Friday, April 07, 2006

I Lost on Jeopardy!, Baby*

Three years ago today, they broadcast my appearance on Jeopardy! The actual event had occurred the December before, so I already knew how it turned out.

I lost.

It all came down to the timing. What you can't see as a home viewer is that there's a light that comes on as soon as Alex Trebek finishes a question. Buzz in before the light comes on, and you're locked out for one-and-a-half seconds--an eternity in Jeopardy!-land. Buzz in too late, and you won't get your shot.

The guy who ended up beating me was a retired lawyer from L.A., and he apparently went and sat in the studio audience (it's free--show up and they'll let you in at the Sony Pictures lot) and watched the timing. There were many times I knew the same answers--MANY TIMES--but damn! that guy was good on the buzzer. I did pretty well (though I totally froze on the Final Jeopardy! question), but there was no way I could out-buzz that guy, may he rot in hell.

Nevertheless, I take away from the event some good memories:

--I spent five days in L.A. with my mom (a Jeopardy! contestant from 1974, in the Art Fleming days!), and we had a great time. She'd never been to California before--we took a bus tour, went to Warner Bros. Studio, and had lunch with the daughter of one of her best friends. Mom makes a super traveling companion.

--I was able to conjure up some pretty obscure facts from my brain, about Vitamin K, Horace Greeley, and Richard Nixon. Who knew I knew that stuff?

--I met some really nice people, some from the Boston area (a popular place for contestants), and Mom and I had dinner the night of the taping with a woman from Maine and her mother.

--I got on Jeopardy!, and even though I lost, I beat out nearly 50,000 contestants to be one of only 500 who appear yearly, which makes me finally understand that whole "It's an honor just to be nominated for an Oscar" thing.

Finally, some advice for anyone dying to get on the show: All contestants believe they did worse than they did. For instance, I was extremely nervous, but it didn't show up on TV the way I thought it would. So relax and enjoy your 22 minutes-plus-commercials of fame.

Better yet, do what I did. The day of the broadcast I had outpatient surgery, so when I watched the show, I was flying high on painkillers. My friends and family told me I did great, but thanks to the percoset, I really didn't care. That's
the way to watch your national television debut.

(*Post title courtesy of Weird Al's wonderful song, which is a parody of the Greg Kihn Band's somewhat more serious near-breakup song, "[Our Love's in] Jeopardy.")


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