Let's hop into the Wayback Machine and set the dial for - um, I don't remember exactly when - January? February? could it have been March? of 2010. Every year, Jeopardy (I'm dispensing with that annoying exclamation mark from here on in; please, no one sue me) gives an online test which is the first step along the path to your theoretical appearance on the show. I took it once (maybe twice) before, when I remembered to sign up and actually be online at the appropriate time. They don't tell you how you did, so unless you have a photographic memory (which it should be clear by now, I don't) or you use some other means to keep track of the questions (I don't know how you write them down or take screenshots and answer in the few seconds allotted), it's sort of like shouting your answers into a tunnel. They just disappear into the ether and you never hear anything more about them.
Unless, of course, you do. As I said, in 2010, I took the test and promptly forgot about it. Honestly, I can't even say whether I felt particularly good or bad about my responses. I was reminded about it, however, when I got an email in September telling me I'd been selected to do an in-person audition for the show in November. I had chosen San Francisco as my audition city, I think because I figured if I should manage to get an audition, I could bundle it in with a visit back home. The closer option would have been Salt Lake City, but I didn't have any reason to want to go there.
|So this is sunrise, hm? I think I'd rather sleep.|
What's the environment like in a Jeopardy audition? Are you imagining a Nerd Herd full of eyeglass-wearers and snorting laughs, perhaps heatedly debating matters of physics or astronomy? Or maybe you imagine that it's just a bunch of regular folks, chatting about the weather and baseball or movies? Either way, you're wrong. (And please note - I have no way of knowing if any other audition was like those scenarios - I've only done it once. Other people have done it multiple times and seen a wider cross-section. I can only tell you about what I saw on this one occasion.) Disclaimer out of the way, I'd describe the overall atmosphere at my Jeopardy audition with this phrase: accountants at a funeral.
|A lovely parting gift, or instrument of Satan? You decide.|
Eventually, the actual auditions began. We were herded into another room (where two of the only other talkative people sat on either side of me, thank goodness) and given a written test. They show a question at the front of the room, you write down your answers, they collect the tests and go outside to grade them, you never find out how you did. On this one, though, I know I aced it. I got one out of the 50 (?) questions wrong. Then they come back in and have you go up to the front in groups of 3 to play a mini game of Jeopardy. You do a little interview segment, and then they show you a board and you ring in and answer and all of that. The contestant coordinators give you helpful hints, telling you if you're ringing in too early or too late. They're just trying to get a sense of whether or not you might be successful at playing, and whether or not your heart can withstand being the center of attention. I'm sure their ideal contestant is also personable, but I've seen some people on the show that let me know they can't always manage that one.
I did all right in the mock game too, I thought. I didn't have to be told to speak up, or prompted about buzzer techniques. Then suddenly it was all over, "thank you all for coming," and like every other part of the process, you have no idea what anyone thought of you. You go into the pool of possible contestants for 18 months after the audition. I left feeling confident enough about my performance that I went home and started studying immediately. After a while without hearing anything, I got lax and eventually stopped (especially because at the time, we were expecting to be going to China within a year, so I'd told them I wasn't available after August). I don't know how everyone else fared; I haven't seen every episode since then, but to my knowledge there's only been one person on tv from my audition session.