Digression: Jeopardy Adventures in Nashville

Some of you know, but some of you don’t: I spent the last two days driving back and forth from Asheville to Nashville for a Jeopardy audition. Yes, the game show. The one with Alex Trebek. And for those of you who don’t know, getting on Jeopardy is on my for-real handwritten bucket list in a journal of mine. (Other items of note have been “Move to Asheville” and “Get married,” as well as “dress up in full Victorian period clothing,” but that’s beside the point.)

So let’s just say I was beyond excited to do this.

Driving a total of about 10 hours in a little over 30 hours was not particularly fun, but the rest of the experience totally was. I left work a bit early to get on the road and beat our (pathetic, but still annoying) rush hour traffic, and managed to arrive in Nashville at around 6:30 CST (I gained an hour going). I had grand plans of eating at either a Vietnamese place or a vegan restaurant downtown that looked pretty delicious, but the best laid plans…anyway, I was exhausted, and I instead managed to find a decent Indian joint walking distance from my hotel, which was decidedly NOT downtown. I spent the rest of the evening talking to husband, watching Django Unchained on cable (because I only get to watch cable at hotels, woo!), and trying to come up with 5 interesting facts about myself.

Oh yes, the application. I suppose I should’ve started with the how of this whole process. I’ve been taking the online Jeopardy test for YEARS. That’s two tests a year, for about the last five years or so. The last one I took about a month and a half ago, I’d never felt better about it – a good deal of literature questions, as well as easy science stuff, contributed to that. However, that didn’t stop my utter disbelief and shock when I received an email with the audition offer. I really didn’t know it was real, especially since the audition date was in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of the workweek: 2:00PM on a Wednesday. But it was real, all right, and once the shock wore off, it took me about ten seconds to decide whether or not I’d take off work to check off the bucket list.

Fast forward to Tuesday night, and back to my story: part of the application required me to write five facts about myself and my life story. Now, if you’re like me and watch the show, you probably think some of the stuff people choose to say about themselves is weird, or cheesy, or both, or just plain stupid. But having to condense your life story into five one-liners? I can see why people pick the stuff they do. It is REALLY hard to sound interesting and NOT crazy in five quips – that line is seriously thin. Well, it is for me, at least. I think I managed it, but I suppose it also depends on your definitions of “interesting” and “crazy.” I digress.

I managed to write two facts before I passed out from exhaustion, and slept like a friggin’ baby. It helped that the audition was in the afternoon rather than in the morning so I wasn’t fretting about sleeping in too late and missing the whole thing. I got a glorious nine hours of sleep (seriously, people – if you’re not bragging about how much sleep you get instead of how little, you really need to) and spent the morning coming up with three more facts, watching Star Trek: TNG on BBC America, and reading about Jeopardy strategies. Oh, and brushing up with a couple of games on j-archives. Before I knew it, it was time for me to pack my stuff, check out of the hotel, and head downtown.

Let me just say I’m glad I have friends all over the place – one of my friends in Nashville told me where to park without spending my entire bank account, and for that I’m immensely grateful. I ate bibimbap at a quick-serve place next to the hotel where the audition was being held (under no circumstances would I be late, even if that meant not eating at any of the places I’d researched on this go around. Next time!), and arrived forty-five minutes early.

The view of the lobby from the fifth floor, where I was grinning like a fool in front of the Jeopardy doors.
Proof. Snapchat proof. Backwards Snapchat proof.

Flash forward, since waiting around is not particularly exciting to a bystander (even though I was grinning like an idiot – I was more excited than nervous, which was pretty swell). Although the hallway outside of the room was crowded with the thirty or so of us, it took until about 10 minutes before the doors opened for someone to finally break the anxiety-ridden silence by looking at me and saying, “Y’know, the hardest part about all of this is trying to think of five interesting facts about yourself!”

Bingo. And the silence, at least between him and me, was broken. Eventually, others joined in, and it was SO much better and more relaxed. One of the other prospective contestants was also from Asheville, only a few miles down the road from me, which was pretty neat.

And then, the doors opened, and Glenn and Lauri stepped out, and the crowd rejoiced (after a brief hush). From the very beginning, these two made sure that the audition was actually FUN, which I never thought would be possible – they cracked jokes, they encouraged talking both amongst ourselves and with them, and they had no problem roasting and correcting good-naturedly throughout the afternoon. (“If you don’t like your picture, we don’t care.”) After roll was called and Polaroids were taken (yep, Polaroids – haven’t seen those in ages!), we headed inside to begin the process.

Step One: The Test

That doesn’t really need that big of a header, but whatever – I like how it looks. The first step was a 50-question test. We actually took two of these, for reasons I can’t recall – I was too excited and nervous to pay close attention to the reasoning, and I caught the important bit of the explanation – the better of our two overall tests would be taken, which was a relief. A short video with Alex and various members of the Clue Crew played and explained the process before we got down to showing our stuff. We had 8 seconds to answer each question before a new question appeared on the board, and we wrote down answers, old-school on paper, which I enjoyed, because I’m a sucker for filling out forms. I felt a lot better about the first test than the second test, so I was excited after this to move to the next two parts.

Step Two: How (Not) to Buzz In

Step Two really came in two parts at two different times, but it was the same skill: Lauri led us in when, exactly, to buzz in with answers after the question is read, first by raising our hands. If a contestant buzzes in too early, before the question is finished being read, they are locked out for a possibly game-breaking quarter of a second, so timing is just as crucial as knowing the answer.

This part made me a bit more nervous – while answering 50 questions on paper without anyone else knowing your score is fine and good, it’s another thing to show whether or not you know something in front of over thirty strangers. But I got over this fairly quickly, to my surprise, and took it as something good to realize about myself (as well as remember which points I’m still weak on. Rivers, lakes, and historical minutiae, anyone?) The point of this part of the audition was also not to show off knowledge, but to get the timing right – we were corrected more on whether or not we raised our hands at the right time.

My favorite part? Getting to answer my favorite world capital with “What is Ouagadougou?” Say it out loud, and say it proud: it’s fun as hell.

Step Two and a Half: Q&A with Glenn

This part was killing time, but was likely also part of the audition in some way in getting to know us better and seeing our curiosity. We got a chance to ask Glenn, who has been with the show since it began and other gameshows and television programs since he was FIVE, anything we wanted about Jeopardy, Alex, and, frankly, anything. Questions ranged from “How is Alex doing?” (better, thankfully!) to “Do you think James’ strategy is a game-changer?” to “How are your kids?” (which was my question, which was how we found out he’d been in show business since he was barely out of toddlerdom). We were also given facts and advice about our audition and about being on the show, such as answering “That’s right, Alex!” no matter what was read on the card about ourselves (best fact!), and believing that the phone call with an LA area code is, in fact, Jeopardy calling you to be on the show and not a prank call.

Step Three: Using the Real Buzzers (and Interviews)

After practicing with handraising and majorly breaking the ice between all of us, we moved to the final portion of the audition: practicing with the real clickers. I’d like to think my hours wasted lovingly spent playing video games as a grown-ass adult child helped me actually hit the buzzer at the right time. Reflexes, man. This portion was also about voice projection and personality – we were told Alex is about thirty feet from contestants, so you feel like you’re practically yelling the answers across the room. I’d like to thank my teacher voice for helping me out with that one.

(Speaking of teacher voice, there were A LOT of fellow teachers at this audition. Anyone who still believes that “if you can’t do, teach” nonsense can now go suck an egg and get off my blog.)

Three of us were called at a time to practice with a few questions and buzzing in at the correct time. I got some right, one wrong, but I felt better about actually buzzing in, and I was pleased that I was confident enough at this point not to curl up into a ball of crying anxiety for getting a question wrong in front of the group of not-so-strangers. So huzzah for that!

Afterwards were the short interviews with each person: we talked about ourselves, what we do for a living, what we do for hobbies, and what we’d do if we won a bunch of money. (We were warned not to say “pay the bills” with a giant yawn from Glenn. Message received. And agreed.) For the record, if I won a bunch of money, I’d buy the house next door and put goats on the lawn. I may be trying to get into show business, but I’m still a homesteader at heart πŸ˜‰

And that was it! Frankly, the audition itself was a fabulous experience. I certainly hope I get called back, but I’m also glad to have just gone through the audition itself and met Glenn and Lauri, because they’re most excellent, warm, excited people who really seem to love their work.

I drove back last night, and I’m back to the grind of watering, pulling weeds, and making sure the bugs and marmots don’t eat our crops. Back to homesteading in the next post!

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