jeopardy, nola

Had a fine weekend, chilling in Rayne, dining and imbibing with the aforementioned James and Jennifer.
So I tried out for Jeopardy this morning. As described earlier here, I randomly signed up on the Jeopardy web site for a tryout; they were coming to New Orleans on a weekend I’d planned to be in Louisiana visiting my folks. So I drove down to NOLA Sunday night (staying at my standby Le Richelieu — on the quiet end of the Quarter, cheap, and free non-valet parking, enough positives to outweigh the furnishings-from-1976 feel).
At 11 a.m. sharp this morning, a total of 53 would-be Jeopardiers were herded into a hotel conference room and given gifts: a ballpoint pen and a keychain, both with the show’s name displayed prominently.
There were several people who were very happy about this.
We all sat down and start filling out a form with our name and five interesting things Alex Trebek could ask us about our lives should we make it onto the show. (Mine, probably guessable by longtime readers here: the Zambia thing, the Pitcairn thing, the Cajun thing, the CDMOM thing, and…um…can’t remember No. 5.) Then some Jeopardy staff person came out to explain how the next hour or so would go:
We’d be taking a 50-question test. The questions were harder than usual Jeopardy questions — more like the $800 and $1,000 questions than the $200 and $400 questions. The questions would be shown on a projector and read out by the recorded voice of Johnny Gilbert, the show’s announcer. We’d get eight seconds to write our answer, presumably using our Jeopardy pen.
And no, we didn’t have to write “who is” or “what are” every time. And unlike the show (and the SAT, if my high school memories serve), no penalty for guessing. The whole thing takes 13 minutes, he said. Those who score highly enough on the test would be selected for the soopersecret Phase Two of the tryout.
He didn’t say what it would take to reach that stage, but a little Googling last night indicated it’s apparently somewhere around 40 correct.
The test was hard, but not crippling. I blanked on two of the first three and thought things were headed for the crapper, but they got easier. By the end, I knew I’d missed five or six, was so-so on about five or six others, and pretty confident on the rest.
The staff people disappeared into another room to grade the tests, while a woman named Cheryl, who is evidently part of something called the Clue Crew, came out to show us a video and chat us up.
(Aside: I, like all quiz-bowl geeks, used to watch Jeopardy when I was a kid. But that was some years ago. I honestly haven’t seen the show in several years — certainly not since I moved to Dallas, and probably not since college, which would be six years ago. So I had no idea what the Clue Crew was — it was evidently introduced a couple years ago to spice up the Video Daily Doubles. I felt a little bad about so clearly being out of the loop — other folks there were avidly discussing tidbits of Jeopardy culture, like the impact it had when dollar amounts were doubled and the recent removal of the five-day-champion limit. I sat and smiled.)
(Further aside: Not knowing about the Clue Crew evidently meant I missed out on Sofia Lidskog for a couple years. My loss, clearly.)
Anyway, the staffer came back out and announced seven names as having passed the test. I was one of them. That was pretty cool.
Everyone whose name was not called was asked, politely but firmly, to leave immediately. I felt awful for those folks — they’d all poured their hearts into that five-things-to-talk-about-with-Alex form, and now they weren’t even being allowed to turn it in. I guess there’s intrinsic value to self-evaluation, but still, it seemed a little cruel.
The seven of us were asked to fill out further forms and had a Polaroid taken. The contestant pool had been only about 10-15 percent female, but surprisingly four of the seven who made the cut were women. (It’s possible they may use a different point cutoff for women, since I’m sure the natural trivia-geek demographic would mean a contestant base that’s overwhelmingly dorky and male. The fact that the staffer refused to say what the cutoff was made me think it might be fluid.)
We then ran through a couple mock Jeopardy rounds, complete with buzzers and mock Alex interviews. They said that all seven of us would be put into the pool of potential contestants for the next year; these mock rounds were to see if we were freaks or not. (They phrased it differently.) It was basically a test of our ability to answer in the form of a question, enunciate our responses, and pick a category quickly and smoothly. They didn’t even keep score.
I think my TV experience came in handy; I kept my interview responses short and snappy (unlike one poor woman who rambled on for five dull minutes). My buzzer manner was pretty smooth; the staffer complimented my “energy,” whatever that means. And then it was over.
I’d got no idea if I’ll actually make the show; they wouldn’t say what percentage of test-passers actually get the call to go to L.A. And unfortunately Jeopardy’s buzzer policy — no buzzing in until the question is done — neutralizes my trivia strength, speed. But hey, I’ve had less enjoyable mornings.
I celebrated with a Ralph at Mother’s, my favorite New Orleans po-boy place. (The Ralph is a Ferdi with cheese; a Ferdi is po-boy with roast beef, ham, and debris — debris being roast beef gravy filled with the pieces of meat that fall in as the roast cooks. Oh, yeah.)

9 thoughts on “jeopardy, nola”

  1. Nice! Although I don’t watch the show now, I used to all the time in High school. Especially since I was on the Trivia-Bowl team. Basically Jeopardy for teens; played in front of a live radio audience. Pretty cool stuff actually. Bus trips, jolt cola, etc.
    I’ve always wondered how I’d do on the real deal. I can usually whip through some of the columns, but not always easily.
    Anyways, this closet nerd will be pulling for you. I actually think you’ll make it on. I’m jealous already.

  2. Congrats for just having the nerve to try… They we holding the same type of cattle call tryouts here in Clevelnad earlier this year, and I chickened out.

  3. Congrats, Josh! If you’re on, it’ll give me a good reason to start watching Jeopardy again. Keep us posted.

  4. Congrats, Josh! If you get on it’ll give me a reason to start watching the show again. Keep us posted.

  5. Great story. And thanks for the description of Ralph — one that sounds halfway tasty, complete with the debris.

  6. Good luck!
    I tried out for Jeopardy! many years ago, and since I’m in L.A. the test was administered on the actual soundstage where the show is shot. We sat in the audience bleachers to take the test, right there in front of the set. I thought I had done pretty well but as it turned out I flunked the test (although by my reckoning I only flunked by one or two wrong answers).
    I have since concluded that I am far too shy to be on a game show. I can see it now …
    Alex: “So Chuck, tell us about yourself!”
    Chuck: “Hommana hommana hommana … I’m da chef o’ da future!”

  7. You couldn’t remember the fifth item of interest you put down for Chuck? Do you think any of us can believe that you — master of trivia — forgot that fifth item? C’mon Josh — spill the beans about your fifth item of interest!

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