If you’re one of the 25 million viewers who tune in to Jeopardy every week, you know why the fast-paced game show is one of America’s favorites.
But what you don’t see on TV are the hours of practice, weird techniques, and hectic schedules that make every episode special.
Here are 13 secrets about the show, as revealed by former contestants.
Every contestant’s journey to Jeopardy begins with a 50-question online quiz that is only available certain times of the year.
If you ace that test, you get invited to the auditions at a nearby city. There, you take another pop quiz, play a mock game, and get interviewed to see if you have the personality for TV.
From that moment you’re officially on the waiting list, and could be called to compete on the show any time in the next 18 months.
If you don’t get the call, you’re free to try again. It’s not unheard of for contestants to try more than 10 times before giving up (or finally making the grade).
If you do get called to compete on the show, you have about a month’s notice to plan for your appearance (and do some extra studying).
Your airfare and accommodations are not covered by the show, so aim to at least win the second place prize ($2,000 before taxes). One contestant said that was just enough to cover the cost of her trip.
Jeopardy tapes a week’s worth of episodes in one day, so be prepared to play five games back-to-back if you manage a winning streak.
Each game is a lot faster than watching the show at home: you blitz through all the questions in just 15 minutes.
The show expects you to bring your own clothes and style your own hair, but they will give you makeup for the TV lights.
The producers advise contestants to bring at least two outfits, in case you manage to win a game. But make it easy to put on, you only have about 10 minutes to get changed between episodes.
Don’t get any ideas: Alex Trebek is just doing his job, and he’s not known for chatting with the contestants during commercial breaks.
Trebek will pose for a photo with you during the first round, and answers questions from the audience, but mainly he’s only interested in hosting the show.
Somehow, fans got the idea in their heads that contestants on the show get a “study guide” that tells them what to brush up on. Actual contestants say that’s not true at all.
In fact, the show’s writers make six sets of questions each week, which are randomly chosen by a separate company before the games.