Making it on Jeopardy!

Not many people can say that they’ve been on “America’s Favorite Quiz Show” Jeopardy! But, our very own Grants Associate Leah Blumenfeld can! We asked Leah to give us the inside scoop on this unique, once in a lifetime experience!

See how Leah does on Jeopardy! Tune-in Monday, May 19th at 7:30pm!

Getting to be a contestant on Jeopardy! is a long process. You could say it took me about ten years. I really started making the effort as soon as they began using the online test as part of the process. It’s about 30 questions and takes roughly five minutes and then that’s it. You wait and hope you did well enough to go into the contestant pool, and if you’re really lucky, you become one of the 2,000-3,000 hopefuls who get called for an in-person audition.

After taking the online test in January 2013, I got an email offering me an in-person audition in Tampa in March. I got up really early to make the drive to Tampa, where 15 other contestants and I were given a written test of 60 questions and then called-up three at a time to play a mock game. During the mock game, you get to use the signaling device and the staff people ask you questions to get an idea of your personality for the show — do you speak well? do you have interesting things to share in an interview with Alex? and so on.  The people who qualify for the in-person tryouts then go into the contestant pool for the next 18 months — but only about 400 are actually called for taping each season.  

Several months passed after my in-person audition.  I had just arrived at the Arsht Center to work at the ballet’s lobby table on opening night of Program II when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, but thought it might be one of the ballet’s volunteers so I answered. It was a Jeopardy contestant coordinator asking if I would be available for a taping during the first week of February. I immediately said yes!  

I had just four weeks to get ready to go to California to play.  How does one prepare to be a contestant on Jeopardy? I don’t know! How do you study everything? I would say I’d been preparing my whole life! I’ve always liked trivia and I’ve been watching Jeopardy for all of its 30 seasons. I did decide it would be a good idea to review facts that seemed to be covered on the show — like world and state capitals or the presidents.  I asked my friends to quiz me on trivia questions on Facebook or whenever they saw me. Mostly I just tried to read and pay attention to the news and pop culture, while trying to remain calm.

Now that I’ve been on Jeopardy!, there are certain things about being a contestant that I would say you really can’t prepare for.  Being at the studio, in front of the cameras, playing with other contestants — this can’t be replicated at home!  While I can’t disclose the outcome, I also can’t remember all of the details. They tape five shows per day, two days a week. The contestants go through a briefing and a rehearsal on stage, but the pace of the actual game is extremely fast.  You not only have to recall the information quickly, but also ring-in first (and not too soon either), keep track of your score and remember where to look, and not let the cameras or the audience get to you!  The breaks between rounds are much faster than the commercials you see during the broadcast.  It literally flew by!

I’m really looking forward to seeing myself on TV and recalling how it all played out. Having actually been through the entire Jeopardy process, I have a greater appreciation not only for the people who are long-term champions, but also for those who seemingly crash and burn.  It’s a lot harder than it looks!

See how Leah does on Jeopardy! when her episode airs on Monday, May 19th at 7:30pm!