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Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Flashing some cash. The Lovely Leikia (left) fans herself
with dollar bills while Hawaiian Ryan (center) and Sam the
Man show what the minimum wage looks like ($5.25). The
trio have jumped on the trivia-for-cash bandwagon with
"Who Wants To Be A Minimum Wager" mornings at
7:30 a.m. on KQMQ 93.1 FM.

Radio station hops
on cash-for-trivia craze
with bottom-dollar prize

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


MOST minimum wage jobs are inherently tedious, boring, or just plain grunt work, but Hawaiian Ryan and Sam the Man, morning drive duo at Jammin' 93.1 KQMQ, are putting a different spin on minimum-wage work with "Who Wants to be a Minimum Wager." The contest gives KQMQ listeners the opportunity to make $50 in about 15 minutes.

"It's a full day of minimum-wage pay, about 42 bucks, but we don't take out taxes, and we round it up to $50," Ryan explains.

"You can work 15 minutes and then go to the beach. It's the American dream," Sam adds.

Most minimum wage jobs require physical dexterity and the ability to follow simple instructions. "Who Wants to be a Minimum Wager," which starts at 7:30 a.m. week days, emphasizes mental dexterity and a good general education. Last Thursday the "minimum wager" was a single-monikered Hawaii resident named Linda who was returning for a second day of "employment."

Correctly answering the first question of the day would get her to her morning coffee break and earn her $10. Another correct answer and she'd make it to lunch and earn another $15. A third correct answer and she'd reach "Senator Tam's Nap Time" and collect another $10. With four correct answers, she'd not only pocket the $50, she'd have the opportunity to report back to "work" the following morning.

The contest started as a parody of the television game show, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," but game shows, frequently used as a way to boost ratings, are nothing new in the radio world.

Several years ago, cash giveaways coincided with sweeps periods, but these days, with sweeps periods scheduled year 'round, there's always a way to cash in on air.

For instance, in KIKI's "World's Easiest Contest," air personalities call random phone numbers. A person answering with the slogan "I-94 Hawaii's real hits -- where's my money," can win between $100 and $10,000.

In Hawaiian 105's "At Work Challenge," individuals or teams from island businesses can win up to $1,000 a day by answering three questions per day, and beating another team.

Morning teams start at 9:15 a.m. week days. Afternoon teams play at 4:15 p.m. A team can win up to a $5,000 cap for a week's worth of wins.

Says Ryan, "Our catch (on Minimum Wager) is that they can win as much money as they want -- there's no cap. You can become richer than Bill Gates right here on our morning show -- it's just that it's one minimum wage day at a time. You could win $2 million but it would take you 55 years."

To make it through a second day as a KQMQ minimum wager Linda would have to determine:

Bullet The correct name of the Campbell High School sports teams: a) Sabres b) Sharks c) Governors or d) Alii.
Bullet Name the teen artist who did not start off a career in show business as a member of the Mickey Mouse Club: a) Britney Spears b) Christina Aguilera c) Mandy Moore or d) Justin Timberlake.
Bullet Deduce which of four popular sandwiches does not contain bacon: a) BLT b) double cheeseburger deluxe c) clubhouse or d) bacon double hamburger with cheese.
Bullet Select Samuel Clemens' pen name from four possibilities: a) T.S. Elliot b) J.R.R. Tolkien c) Mark Twain or d) Samuel Johnson.

(The answers are below.)

The rules allow a contestant to make a single "life-line call" to Leikia, the third member of the KQMQ Morning Mele team. Linda went to Leikia for help with the Mickey Mouse Club question. That left her to face the final two questions alone.

"I don't know if strategy-wise that was the wisest move but sometimes you have to go for it all. The questions are random so someone may know astrology questions but not know how old Britney Spears is, or know about Magellan but not about Pokemon," Sam adds.

Unlike many radio station contests, "Who Wants to be a Minimum Wager" involves no risk. Contestants keep all the money they earn, even if they've pushed their luck too far.

"You can stop now and take the money or you can go on and answer this question for absolutely no risk. Do you want to take the money and go or risk nothing at all?" Ryan asks Linda in a grave voice.

Linda weighs those options for what seems an eternity but eventually decides to chance it. She goes on to answer all four questions correctly and complete a second day as a "minimum wager."

Linda made it halfway through the following day before a wrong answer caused her "termination."

"Jammin' 93.1 is true to the game, so if the minimum wage goes up our minimum wage will go up," Sam says.

Ryan says the contest is a way to make an American "rite of passage" as easy as possible.

"Who Wants to be a Minimum Wager" has been a big success for the relatively young duo.

Sam the Man ( enjoyed a meteoric rise in local radio, going from unpaid 17-year-old radio show intern (an industry euphemism for "gofer") to morning-drive personality in four years.

Hawaiian Ryan (, 28, got his start as a stand-up comedian while still in high school, replaced Jimmy the Geek as a member of the Three Local Boyz parody act, and got into radio in 1992. Changing priorities resulted in a local rock album he recorded as a member of the Warm Fuzzy Kookamungas.

Ryan's first solo comedy album, "Saving Ryan's Privates," was released late last year and is a long-shot favorite for Comedy Album of the Year at the 2000 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in May.

The album's title track is one of the most creative local comic parodies since Billy Sage's 1983 masterpiece "Honk if You Love George."

A radio game will run as long as audience interest holds up.

Ryan says the "Minimum Wager" contest has been running for about a month.

Sam says it's been going for about four weeks.

Which is it?

Ryan picks up the phone. "Let me phone Leikia."

 | | |
Here are the answers for the game-show questions above:

a) Campbell Sabres
c) Mandy Moore
b) double cheeseburger deluxe
c) Mark Twain.

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