Tuesday, February 07, 2006

By Request...My Jeopardy! Experience

Russ suggested last night that I go into more detail about my Jeopardy! experience. Since today wasn't too exciting--got up, went to work, ran a couple errands, came home, cooked dinner, and worked on a review for Sue--I might as well honor his request. So dust off your Weird Al album and come listen to my tale.

It all began in the summer of 1997, when I was living with my parents and looking for another job to replace my technical writing one. I had part-time work as a copyeditor, but that wasn't enough. I did have plenty of time to watch TV, though, especially Jeopardy!. Like many people, I would question the answers while watching, and I wasn't too bad. So when I saw one day that the show would be holding tryouts in Chicago, I went online and registered. I was quite shocked when I was actually selected, though. But I spent the time in between reading general knowledge books and trying to learn a bit more in my weak subjects.

The day of the tryouts, my parents drove me down to Chicago and dropped me off while they visited my grandmother. If I recall correctly, the audition was in a hotel. Many other people were already there, and quite a few of them were cramming just as I had done. When the time came, we were all ushered into a large room and given a sheet of paper with 50 lines on it.

The audition consisted of a tape of Alex reading 50 clues out loud. For this test, you didn't have to answer in the form of a question. The topics were general; I remember there were questions on recent events and beverages, among other things. For this, I did find that my studying helped me with some of the answers. In order to pass, you had to get over 35 questions right. I estimate there were about 100 people testing at the same time I did; only 15 passed. I was one of them.

The second part of the audition was to get to know us a little better and to see how well we would be able to handle being on the show. The people running the test gave us short interviews and let us practice ringing in with the real buzzers from the show. I think this is when we had to list some interesting things about ourselves for Alex to ask us about, but I'm not sure anymore. I felt like I handled this part well, and after I was done, I treated myself to a chocolate-covered strawberry and waited to hear back from the show.

I got the call sooner than I expected, in September. I had to take time away from my jobs (I was temping at the enzyme company by this point) and make my own travel/hotel arrangements. (They had a deal with the hotel, but I still had to pay for everything.) Eugene wasn't able to fly out with me, so my dad came along, since he'd lived in California before and knew the area a bit. (Edited in: Eugene says he gave me a little stuffed animal to bring along, but I don't remember that part.)

The taping was on a Monday; we flew out on Saturday (I think) so we could spend a day sightseeing. We drove around for a bit, with Dad recording things on his camcorder. I can't remember the name of the tourist area we visited, but eventually we wound up at a beach in Santa Monica (not to be confused with Sandra Monica, my names. ;) ) I couldn't wear my contacts at the beach, and there's a crazy section of the video where I tried to use it and couldn't see what I was doing very well. I also got to swim in the ocean, which is something you don't get to do very often in the Midwest. Unfortunately, I also got a sunburn on part of my neck and back. Obviously I needed Eugene along so he could apply some sunscreen properly. ;)

The next morning, I dressed in a suit (gray with a turquoise blouse) and brought some changes of clothing along in case I won and appeared on several shows. I met a bunch of other contestants at the studio, and we were briefed on the rules again. They also put makeup on us and hid my sunburn. Then we had to wait for our turn to be on. When we weren't playing, we sat quietly in the audience and watched the tapings. They taped five shows that day; as luck would have it, I was on the last one.

After all this time, it's hard to describe what I felt while the taping was going on. I didn't feel nervous; I was too focused on the clues. Unfortunately, the first two rounds of the game didn't have good categories for me, and I missed some easy questions. I got both Daily Doubles in the second round. I missed one about starfish and got the second one about golems. (I got that one because I'd read a book about them earlier.) My score bounced up and down, but I made it through to the Final Jeopardy! round behind the leader. The category was "Playwrights." Being the reader that I am, I felt confident enough to bet all but $100. I don't remember the exact wording of the answer anymore, but it had to do with a modern German playwright. I questioned, "Who is Brecht?" It was right. Unfortunately, the leader also got the correct question, and he won. I came in second.

So, what did I win? The main prize was a week-long trip for two to NYC, which I used in 1998. I was supposed to go with Eugene, but due to a family situation he had to cancel. Again, my dad came with me, and we toured the common tourist traps. We did go to the World Trade Center (which was good, since Eugene and I skipped it on our 2001 vacation), and I also saw Cats on Broadway during a matinee show. Some of the other prizes I got were a case of Tootsie Rolls, a copy of the Jungle Book, a back massager (which I gave to Dad), and, of course, an electronic version of the show.

The show I was on aired in October 1997. I refused to watch it, since I was embarrassed by my mistakes. In fact, even though I taped the show, I still haven't watched it. Maybe when I'm old and senile I'll be able to watch myself without cringing. ;) Still, in retrospect, even though I had trouble in the first two rounds of the show, I was lucky when it came to the final category. Of the four shows I watched being taped, I would have not gotten the final question for three of them and would have bet low on the one that I could answer. So in that sense it all worked out for me.

I don't have time to watch much TV anymore, and I haven't followed Jeopardy! in years, not even when Ken Jennings was on. It doesn't have the same appeal anymore. People have urged me to try out for other shows, like Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, but I don't think I'd do well on popular culture questions. I know more about Schroedinger's cat than I do about TomKat, and I'm happier that way. But now I too can sing along with weird Al that "I Lost on Jeopardy!"

All right, kids, you've had your bedtime story, so now it's time to say good-night. And no getting up in the middle of the night for a glass of water either, or the monsters under the bed will get you. ;)


The Dear NYer said...

Sandra, that is such a great story, I love it! Thank you so much for sharing it.

(As an aside, look back to the German restaurant comments)

Sara said...

I didn't know you had been on that show! I too am one of those people who answer the questions along with the show. I think I could probably go on the show, but my knowledge is probably pretty lacking in a few things. My friend from Sellery Hall, Dave Larson, also went on but ended up being negative at the end of double jeopardy and not able to participate in final jeopardy. Anyway, wow! That's pretty cool.

Sandra said...

You're welcome, Dear NYer. Eugene and I saw your comment under the Berghoff entry, and we'd love to get together with you and Gus the next time we're in NY. (I almost typed in Russ instead of Gus.)

Sara, why not try out for the show if you get the chance? It's worth a shot. And have you heard anything from Dave recently? Is he still in the Niles area? That's not too far from us.

Sandra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Russ said...

Sandra, although I knew the main points of that story, it was good to read it again, and get the "little details" this time. I remember, it was cool to see you up there on stage, on the "small screen."

And, hey, if I can find a way to meet the lot of you out there in NYC, I'd be happy to join the group!

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