As a trivia junkie and all-around nerd, I’ve dreamed of being on Jeopardy! for as long as I can remember. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2011, I started actively trying to get on the show—something I might not have done if I’d known how tough the odds were.
Out of the 100,000+ people who take the online test each year, Jeopardy! invites only a few thousand people for in-person auditions – and of those, only about 400-500 appear on the actual show.
I heard those numbers on the day I went into a tape. As the contestant coordinator put it, finally we could all say we were part of the “1 percent.”
Since I was a local resident, I was called in as one of the backup contestants. Most of the contestants fly in from around the country, and they have a few Southern Californians in the group as well who may or may not get to tape the show that day. I knew if I didn’t tape that day I’d be put back into the “pool” and have a chance to appear later, but because I wasn’t sure if I would get to appear I didn’t invite any family or friends to join me in the audience. They taped a week’s worth of shows in one day, so I got to sit and watch a whole group of shows. I think my favorite part was that Alex Trebek would take questions from the audience during breaks, about everything from his favorite foods to his wardrobe.
By the time they taped the last show of the day, and I knew I was going to be on the show, I wasn’t too nervous. They give you plenty of chances to practice throughout the day, and the staff and crew spend their time making you feel at ease. Of course, that all changed when I got up on the set for real. There were several moments where I was convinced my clicker just wasn’t working! I won’t spoil the question, but a friend of mine had a long-running joke that if you were ever stumped on Jeopardy! you should just answer, “What is (a certain European country)?” She joked about it so much that the phrase became our standard shorthand for “I don’t know” in almost any situation. I could hardly believe it when Alex read a clue that I thought could, in fact, be that country. I wasn’t positive but I knew I had to say it anyway.
You’ll have to tune in on Friday, March 16, to see if her theory was right! Not sure when to watch? Jeopardy! Has it all mapped out!