EK: I took the online test last winter. I had taken it before and nothing came out of it - I didn't expect anything this time, either. In May, something made me check an old email account to see if Jeopardy! ever contacted me. To my surprise, I had an email inviting me to an audition! The email was sent weeks before and the RSVP deadline was the previous week. I replied right then that I was just seeing the invitation and I'd love to audition, but I understood if it was too late. They replied that the audition day they offered was full, but there was an opening the following day.
The auditions were held in a hotel in Boston. When I arrived I saw other aspiring contestants going over notes. NOTES?!?! I didn't have notes. I pulled out my phone to learn the U.S. presidents fast. Sixty - seventy of us were split into two groups and brought into breakout rooms set up in a classroom style. The Jeopardy! team showed us a video from Alex Trebek welcoming us and congratulating us on our audition. At my audition, contestant coordinators explained we would be taking two written tests and playing a version of the game. For the written test, everyone got a Jeopardy! pen.
The test format was like Jeopardy clues - A video with clues being shown and read aloud. We had 15 seconds to answer (but not in the form of a question). Each test had 50 questions in 50 different categories. After the written tests, we were called up in groups of three to play some Jeopardy with actual game buzzers - this time in question form. The contestant coordinators call on players to give answers so everyone gets a chance to answer some questions. After about 10-12 questions, play is stopped and a contestant coordinator conducts a quick “get to know you” interview similar to the conversation that Alex Trebek holds with contestants on the show.
After everyone had had a chance to play, the Jeopardy team thanked us for auditioning and told us that they would keep us on file for the next 18 months. We could be invited to be on the show at anytime during those 18 months and should not take the online test again in that time. I left the hotel thinking it had been a fun day and that was probably as far as my Jeopardy journey was going.
In August, I got a phone call from Sony Pictures. I only picked up the phone because I thought it might be a survey about a new movie and I might get a free ticket if I answered their questions. It wasn’t a survey. It was a senior contestant coordinator telling me I was being invited to play Jeopardy in less than a month! It was a total shock! I immediately texted my sister who is a real fan of the show. She jumped into action and made all the travel arrangements. Naturally, she came with me. I was glad of it. I was too overwhelmed to figure out planes and hotels and Uber…
Besides, I had facts to learn! It quickly became apparent that I know very little. I was actually almost regretting all my years of daydreaming in school! I realized that there’s no way to know what kinds of questions will come up in any Jeopardy game. I knew my knowledge of sports, science and geography were all weak and history was not much better. To brush up, I watched most of Ken Burns’ series on Baseball and on The Roosevelts. I made flashcards of world capital cities. I read some kids books about mountains, lakes and rivers. I even looked at a periodic table of elements. That is the extent of the dent I made in the Sisyphean task of acquiring all the world’s knowledge.
As I was learning that the capital of Lithuania is Vilnius, my sister was turning the trip to California into a vacation that just happened to have Jeopardy as one of the activities. I really appreciated this because it took a lot of pressure off me. Even if I didn’t answer a single question correctly, this was just a game I played on vacation. My other sister was even going to join us for the end of the trip in Disneyland. No matter how the game went, the trip was going to be great time.
I can’t talk much about what happened in the studio until after it’s been broadcast but I can say a little. The production team could not have been kinder to the contestants. The makeup artists, Sandy and Lisa, were very sweet even if they don’t let you wear red lipstick (it looks too blue under the lights with the high definition cameras). Alex Trebek is very nice, funny and professional. The game play goes by in a flash. It happens very fast.
I’m really looking forward to watching on Wednesday, November 27 to see what happened.