A Jeopardy hopeful named Douglas McElroy wrote to tell me about his auditioning experience. With his permission I've posted his story here -- it's very similar to my experience in a lot of ways.

Since you've been there, I thought I'd share some impressions with you and see if they sound familiar.

First, I did NOT know the test format was television-monitor-centered. I thought they would hand us a paper with test questions, and we would fill in blanks on an answer sheet. Half right. Maybe they did it differently in "your day." [They didn't -- the clues come up on television monitors as you sit in the audience seats of the Jeopardy studio. -KC] But the reading questions aloud and showing them on a TV monitor was different. It WAS more Jeopardy-like, I must admit.

After the test, I felt pretty good. The production assistants said anyone who got more than 35 right passed. [My understanding is this number goes up at times when they're looking for fewer contestants. -KC] There were only about 5 I wasn't dead sure of. But right after the test, some of us began chatting, of course, about the answers. You know, "What did you put for ----?" I listened to the chatting, and some of the answers people put down, or claims of being stumped. After a while, I realized, gosh, a lot of these people don't belong here! Why did they try out?! They had no clue! Not knowing an alpaca was a "camel cousin"? Not knowing Richard III died at Bosworth Field? I hesitate to say they were "stupid," but in the context of Jeopardy tryouts, sheesh!

The production assistants came out and started calling names of those who passed. We were supposed to politely applaud when someone else's name was called. When mine was called, I jumped out of my seat with a cry of happiness. I believe I was the only one to do that. But I couldn't see everybody in the other section, so I may not have been unique.

There were about 60 people trying out. Exactly 15 of us passed, 13 men and 2 women. None of the "chatters" mentioned above made it. One guy who did was sitting near me and was quiet during the "chat" period. I wonder if he was thinking thoughts similar to mine.

They brought the 15 of us down for the mock game. It became clear to me that the 15 of us "belonged." We were Jeopardy nerds. We made lame jokes that were funny to us while filling out the forms. We did well on the mock game. While others were doing the mock games, most of us watched and whispered the answer in unison behind the mock players' backs. We competed, good-naturedly, and showed-off, good-naturedly, while the others were testing.

We were supposed to "tell a little about yourself" and say "what you would do if you won a lot of money on Jeopardy." Everyone had articulate, well-rehearsed, witty answers. Including me. It seemed like a formidable group. You said with your experience that you could tell who was not going to make it from the mock game because they didn't come across well. I think my whole group may make it. Well, one lawyer botched a Supreme Court question and was not very articulate. HE may not make it. But that's the only one. One of the women, by the way, was a small, 70-ish senior citizen. I watched her play, and watched her watch the others. She was sharp. I would not want to be on the same show with her!

As I was leaving, one of the production assistants said, "Bye, Doug." I was briefly elated: she had remembered my name! But, as I thought about it, those people were probably good at remembering names like that; it would be part of their job skills. And oh yes, there were two "Doug"s. She called "Doug" and we both came up. We kidded good-naturedly about that. He had an expensive-looking suit on, and we kidded him about that. So she may have just remembered the two "Doug" situation. But it gave me a moment of hope, there.

It wasn't until I was driving back to work on the Glendale Freeway that it sunk in somewhat. Right there on the freeway I let out a Rebel yell (as well as a Yankee can) as loud as I could. I had made it! If nothing else, I made it THIS far! Now, if I just get the big Phone Call . . . .


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