From the brain of the ever wonderful Labdad, as good a fellow as one could ever hope to break bread with:
Here’s what I can offer.
I’m not sure how the tryout process has changed with the advent of the online test. In 2005, when I qualified, the test was given at the hotel conference room, and those who passed the test went on to the “audition” right there. Thos who didn’t pass the test were sent home.
Assuming your performance on the online test is all that was needed, and that you don’t have to take another test when you go to the audition, I’ll share what happened with me.
There were six of us who passed the test. We were divided into two groups of three, and were then told each group would play a mock game of Jeopardy. The mock game and subsequent interview were videotaped.
They had the big game board and three podiums with buzzers. We were told in advance they would not be keeping score. They wanted to see if we could navigate the board and keep the game going. They wanted us to demonstrate that we could select categories and dollar amounts quickly, speak up when we had to answer, etc.
One of the categories was “Jack Nicholson.” The answer was something like “Nicholson parodied this introduction from ‘The Tonight Show’ in ‘The Shining.’” I buzzed in and answered “What is, 'Heeeeerrrre’s Johhhhnnneee!” The contestant coordinator looked up and said “Good!” Now then, “Here’s Johnny” would have been equally correct, but the fact that I imitated Ed McMahon when I answered I’m sure had something to do with my being ultimately selected for the show. Know what I mean?
Prior to playing the mock game, they told us we would play the game for about 15 minutes, the we would be interviewed. They told us they wanted us to tell them our name, where we were from, what we did for a living, something interesting about ourselves, and what we would do with it if we won a pile of money on Jeopardy. I told the I was a “reformed lawyer” who now does University fund raising. The interesting thing about me was that I served on the board of the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival held each year in Champaign, Illinois. (http://www.ebertfest.com/board.html) And that I’d probably spend all the money I won on Jeopardy on my garden. This wasn’t done in recitation, it was part of a Q&A they were conducting with me. I think the key is to be engaging, and have some answers that aren’t the same as the 300 other people they’ve interviewed this week!
If you haven’t already done so, they will ask you to fill out a card and tell you some interesting things about yourself. I think this is critical. Here are some of the things I put down about myself in answer to some of the questions they asked:
I attend a guitar camp in southeastern Ohio every year with former Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. It’s a beautiful rural setting near the banks of the Ohio River. A session lasts from Friday through Monday, and you get personalized instruction from some of the finest guitarists in the world. In fact, I had to reschedule my trip to guitar camp to be on Jeopardy!
I serve on the advisory board of Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival, held every April in Champaign, Illinois. I got involved when I lived in Champaign, but my wife and I now go back every year for the festival.
I’ve been an avid Atlanta Braves fan ever since they came to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966. I was at the game on April 8, 1974 when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, eclipsing Babe Ruth’s all-time record.
I love to cook - especially southwestern dishes. I have an extensive pantry of ingredients we picked up in Santa Fe, NM when we vacationed there. My wife says when we run out of something, we’ll have to go back. (No phone orders allowed!)
I spent my first 37 years in the South, so when I moved to Illinois in 1988, I wasn’t that familiar with bitter cold weather. The first time it got below zero, I figured no one went to work in that kind of weather and stayed home. I quickly learned I was mistaken!
My most valued possession? A baseball given to me by my grandfather when I was about 12. It is autographed “To Louis, Best Wishes, Lou Gehrig”
I subsequently had it autographed by Hank Aaron and Joe Torre when the Braves moves to Atlanta.
The most romantic thing I’ve ever done? Last year I took my wife to Paris for her birthday. Her birthday is in April, and I thought April in Paris would be a nice way to celebrate it.
The one mistake no one will let me forget? Letting my brown delivery truck roll down a steep hill and crash into an apartment building. (I left the parking brake off) Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Funniest travel memory/problem with language misunderstanding? I ended up with two full lunches and a full bottle of wine (instead of one lunch and a glass of wine) at a café in Avignon, France. (I ate both meals and my wife and I finished the bottle of wine)
What is my special talent or quality? How do I use it? I remember useless information. I used it to get on Jeopardy!
I think you get the idea. They’re looking for people who not only have a bunch of knowledge, but can also be engaging on TV. You’ve got the personality, and will come across fine on TV. Just brush up your anecdotes and you’ll be fine.
Also, they told us if we didn’t get a call within a year, we could try out again. They said they keep about four times as many people in the contestant pool as they need. It was 13 months from the time I passed the test and auditioned until I got the call. So don’t give up. It’s definitely a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” sort of thing.
Good luck - I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you!