The joy and pain of ABC's Wipeout

FRESNO, California

While spending a day on the "Wipeout" set near Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County, contestants kept telling me they were more exhausted than hurt - despite the nasty spills.

You feel their pain but you never stop laughing. Contestants seem to enjoy the blindside hits because they keep getting back up.

Caked in mud and foam before getting knocked off her feet, contestant Megan Pralle knew right away she was in trouble. Pralle said, "When did reality hit for you? I would say when I got slammed in the face with a padded wall, into mud literally thicker than cake batter and you're trying to swim through it and you get out and you're carrying ten pounds."

Despite the knockout blows contestants keep moving forward on ABC's "Wipeout." Executive producer Matt Kunitz called safety the show's number-one concern. Kunitz explained, "Everything is soft so they might hit it hard but it's like if I took a big pillow and whacked you across the head with big pillow. It's going to knock you off your feet but you're going to be okay."

Think of it as three stooges' physical comedy taken to a new level. Everyone enjoys seeing these poor people get popped.

"Wipeout" co-host Jill Wagner said, "There's two feet of foam on there so what the people don't see at home is everything is soft and padded."

The harder they fall the bigger the laugh but medics are always on standby in case someone does get hurt. Long before contestants tackle a new portion of the Wipeout course it must be first tested by staffers known as the "black and blues."

Sometimes they're covered in foam. This proud group of five is literally black and blue. Associate producer Kenny Shackleford said, "We got that nickname because we were always limping around. We were always sore by the end of the day. We're pretty much the guinea pigs for Wipeout."

Kenny though can fly through the big red balls with flair and ease. Every aspect of every stunt must be tested to make sure it's not too dangerous. He said, "It seems like we maybe throw things together but we literally measure stuff down to the inch on height, on gap, on everything so we get a guaranteed sweep."

And the pain is worth it when you get the comedy payoff.

"Wipeout" host John Henson said the goal is to, "Add a little bit of trickeration, hiding obstacles so people don't see stuff coming. It's always fun to see someone get blind-sided."

Contestants we talked to insisted it's not as painful as it looks, at least most of the time. Contestant Bethany Davis said, "Oh my gosh it kicked my butt. It was absolutely a ton harder than I thought it was gonna be and I'm really afraid of heights."

But if you have a magnetic personality and can withstand a pounding you could earn a spot on the "Wipeout" course.

Rich Liest is the head of casting. He said, "Some people come out knowing they want to go for the 50-thousand. Some people come out just to embarrass their kids."

People find no shame in their search for 15 minutes of fame.

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