On Wednesday, Mary and I took the day off work and went down to Seattle for a Jeopardy! audition. I took an online test back in January, then a few weeks ago they sent me an e-mail inviting me to the Westin Hotel in Seattle to see me in person.
There were about 21 people there, and we met in a conference room in the hotel at 11:30. We filled out forms, they took Polaroid pictures of us, and then the three contestant coordinators introduced themselves to us. They were pretty high-energy, but I suppose they have to be in order to get us retiring, academic types out of our shells. We watched a video introduction from Alex Trebek, and one of the contestant coordinators explained to us what kinds of clues often appear on the show, and how to look for clues within the clue. We did a few of those all together to practice and get used to the format, and then we took a 50-question written test. I felt really good about the test; there were really only two or three questions that I had no clue on. Once the test was over, we had a few minutes to mingle while they were being graded. We started out asking other people if they knew the answers to the questions we missed, and then settled in to more traditional getting-to-know-you talk, like asking each other where we were from. Most were from Washington, with several from the Seattle area, but others came from as far as Montana, Idaho and Prince George, BC.
Once the contestant coordinators came back, we all took turns coming up front, three at a time, and playing a mock game. We played on a game board on which a new category appeared every time an existing category was finished. After each mock game, the audition staff took a look at our “interesting facts about us” sheets and interviewed us based on that. I was one of the last three people to be called up, and I think I did pretty well. During the game, I gave my first response in a low voice (because I wasn’t too sure about the answer) and they told me to speak up, but after that I did well. They asked me about my job, about teaching in Prague, and what I would do with the money if I won on the show.
Now, I’m in their contestant files for 18 months. I’ll probably be more deliberate about watching the show (I’d like to think especially about how to determine wagering), and I’ll spend some time studying things that come up on the show regularly, like Shakespeare. Even if nothing happens, at least I got a free Jeopardy! pen. Also, for the next 18 months I now have a response for the people who tell me, when I watch Jeopardy! or play a trivia game with them, “You should try out!”