Jay Cridlin went through ‘Jeop­ardy!’ au­di­tions and has a few ques­tions.

Tampa Bay Times - - Front Page - BY JAY CRIDLIN Times Pop Mu­sic/Cul­ture Critic

Our in­trepid reporter gets in­sight into the process and ends up with ques­tions. Lots of them.

TAMPA — What’s it like to au­di­tion for Jeop­ardy!?

What kind of ques­tions are you asked? How deep into your life should you ex­pect pro­duc­ers to dig? Can you keep your cool with the buzzer in your hand, or will you flop sweat through your Jock­eys, fum­bling with the but­ton like the mopes on TV, the ones you’re al­ways dress­ing down through a mouth full of Hun­gry-Man?

And is it pos­si­ble for one of those Hun­gryMan schlubs — a guy like me — to make it through with zero prep what­so­ever?

Did Jeop­ardy! pro­duc­ers con­sider any of this when they set up in Tampa on Thurs­day, wel­com­ing 40-odd po­ten­tial con­tes­tants to a fi­nal round of au­di­tions at the Westin Tampa Water­side? Were those hope­fuls — some on their sec­ond or third au­di­tion, some who’d flown in — like­wise in the dark about the process?

Or was it just me?

I was there only for what was es­sen­tially a me­dia photo op, in­vited to sit in and re­port how Jeop­ardy! ob­ses­sives be­come po­ten­tial Jeop­ardy! cham­pi­ons, but even so, wouldn’t you have ques­tions?

Can I name all the pres­i­dents and state cap­i­tals? Is my con­ver­sa­tional knowl­edge of Cen­tral Asian moun­tain ranges on par with that guy’s? When I’m stand­ing there hold­ing the buzzer in my right hand, what on earth should I do with my left?

And the rule they gave me be­fore­hand, the one about not re­veal­ing spe­cific ques­tions — was that re­ally nec­es­sary? Ac­tu­ally, what am I say­ing? With Jeop­ardy! ac­cept­ing only about 400 con­tes­tants per sea­son out of count­less on­line ap­pli­cants and about 3,000 who make it to this level, wouldn’t fa­nat­i­cal Tre­bekkies seek ever y ad­van­tage? Be­cause, hon­estly, who wouldn’t want to ap­pear on an Amer­i­can in­sti­tu­tion like Jeop­ardy!?

“Ev­ery­one have your ap­pli­ca­tion,” said con­tes­tant co­or­dina- tor Ryan Keller, “and your five in­ter­est­ing sto­ries?”

What would you tell Alex Tre­bek? Would you tell him about your disc golf team, or your Yoda col­lec­tion, or the time Slash played your gui­tar? Will pro­duc­ers find you as fas­ci­nat­ing as Barbara, the pur­ple-haired lady who might be a de­scen­dent of Con­fu­cius? Or Fiona, an as­pir­ing pro­fes­sional cal­lig­ra­pher who dreams of hon­ey­moon­ing in Mon­go­lia?

“When you come down to­day,” said Jimmy McGuire of the show’s “Clue Crew,” “why don’t you be the best ver­sion of your­self ?”

As for the ac­tual trivia? It starts with a 50-ques­tion writ­ten pop quiz, and when’s the last time you took one of those? We weren’t re­quired to be­gin with “Who is …” and “What are …”, but when you’re play­ing Jeop­ardy!, don’t all an­swers start to sound like ques­tions?

What is New Hamp­shire? What is Nutella? Who is Neil deGrasse Tyson? What are onions?

When con­tes­tant co­or­di­na­tor Glenn Ka­gan called me and two oth­ers to grab buzzers and step up to the “podium” — ac­tu­ally just strips of lime green duct tape — was I pre­pared for cat­e­gories like “Ex-Mem­bers of the Band” and “There’s a Bug in My Book Ti­tle”? Prob­a­bly not, but when you’re up against fans who have been study­ing for years, does it re­ally mat­ter?

What is Mount McKinley? Who are the Grate­ful Dead? What is a bull­dog? What is Zion­ism? Who is Reg­gie Bush?

Out of 13 ques­tions, I knew an­swers to nine and buzzed in first on four — not bad, right? But isn’t there more to land­ing on Jeop­ardy! than book smarts? Aren’t pro­duc­ers look­ing for con­tes­tants like past champs Ken Jen­nings and Arthur Chu?

Aren’t they look­ing for peo­ple like Kelly Adams, a 40-year-old ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant and An­i­ma­ni­acs pod­caster who drove from At­lanta be­cause she has “watched this show since I was in ele­men­tary school”? Or Steve Car­ney, a 41- year-old host on Tampa’s WDAEAM 620, who said that “even if I never make it to tele­vi­sion, I will try out ev­ery 18 months, be­cause I love it so much”? You think they haven’t been dream­ing of this for decades?

Is Jeop­ardy! look­ing for peo­ple who know all the an­swers, or for peo­ple who want to ask all the ques­tions?

“Would you want to tune in,” McGuire said, “to see some­one not hav­ing a good time?”

Can I get an amen for $1,000, Alex?


Jeop­ardy! con­tes­tant co­or­di­na­tor Glenn Ka­gan holds a sig­nal­ing but­ton while speak­ing to about 40 peo­ple au­di­tion­ing for the show at the Westin Tampa Water­side on Thurs­day. The au­di­tions in­cluded a 50-ques­tion quiz and a sam­ple game.

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