Entertainment August 17, 2018
Getting next to Alex Trebek isn't an easy feat.
“Jeopardy!” has a longstanding presence in American television, and it’s easy to understand why. Although host Alex Trebek is Canadian, millions of Americans have embraced him and the quiz show as a staple of their TV diet.
Trebek has hosted “Jeopardy!” since 1984, and it’s inspired viewers young and old to test their trivia knowledge from the comfort of their living rooms.
Evidently, the show has also inspired generations of millennials to make excellent GIFs of Trebek. Of which I am so grateful.
The concept is simple. Contestants answer questions in the form of a question using a buzzer to earn cash. Hopefully, they entertain us along the way.
Long before the show is taped, contestants endure
a host of tests and challenges to make it onto those iconic podiums in Culver City. More than a few competitors have used their connections to cadge an audition for the show. But if you’re the average Joe or Josephine, here’s how to get on “Jeopardy!”
For regular episodes, you have to be 18 or older. Age and eligibility requirements vary for some of the special categories, which include Kids Week, Teen Tournament, the Teacher’s Tournament and the College Championship. You also can’t be an employee of Sony Pictures Entertainment or its affiliates. The FAQ section has more detailed rules here.
The first step, according to the Jeopardy! website, is to make an account and register for the next online test. These are free and offered once or twice per year. The test consists of 50 categories and 50 clues, and you will have 15 seconds to respond to each clue. Sign up for the newsletter to be sure you don’t miss the next test.
In the meantime, the Jeopardy! website has a lot of resources to help you study. For example, there’s a prep center with past Final Jeopardy! questions and practice tests, a Clue of the Day offered by the New York Times, apps, tips and tricks.
According to insiders, the best way to study is to watch the past six months’ worth of episodes so you can assess question categories and patterns. Additionally, “brush up on all your knowledge: your Presidents, your Shakespeare and your world capitals,” offers a former contestant. Other former contestants even suggest working on your betting strategy for Daily Double and Final Jeopardy! questions.
Also, get familiar with the wording of the questions! Maggie Speak, one of the show’s contestant producers, explains: “Some of our categories are easier to understand than others, so it is a good idea to watch the show as much as possible, to get the hang of things, as well as how our writers’ minds work.”
At the same time, Ken Jennings, who holds the longest winning streak at 74 games, encourages you to not stress yourself out, and have fun with it!
After you take the test, you might be invited to an in-person audition. But don’t kick back and relax just yet. This is the chance to show you have the necessary personality to perform on television.
Joanna Messer Kimmitt, who made it through the process and whose episode will air in October, breaks down the in-person process. You take another timed test, play a mock game with other aspiring players and chat with an interviewer — all while being filmed. The numbers are daunting: “Over the course of one year of testing and eligibility, around 30,000 people take the first test, around 1,500 to 1,600 people audition in person, and around 400 make it onto the show each season.”
Her interview also goes over some good tips for what to expect on the day the show tapes. For example, you arrive early in the morning and play a few warm-up games to calm your nerves. They film several episodes in one day, so if you win, you may play more than one full-length game.
While Kimmitt can’t reveal how she performed, because her show hasn’t aired yet, she emphasized that her experience “lived up to the hype I had built around it since I was a child, playing along in my living room and dreaming of the chance to respond in the form of a question.”
Based on the numbers above, unfortunately, most of us won’t ever get a chance to appear on “Jeopardy!” But there are plenty of ways to stay involved with the show. For example, tickets to watch the live tapings are free! They’re available on a first come, first served basis, and quantities are extremely limited.
The form on the website only allows a group reservation of four people maximum, but the show can also accommodate larger groups if you give them a call. I went with my high school’s Mock Trial team as a fundraiser for the club, and we got paid for it! Fun fact: Alex Trebek has the same kind of dog as me (an Australian shepherd), so he’s cool in my book.
As someone who lived in Europe for three years, one of the things I missed most about living in the U.S. was spending a part of my evenings shouting answers to “Jeopardy!” questions with my Dad. While I know that other game shows have come up while I was away, I’m excited to re-start the “Jeopardy!” family tradition. Do you think you can create a father-daughter episode, Alex?
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