Why I probably won't be on Jeopardy! any time soon

posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken

I've been a fan of Jeopardy! almost forever. Heck, I remember Alex Trebek when he had a cute moustache. (Doesn't he look naked without it?)Alex_trebek

Sometimes I know the questions to the answers. Sometimes I don't. I call out my questions to help out the contestants, even if the time/space continuum is not on my side. Friends and family have advised that I apply to be on the show (probably to finally shut up the Know It All).

Last year Jeopardy! offered an online test. I signed up. When the evening came, my dial-up connection was so slow that I was "buzzed out" before even starting.

I was relieved, because there is nothing more humbling to us Know It Alls than to find our we're actually Know Nothings. (Wasn't there a political party called that? I must look it up.)

Recently, the opportunity came around again to take the test online. I wanted to see what it was like. So I signed up, and our switch to broadband internet service paid off. One evening I sat at my home computer and watched the answers shoot at me, every 8 seconds.

I don't remember the answers, and I certainly didn't know most of the questions. But I was satisfied. I had seen the Jeopardy! test and it was tough.

When I got an email a while later with the show's name in the subject line, I assumed it was Spam and almost deleted it. Almost. Turns out, it was an invitation to a live audition in Boston.

Having to be in Boston at 9 am on a Sunday was a mixed blessing. While there was no traffic, and free parking spaces were abundant, any time before noon on a weekend in not my finest hour.

Some of my fellow auditioners had taken and passed the test before but not been called to LA. Strike One against The Newbie (me).

The Jeopardy! staff had us fill out another personal questionnaire. As I finished mine and rejoined the group, I quipped, "So far I think I've aced it." General laughter. I relaxed a little.

The cheerful show staff tried to warm us up with some Jeopardy! trivia. I was the the first who knew that Brad Rutter had won the most money ever on the show. Maybe I'm not so dumb after all.

Then, reality. We were given another 50-answer test. As the clues shot at us, every eight seconds, I began to understand the depth of my ignorance. I wrote "Hi Mom" as the first response (which did not have to be in the form of a question). Quite a few others I left blank. I'm thinking I got about a third of them right, at most.

Phast Two. We had been told to dress as we would for a television appearance, so I wore a pants suit in a flattering shade of purple. What other contestants consider appropriate for television appearances suggests that I might not know my politicians, but I sure do know that a tee shirt or a pair of sagging dungarees (let's not talk about butt crack) is probably not the best choice. At least I looked professional. Score one for me. I relaxed again.

Unfortunately, Phase Three was a series of test panels. Watching them, I began to truly understand that I know very little about literature, science, or sports. I hoped I would sink into the floor before my name came up. It was too humiliating. In the history of Jeopardy!, had a contestant ever not succeeded in questioning a single answer correctly? Was I about to set a record?Jeopardy

My panel was the final one and by then the categories had either gotten simpler or I'd gotten lucky. I was able to hold my own with the questions, if not brilliantly then at least adequately. I estimate that my performance on the panel was about average.

Finally, Phase Four. One of the aspects of the show, besides knowing stuff, is being able to talk at the drop of a cue card. Some of the contestants were pretty good (like the guy wearing the kilt, which he insisted he was wearing "commando", although nobody, thank heavens, checked.) Most people were interesting and glib. Those who know me will understand when I say that the interview was my strong suit.

I left the audition satisfied that I had passed one level of the Jeopardy! test, that I had probably not passed the second level test, and that I would only have a shot at the show if they put a whole lot of weight on the blabber factor.

So I'm not making any reservations for LAX in the near future. They'll keep those who pass muster (about 400 of the 2500 they interview) on the list for a year or so, after which we can start the process all over again. Or not. I don't know if I'll apply again. Athough I would like a chance to tell Alex he should grow back the moustache.

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