Tentacle Monster, are you a military person? 'Cos the only folks from Mountain Home I’ve ever encountered are.
The tryout for Jeopardy! was here in Boston. Long lines, take a number, etc. Once I got in to the “test site” (which was a hotel conference room), they put on a DVD of Alex T. telling us about the show, how the Clue Crew was an exciting new development on the show (?), and finally, fifty questions that we had to answer on paper. They don’t tell you the correct number you need to “pass” but I suspect it is around 35-45. I definitely got three or four wrong, and reached on the same number. The rest I felt fairly confident about. But as I said earlier, we all have certain topics we know cold, and others we are blank on.
The room of about 70 or so was whittled to about eight once the grading was complete. I think a lot of folks overestimate how “easy” the test is. Sitting at home, knocking 'em out on regular Jeopardy! is quite different from answering mid-range Double Jeopardy! questions with a time limit.
I think we did an “interesting facts about you” inventory, either on paper or orally to the contestant coordinators. Then we stood in groups of three on the carpet, and one of the coordinators pretended to be Alex as they asked questions. Sometimes they would say, “Okay, Hippy, you answer this question and ask for the next category.” I think they want to see if you can make the game flow. If you sit there going, “uh, I dunno Alex, give me a sec” you are going to disrupt the flow of the game. Ideally, they want to see all of the questions revealed. They also coached us - don’t say “Alex, I think I’ll take Potent Potables for $800, if you don’t mind.” Rather, it’s “Potables, 800.” Stuff like that.
The other problem lots of folks have is the concentration grimace. You have to look at least friendly or something north of terminally depressed. Unfortunately a lot of folks look that way when they’re concentrating. You might have someone watch you as you answer questions watching the show to see if you have any weird tics that you’re unaware of. Try to smile and have a good sense of humor about the whole thing.
The last piece of info might not be helpful because you can’t do much about it - but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. TV is full of middle-aged, balding, White men from suburban areas. If this describes you understand that the majority of people trying out, and likely passing the test, fit this demographic. This is good news if you are a) female, b) a person of color, c) from an interesting place, or d) have some other marker of difference that makes you stand out fairly quickly. As a friend once said to me, I am probably a contestant coordinator’s dream contestant. I’m African American, (at the time) had dreadlocks, have lived all across the U.S. and overseas, pretty good at the small talk stuff, and I have a lot of cool stories - brushes with famous people, neat projects and achievements, that kind of thing. (God that sounds egotistical!) But it points to the fact that I know what makes me interesting. (For example, when I tried out for Ben Stein, my answer to “Tell us something interesting about yourself” was “Every night I sleep with 205 18 year olds.” I was a residence hall director in a freshman dorm at the time, and the producers thought it was funny - Ben Stein’s show was always full of double entendres and innuendo, so it fit their shtick.) You should know those things about yourself as well. A friend can help you decide what you should make clear and evident about yourself.
If you are a middle-aged, balding, White men from a suburban area, make sure your personality shines through. When I was in the green room at Jeopardy! with fellow contestants, there was an Italian American guy from Brooklyn who was a hard hat. They loved him - the way he talked, what he did for a living, and his gregarious nature. Be like Anthony! (or more correctly, be like your unique self…)
After the tryout, I was sent home and told to wait for a phone call (this was October 2003. The call came in November, and I taped in late November). You have to pay your way out to L.A. and for your lodging, though there is a Jeopardy! discount available at some fancy hotel. Me, I crash with my Hollywood buddies (not actors, advertising and marketing guys).
I think I was lucky. In my tryout some people said they had passed the test several times over several years. I’d go in with a positive attitude, but not expecting much.
Trunk, HeyHomie answered your question. I was on the Meredith syndicated version, not the Regis one. The producers noticed a trend where contestants would strive to get to $64,000 and then leave. It’s a good payout and not that risky. So to make the show more interesting, they changed the “safe” levels, thinking that people would be more likely to gamble if the only “safe” point after $25,000 was $100,000. Maybe it’s good for the show but I wouldn’t have minded an extra $14,000!
Dragwyr: I’ve lived in Texas, California, and Massachusetts when I tried out for these shows. The only one I tried out for in L.A. was Win Ben Stein’s Money. Again, I stood out because I was from the central coast, not L.A. or the exurbs. I think appearing on a game show previously makes you more attractive, especially if you performed well. That means you won’t freak out, or clam up when the lights come on. I think any endeavor where there’s stress and public attention to what you do is good prep from a game show, so if you have those kind of experiences, I’d be sure to mention them. A lot of my interviews asked me, “Is our show harder than others?”
IMO, the test for Ben Stein was the toughest.