Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Was on Jeopardy, Part I: Preparation

My blog is going on a little baby hiatus.

So remember last year when I tried out for Jeopardy and was so pregnant my belly blocked the projector screen? I told the Jeopardy wranglers at the time that I wouldn't be available until June because I was going to be birthin' some babies. Well fast forward to the beginning of July - I was eating some jerk chicken with Mark and friends, Lila and Brendan, when I got a phone call...

Jeopardy: Hi. This is Robert from Jeopardy
Me: Oh! Hi.
Jeopardy: So, where are you right now?
Me: Um, a Caribbean restaurant?
Jeopardy: I mean, where do you live? It says on your form you might be moving.

Anyway, Jeopardy wanted me to be on the show a month later on August 10th, two days before we were going to move. And I don't know if I've mentioned this in the last hour but I have twins. So we were going to be packing in whatever time we had left over from taking care of twins. That doesn't even take into consideration our anniversary and my birthday being the same week. It was going to be one hell of a week. That was probably a good thing since it wouldn't allow me to fixate on Jeopardy too much and get overly nervous. On the other hand I really didn't have a lot of time to study. And no, just to answer a question I was asked surprisingly often, Jeopardy does not tell you what categories to study.

I read Ken Jenning's book Braniac a few years ago (thanks Kelsi!) which talked about what to study for Jeopardy, and I heeded his advice. (Hello, characters and plots of Shakespearean plays!). I also looked online to read about tips from past players. Jeopardy winner Bill O'Donnell's Quiz Show Study Course had lots of suggestions on what to study.

I was not this lame in my preparation.

Done right it can make a cute Halloween costume (the one on the left that is)

This is what I chose to study:
  • Shakespeare
  • Greek and Roman gods (I've always lamented that the other 7th graders learned mythology while I got stuck in "English for Idiots"; possibly the class was officially listed by a different name.)
  • English monarchs
  • Opera
  • Authors and Books/Plays/Poems
  • State nicknames
  • International leaders
  • Current U.S. Cabinet
  • Amendments to the Constitution
  • Recent Oscar winners (I'm a weirdo and for fun I used to memorize winners of Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress by year, but I needed to bone up on the last ten years.)
  • Potent Potables (I'm not much of a drinker so, like Ken Jennings who's a teetotalin' Mormon, I needed to brush up on this one.)
  • A smattering of explorers, composers, and philosophers

I should say right now that nothing I studied helped me on Jeopardy.

That's pretty much how Jeopardy works. You can study all you want but then you get a category like Soap Commercial Jingles.

I made spreadsheets with information and printed them out to study on the drive to L.A. Mark made the Shakespeare spreadsheet into computer flash cards which I practiced with for about five minutes, and that was it flash card-wise. I could see how flash cards would be useful for Potent Potables or Books/Authors, but not Shakespeare play plots.

Speaking of which, here are a few Shakespeare plays as summarized by me on my spreadsheet. See if you can identify the plays. Answers are at the bottom of the post.

1) Everyone dies, lots of amputations and raping.
2) Twins cause misunderstandings... and beatings ensue.

One thing that gets Mark's goat when watching Jeopardy is how badly people wager at the end. The second place player in particular often risks everything when they could have instead risked just enough to win if the first place player missed Final Jeopardy. As a result I studied Final Jeopardy Math, and Mark tested me with sample Final Jeopardy scores if I was the first, second, or third place finisher so I could calculate my best wager.

Jeopardy tells you to only bring three days worth of clothes. I thought this was surprising since someone could win on a Monday and be on for five days. I only purchased one outfit for Jeopardy but I brought five (four involved the same pair of pants). It wasn't because I was so enamored with myself that I thought I would win that many games, I just thought if somehow that DID happen I didn't want people to notice I was wearing the same outfit. They tape a week's worth of shows in one day, and as it turns out the three-time winner I faced (who was thus on for at least four days) only brought three outfits. On top of that, one of the outfits was deemed not TV appropriate because the stripes were too close together. That left two outfits to sort of mix and match for his episodes. Maybe guys can pull that off with suits (just change up the tie), but women not so much.

I wear glasses when I drive, and I knew I'd have trouble seeing the Jeopardy board so I decided to get contacts. I felt a little foolish getting them just for Jeopardy but I figured if I liked them, I'd wear them every day. My enthusiasm for them faded when I practiced taking them in and out at the eye doctor's, and after an hour and a half only got a single contact out once. Even after some extra practice, putting them in or taking them out still took me 20 minutes each time. Somehow the Jeopardy stars aligned for my contacts the day I was on because I actually got them in and out on my first try. In my opinion, the answers on the board are still too small - even with contacts, and you'll no doubt see me squinting repeatedly throughout the game.

By the way if anyone is interested in trying out for Jeopardy, drop me a line. The wranglers gave me a flyer wherein I could recommend people for Jeopardy. (After you take the online test I contact the wranglers and presumably help you get on the show.)

Alex wants you... to try out for Jeopardy

Answers to Shakespeare questions:
1) Everyone dies, lots of amputations and raping. = Titus Andronicus
2) Twins cause misunderstandings... and beatings ensue. = The Comedy of Errors

Next time: I Was on Jeopardy, Part II: Strategy
  • Wolf Blitzer: Not a role model
  • My hair stylist is totally unimpressed
  • What I miss about Wheel of Fortune


  1. T.V. emcees for 100: Photographed shirtless for a women's magazine. (See above photo) Answer: What did Alex do for a little publicity?

  2. AAAH! When will it be on?! I have to tivo. Please advise.

  3. Sara, it'll air Thursday, Oct. 21. You'll be reminded. Don't worry.

    Mom, I don't know what to say... :)

  4. Loove the blog Kathy! I'm more of a Wheel of Fortune whiz. :D
    Can't wait to see the show!