M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Friday, June 17, 2011  

Jeopardized, Part 2

So maybe you're wondering how the Jeopardy! audition in Kansas City went, if you're not in what is apparently the large segment of my readership that has already auditioned for, been on, or won huge amounts of money from Jeopardy! in the past. I figure now is a good time to bring the other four or five of you up to speed.

The drive to Kansas City the day before was mostly uneventful, save for an accident downtown that had traffic snarled so badly we saw people exiting the freeway down an on-ramp the wrong way. I went with our friend Bitter, and we practiced using a resource called What Is Quiz Book? 2 that I'd received for some long-ago Christmas and forgotten I had until Trash unearthed it minutes before we left. It was good practice for getting me into the Jeopardy! mindset, which as far as I can tell seems to involve a lot of remembering the category, being annoyed by the phrasing of the clues, and telling myself "Triple Stumper" every time I couldn't come up with the answer. There weren't enough questions in the book to keep us occupied for the whole seven-hour drive, but we also listened to a lot of NPR, which everyone knows also makes you smarter.

We scouted out the hotel where the auditions were being held the evening before, so we knew the route and the parking situation and which room to go to. That morning, we had no trouble finding the right place again. As far as I could tell, neither did anyone else. The e-mail was very clear about not arriving late, or you wouldn't get in. I think the only reason that one guy was allowed in was because his flight from New Orleans that morning had been delayed. Yes, people came in from New Orleans.

We were all herded into one room to pose for a Polaroid. The lady taking them immediately nicknamed me Spike, I guess because of what my hair was doing that morning (I'm currently pushing into the "Diminishing Returns" phase of my haircut life cycle). Although I'm a little embarrassed, I figure it's good to have a nickname because it'll help them remember me. Hopefully that'll override the fact that my Polaroid shows a bespectacled clown grinning down at the terrified viewer from atop a vertiginous tower of chins.

There's the paperwork, and there's the "warm-up" in which the Polaroid lady proves to be in showbiz every bit as much as Alex Trebek, if not more. Those people work, man. They explain a little about how the game works, like anyone besides me doesn't already know this stuff, and then we all practice answering questions by raising our hands in lieu of buzzers. You're not supposed to signal you know the answer until they're done reading the question, you know. This seems counterintuitive for someone who's won as many games of You Don't Know Jack as I have.

Then they split us up into two separate groups, each in a different room. Unfortunately, Bitter, who is a much bigger Jeopardy! fan than I am (much like almost everyone I've talked to about this), isn't allowed to spectate. Nobody is, in fact. It's very secretive. You're not going to catch me writing down any questions or answers that we were given as practice, because I think they'll be able to find me and kill me before I even post this online.

So anyway, after being split into groups and doing some more practice questions and a written test (much like the online one, except I was able to go back and answer a few questions on the paper that I'd missed when they were first asked), there's the mock game, which is what I was most looking forward to. "Mock" is not really a misnomer here. There are only three questions per category, nobody keeps score, and there's no Daily Double or Double Jeopardy on the board. People are brought up in groups of three to basically take turns practicing with the buzzer.

And let me tell you, that thing's trickier than it looks. You have to wait for these little "enable" lights to come on before you can buzz in. If you buzz in early, you get penalized a quarter-second. Which doesn't seem like much, but the people I was up against were buzzing in in picoseconds, seemed like. It got to the point where I was buzzing in even when I didn't know the answers, just so I could have a chance to talk. At least, that's what I told myself about the two wrong answers I gave. Don't worry, I also got a couple right. But by the time that was over I was glad nobody was keeping score. I would have been that guy with a red number on his podium for whom everyone feels pity and contempt.

I think I did pretty well on the interview portion, though. Got a couple laughs plugging my book and talking about my old job at the radio show. It was hard to stand out there, though, because a lot of people showed a lot of personality. Given that my sister-in-law reacted to the news of my audition by chanting "Nerd! Nerd! Nerd!" I thought there would be a lot more duds in there with me, but that wasn't the case.

After everyone got a turn, it was over, and we were released to scatter back to the various sections of the Midwest from which we hailed (people came from Minnesota to Texas, so I don't think I traveled the farthest to get there). I was back at home seven hours later. Now all I have to do is wait to be called back. Apparently the pool they're putting together now will be active for the next eighteen months, so I could hear from them any time between the end of this month and…never.

They told us to keep trying, though. Lots of people do, and plenty of competitors made numerous attempts before ever getting cast, including one big winner she mentioned that I never heard of (not Ken Jennings). In fact, this was apparently not the first time for a lot of the people in there with me, because she recognized them.

None of them had cool nicknames, though.

Will I give it another shot if I don't get in? Probably. The online test was fun, as were the practice quizzes. Maybe next time they could have the auditions a little closer to home. I wouldn't mind going just to Des Moines or maybe Chicago or Madison next time. Kansas City's about the limit of my range for this kind of thing. Anywhere closer would be better. As long as it's not St. Paul.

posted by M. Giant 8:21 PM 2 comments


Maybe the Polaroid thing is deliberate. Mine was so awful that I asked them to take another and they told to sit down and shut up.

By Blogger Andy Jukes, at June 17, 2011 at 9:14 PM  

Maybe my memory is failing me as I get older but I'm almost certain that LONG ago, you _could_ ring in before Alex finished reading the question. And some people totally screwed up as a result because they didn't hear the whole clue. I'm thinking.. 1989-1991-ish?

By Blogger Kangarara, at June 17, 2011 at 9:23 PM  

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