important that it was included on “Wheel of Fortune.”

“It’s always special to spend time with your kids, especially when you know they are having one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Unfortunately, on the day of taping, no studio audience was allowed. Andrew was gone for more than 12 hours that day,” Lafferty’s father said. “Andrew makes us smile, makes us laugh, which is a true gift. He’s made our family appreciate how much time and effort goes into storytelling and being funny.”

After appearing on the show, Lafferty is required by “Wheel of Fortune” to refrain from being on television again for a year, but said he is proud of his accomplishments and felt it helped him in more ways than people would think.

“I dont think I’m allowed to have any other network television appearances for a year, which screws up my plan a bit. It was a great experience, I had a lot of fun,” Lafferty said. “I think more people should watch ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ it helps with Wordle. If you watch ‘Wheel of Fortune’ you will get better at Wordle, they compliment each other well, my daily streak has definitely improved.”