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The Blur of Jeopardy

Allison Holley and Alex Trebek on the set of Jeopardy!By Allison Holley

I’ve been a fan of Jeopardy! for a long time. I correctly answered my first Final Jeopardy when I was nine and began to watch the show regularly in middle school. As I picked up on the patterns of clues and common categories, I gradually got more and more answers right with each episode. My parents often told me that it was only a matter of time before I ended up on the show. I would usually laugh it off and roll my eyes. Yeah, maybe. Someday.

I decided to take the online test my senior year at Lawrence University, my last chance for the College Championship. The test went well, and it was a pleasant shock when I got an email two weeks later inviting me to an in-person audition in Chicago. The audition was on a Saturday in early November. Everyone took another 50-question quiz and we played some mock Jeopardy! Though I felt confident, I knew that there had been auditions of roughly the same size in three other cities and my odds of making it through were slim, especially since I attended a small college that didn’t have much name recognition. I decided to think of it as a good experience and as practice for any future tries to get on the show.

What I didn’t expect was a phone call in early December from Culver City, California. I had been selected for the tournament and filming would take place over two days in early January! I had about a month to get through episodes stockpiled on my parents’ DVR before I’d be fl own out for the tournament.

The first day of taping, everyone met early in the hotel lobby before getting on a bus to the studio. Being on the set was surreal, since it was a place I’d seen countless times in my living room. After promotional pictures and some practice rounds so we could get comfortable using the buzzer, we were ushered back to the green room where we learned who was selected for Monday’s game.

A week’s worth of games are shot in a single day, with a lunch break between “Wednesday” and “Thursday.” Because the tournament has wild card positions for high scoring non-winners, everyone not playing was sequestered to the green room to wait until the game ended. This meant a lot of waiting (we had board games and movies and lunch brought to us) – plenty of time for nerves to build up.

When my turn came, walking back out was similar to that morning, but this time everything was more real, helped by announcer Johnny Gilbert saying my name!

My game went by in a blur. Notable things I do remember – getting a Daily Double and talking with Alex Trebek about the Don Quixote course I’d taken. I finished in second place, but wouldn’t know if it was enough to move on to the next round until the next game taped.

I sat in the audience for the final game. I didn’t advance, but I had a great time. I continue to watch Jeopardy! and love being part of the show’s big nerdy family of former contestants.

Allison Holley is the Teen Librarian at Shaker Library. Originally published in Shaker Life, Winter 2020.
2019-12-30T19:57:43+00:00Library, Scene in Shaker|