Is it better to be an early or late P.O.S. contestant?

Q: It seems to me, over the years of observing the Punniest of Show that the judges are “looser” with giving out higher scores as the contest goes on. In other words, the first 10 contestants rarely get top scores compared to the last 10 or so contestants, i.e. 22 to 32. What do you think is the best slot for a contestant?

A: It is often presumed that the early scores tend to be lower but I don’t think anyone has ever really done the math to prove this. (Here’s a project where we could probably use the services of a computer whiz.) Traditionally we’ve always joked about the early contestants being somewhat sacrificial “cannon fodder” but that’s because its scary to be first up.

Frightened ManNaturally our judge panel changes a bit from year to year so if there’s any truth to this theory, it would almost certainly apply to a greater degree for new judges, as they tend to have a “learning curve,” whereas an experienced judge may be better prepared to take all factors into account.

When deciding the appropriate score to award a contestant, audience reaction is something the judges do tend to factor in. Thus the audience is, in essence, also a judge. Because P.O.S. is the first event of the day, this would also seem to play to the advantage of contestants who are a bit further down the list as the audience may require some warm up too.

In the introductory advice that I offer to all new judges, I generally stress the importance of “consistency” in voting. Although they have cards numbered 1 thru 10, most judges never offer a score below 6. We have had some judges that would award nothing over an 8 as they probably were saving their highest numbers in hopes that someone might later blow their socks off. Other judges have been fairly free with nines and tens across the board. Both strategies are reasonable and fair.

For the past 4 years we have been using a panel of 6 judges (rather than 4) and tossing out the highest and lowest scores for a highest possible total of 40. This system was implemented to diminish the likelihood of tied scores, (which it really doesn’t) but it does tend to shave the edge off inconsistencies in the judging.

I look at your dilemma in this way. If you are more likely to offer a good performance by presenting early in the competition, then that’s where you would want to be. For some people it will work the other way around, as they’ll know the score that they need to beat by watching earlier contestants. 

 Finally, you should keep in mind that contestant numbers are assigned at random so there really isn’t any way for you to predict or prepare for your performance order. (The exception here would be for last minute walk-up entrants who are given left-over numbers. They will at least have the comfort of knowing their performance order as they sign up.)

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