Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Majestyk’s Giant ‘Jeopardy!’ FAQ

 

Everybody already knows that I was going to appear on the biggest, best, longest-running game show in the history of whenever – “Jeopardy!,” of course! – but now I have a conundrum on my hands: How do I handle all of the questions and fan mail?

Never fear, gentle reader: I am here to answer your burning questions about all things J!

Obviously, the need to travel to California meant that I was going to be missing some work, and when you make a pronouncement like this to your boss… well, let’s just say that news travels fast. As it turned out, I also had to send another engineer on a site visit to Iceland in my stead so, even in this felicitous situation, tradeoffs were involved. Then, over the course of the next week, I was pelted with a long and repetitive series of questions from everybody in the organization and people on Facebook.

These questions all seemed to fall into a couple of consistent tracks, so I did what all intelligent people in a similar position might do: Write a Frequently Asked Questions document. Let’s get started!

How do you get on “Jeopardy!?”

You all know this based upon my previous article, but this is by far the most common question I received.

How long have you been trying to get on the show?

I sent a bunch of post cards to Merv Griffin television (it was 1994) to be on the Teen Tournament back when I was about 15, and got invited to LA to take the test. I didn’t get invited to the show. Let me just say here that it actually pays to think carefully about which point in your life when you want to go on Jeopardy! You want to be old enough to have accumulated enough knowledge but young enough to have excellent reflexes.

Did they give you the material beforehand?

This question is fairly common and always baffles me. Why would they do that? The writers prepare six games for each taping day which are selected at random prior to the show. The game boards are selected at random, as are players from the pool of people who arrive at the studio that day. This is a test of knowledge and reaction. Giving you the material beforehand would defeat much of that purpose – and give a massive advantage to the reigning champion.

How did you study for “Jeopardy!?”

I don’t really think you can. But if I had to recommend how a person accomplish this, I would say: begin by traveling back in time to when you first learned to read, (I recommend getting started early, preferably about five) and begin reading books on Paleontology, Archaeology, Geology, History, Biology, et al and then pay careful attention to pop culture – even stuff you sometimes find annoying – and then play a lot of video games in order to work on your reaction time.

As you get older, participate in a lot of high pressure, high impact testing (on purpose) with an eye towards controlling your heart rate and not letting your emotions overwhelm you. Read. Lots.

Get a copy of the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy by ED Hirsch (I learned this from Troy Senik.) Make sure you know what every reference in that book means. Study Geography… extensively. This was the lowest-hanging fruit for me and definitely worked out well. There is almost never a Jeopardy board that doesn’t involve at least some questions that are Geography or Geography-adjacent. Know. Your. Shakespeare. Learn about college athletics (which is a twofer as it helps you to learn about colleges!) and make sure you know your basic science. Watch Jeopardy so you know what sort of questions they’re likely to ask! (No Opera, pls…)

You’re ready for “Jeopardy!”

How is Alex?

For a guy who has had stage-4 cancer for over a year and has been pumped full of otherwise deadly toxins, he’s doing pretty well. The staff were extremely strict with us about not shaking Alex’s hand or touching other people in any way. Everything is sanitized and cleaned about every 5 minutes. The camera does a great job of portraying him in an excellent light. Bear in mind that this was the first week where the real COVID-19 lockdown was beginning.

One contestant was even asked to leave and return at a later date because they had been in Thailand a couple of days previous. They were very serious about this, and even took the extraordinary step of preventing normal studio audiences from watching the tapings the day before I was to appear – only guests of contestants and potential contestants were allowed.

When will you be on TV?!

May 21 is the air date.

Were you paid already?

I’m sure that their vendor terms are net 30 and then they are net 30 to you… which implies a 60-day lag after the air date for you to see a dime. Seriously though: We’re told we don’t get paid for 120 days after taping.

What was it really like?

Everything I could have hoped for and more. A once in a lifetime experience, a dream come true, a sense of accomplishment unparalleled since I passed the PE exam? I spent a day with a dozen incredibly intelligent, kind people and it was the most fun I’ve had… probably ever.

The staff of the show are incredibly nice. I cannot emphasize this enough. Whatever you need they will provide (within reason) and their function is to make sure that you are both capable of competing but also have fun. It’s a TV Show… There’s lots of money! It’s exciting – really!

The contestant coordinators are so kind and helpful and each deserves a call-out:

Corina, (who is a sort of human cartoon come to life) guides contestants through the pre-show rituals of legal requirements and preparation for what to expect on stage.

Glenn (he of the extremely dry and droll sense of humor, has been on the production staff for 36 years) talks you through your disclosure documents, prize eligibility and the much-feared interview portion of the show. You provide a bunch of personal vignettes and knickknacks beforehand from which Alex will choose to discuss on the air. If you have a tough-to-pronounce name like mine, you clarify that, phonetically (B-You-ell, fyi.)

Lauri (the very sweet and quietest member of the team) makes sure that you have everything you need from Advil to bottled water, to bathroom breaks to visits from the makeup ladies.

How did you do!?!?

This last and most critical question cannot be answered. I can’t say. I signed an NDA and can’t reveal the outcome of the show.

Obviously, some people may have additional questions that I may be able to answer, so ask away!

Published in Entertainment
Tags:
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 29 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Bishop Wash Member

    Congratulations. I look forward to watching your appearances (hoping for more than one).

    • #1
    • March 27, 2020, at 8:57 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  2. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Robert Klein did a great bit back in the early 70s about being on one of the Celebrity Jeopardy! weeks and how humiliating it was being left in the dust by Phyllis Newman (Art Fleming: “Phyllis Newman — $500. Robert Klein — Just Watching“). For regular people, just making it onto the show is an accomplishment by itself, as long as you didn’t get down to the Wolf Blitzer-level of question responses.

    • #2
    • March 27, 2020, at 8:58 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  3. danok1 Member

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk):

    Were you paid already?

    I’m sure that their vendor terms are net 30 and then they are net 30 to you… which implies a 60 day lag after the air date for you to see a dime. Seriously though: We’re told we don’t get paid for 120 days after taping.

    That’s the time frame for the payout when I was on years ago. And hey, you get to pay California Franchise Tax!! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

    • #3
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Congratulations. I look forward to watching your appearances (hoping for more than one).

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk): How do I handle all of the questions and fan mail?

    Don’t become a … Ken Jennings.

    I only have one request here: please refrain from being openly negative about the show or its previous (or legendary) competitors… if only for my sake. The producers have social media guidelines which they request contestants adhere to, and I would like them to cross-promote my appearance which will earn media for R>.

    Thanks for your cooperation and if you wouldn’t mind, edit anything ugly out of your comment.

    • #4
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:15 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Bishop Wash Member

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk) (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    Congratulations. I look forward to watching your appearances (hoping for more than one).

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk): How do I handle all of the questions and fan mail?

    Don’t become a … Ken Jennings.

    I only have one request here: please refrain from being openly negative about the show or its previous (or legendary) competitors… if only for my sake. The producers have social media guidelines which they request contestants adhere to, and I would like them to cross-promote my appearance which will earn media for R>.

    Thanks for your cooperation and if you wouldn’t mind, edit anything ugly out of your comment.

    Understand and done. 

    • #5
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:21 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Old Buckeye Member

    A woman I know was on in January and her experience was much like yours–fabulous! 

    Congrats on making it on. I’m sure if I ever made it that far, I’d be like a deer in the headlights when it was show time. 

    • #6
    • March 27, 2020, at 9:27 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I’m so glad it was such a great experience! Especially when you had worked so long and hard to get on! Can’t wait to see you with Alex!

    • #7
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:00 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. philo Member

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk): I signed an NDA..

    I have it on good authority that this is proof of guilt…or something.

    • #8
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:17 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    philo (View Comment):

    Shawn Buell (Majestyk): I signed an NDA..

    I have it on good authority that this is proof of guilt…or something.

    But I am guilty… Of being awesome!

    • #9
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:27 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  10. Hoyacon Member

    I’ve always wondered how they match contestants (really, pick two challengers) which seems to me to be quite determinative of success on the show. I doubt they share this but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some “science” involved, rather than saying “OK, next two up.” Just an observation.

    • #10
    • March 27, 2020, at 10:41 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Lois Lane Coolidge

    Whether or not you got a thematic series of questions related to it, was there a particular topic that you hoped would be in the game before you arrived? (Like… do you have a subject that really floats your boat like 18th century composers or weapons that start with the letter A or Civil War generals with side whiskers?)

    • #11
    • March 27, 2020, at 11:07 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. Hammer, The Member

    So what I want is a special edition of some podcast (any podcast), where @troysenik and @majestyk discuss their experiences. Furthermore, I want there to be a challenge, whereby each are asked trivia questions and pitted against one another in the ultimate battle of Ricochet Jeopardy alum.

    • #12
    • March 27, 2020, at 11:19 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  13. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I’ve always wondered how they match contestants (really, pick two challengers) which seems to me to be quite determinative of success on the show. I doubt they share this but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t some “science” involved, rather than saying “OK, next two up.” Just an observation.

    There is nothing scientific-seeming to this. Before the taping of each show (they record 5 in a day of taping) the Contestant Coordinators announce which of the 12 contestants who are there at the beginning of the day will compete on that episode. I’m envisioning a hat, honestly, but don’t know for certain.

    Then, Glenn pulls out a couple of post-it notes with a 2 and a 3 on them which he hides behind his back and shuffles before showing the contestants which podiums they will be at.

    • #13
    • March 27, 2020, at 11:28 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    Whether or not you got a thematic series of questions related to it, was there a particular topic that you hoped would be in the game before you arrived? (Like… do you have a subject that really floats your boat like 18th century composers or weapons that start with the letter A or Civil War generals with side whiskers?)

    I wanted questions about Civil Engineering and trading card games named “Magic: the Gathering.”

    In all seriousness however, my strengths lie in the physical sciences, (obv) history, geography, sports (relative to other competitors) and various pop culture subjects.

    Subjects which are verboten? Fine arts and other frou frou stuff like opera, poetry or Russian authors. Word play (a staple of Jeopardy) is also somewhat sketchy for me.

    But the great equalizer in my opinion is the fact that you are up there with that button in your hand and it’s like hanging on to a live wire feeding you adrenaline. The experience itself was like a blur in my memory, and certain aspects of it will jump out at times, but the competitive aspect of the game is both raw and overwhelming for a not-insignificant number of contestants.

    • #14
    • March 27, 2020, at 11:35 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  15. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

    So what I want is a special edition of some podcast (any podcast), where @troysenik and @majestyk discuss their experiences. Furthermore, I want there to be a challenge, whereby each are asked trivia questions and pitted against one another in the ultimate battle of Ricochet Jeopardy alum.

    I’ve got this. Also: I know what GM is, so I have that going for me.

    • #15
    • March 27, 2020, at 11:41 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  16. Hoyacon Member

    Basic Q.

    Is there a “lag” with the buzzer (would be consistent for all)? Was there a time where you thought that you’d been first but were not? I’m not sure how many close calls there actually are because, obviously, the first to buzz cuts off others.

    • #16
    • March 27, 2020, at 11:43 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Basic Q.

    Is there a “lag” with the buzzer (would be consistent for all)? Was there a time where you thought that you’d been first but were not? I’m not sure how many close calls there actually are because, obviously, the first to buzz cuts off others.

    I did a bunch of reading about this beforehand. Next time you watch Jeopardy, pay close attention to the right and left edges of the game board. You don’t see this during the televised show, but there are light bars there which turn on to let the contestants know that they can ring in.

    There is an actual human being in charge of engaging the button system which only happens once Alex is through reading the question, so timing up the cadence of Alex’s voice is a more important skill than waiting for the lights, which I found to be difficult to time vs. his voice.

    But be cautious: If you ring in too early you get locked out for 1/4 second! So, being early is great, but not too early.

    • #17
    • March 27, 2020, at 11:48 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  18. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    What I found worked well for me was to read the question on my own, and if I knew the answer lie in wait to spring on the button once Alex was through reading. You’re pretty far from the game board, but not so far that you can’t see and read what’s up there.

    • #18
    • March 27, 2020, at 11:51 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  19. Hoyacon Member

    Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Contesta… (View Comment):

    What I found worked well for me was to read the question on my own, and if I knew the answer lie in wait to spring on the button once Alex was through reading. You’re pretty far from the game board, but not so far that you can’t see and read what’s up there.

    That sounds really important to me, particularly in a close match. I’m not sure it would help one to beat that Las Vegas guy who seemed to know everything during his run, but it would help.

    Also strategy-wise, it was clear to me that the above-mentioned guy (no need to comment on him if prohibited) had calculated, as a gambler, that your odds were substantially improved by answering the higher value questions first (going in descending order). In other words, the difference in difficulty from low to high is not as great as the difference in money value (i.e., $1000 question is not 5 times more difficult that $200 question).

    • #19
    • March 27, 2020, at 12:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    That sounds really important to me, particularly in a close match. I’m not sure it would help one to beat that Las Vegas guy who seemed to know everything during his run, but it would help.

    Also strategy-wise, it was clear to me that the above-mentioned guy (no need to comment on him if prohibited) had calculated, as a gambler, that your odds were substantially improved by answering the higher value questions first (going in descending order). In other words, the difference in difficulty from low to high is not as great as the difference in money value (i.e., $1000 question is not 5 times more difficult that $200 question).

    Guys like James Holzhauer and Ken Jennings have several advantages. Being incredibly smart is a pretty big advantage on its own, but once you’ve gotten past the first game a defending champion has probably mastered both the button AND their nerves. No small feat.

    Going in, you would figure the challengers each have a slightly less than 1/3 chance of winning for this reason, even if this were a perfectly random event. Everybody there – and I mean everybody – is generally very smart, but smart in “non-overlapping magisteria” so category tends to matter in terms of outcomes a great deal. But the advantage gained by returning players over challengers is significant.

    • #20
    • March 27, 2020, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  21. Hoyacon Member

    Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Contesta… (View Comment):

    Guys like James Holzhauer and Ken Jennings have several advantages. Being incredibly smart is a pretty big advantage on its own, but once you’ve gotten past the first game a defending champion has probably mastered both the button AND their nerves. No small feat.

    Going in, you would figure the challengers each have a slightly less than 1/3 chance of winning for this reason, even if this were a perfectly random event. Everybody there – and I mean everybody – is generally very smart, but smart in “non-overlapping magisteria” so category tends to matter in terms of outcomes a great deal. But the advantage gained by returning players over challengers is significant.

    Well said. I thought that was evident in the “Champions’ Tournament” where I originally thought for awhile that Holzauer just wasn’t “on,” but then realized there were some things he wasn’t that well versed in. Of course, the competition mattered because he could not just wait out his weak topics.

    Thanks for this info. When you spend many hours of your life “playing along at home,” the subtleties really start to matter. 

     

    • #21
    • March 27, 2020, at 12:43 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  22. GrannyDude Member

    Can we watch this together, you guys? 

     

    • #22
    • March 27, 2020, at 1:02 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. danok1 Member

    Hoyacon (View Comment):
    Also strategy-wise, it was clear to me that the above-mentioned guy (no need to comment on him if prohibited) had calculated, as a gambler, that your odds were substantially improved by answering the higher value questions first (going in descending order). In other words, the difference in difficulty from low to high is not as great as the difference in money value (i.e., $1000 question is not 5 times more difficult that $200 question).

    Plus when he hit the Daily Doubles, he had a lot more to wager than if he started at the top of the board. That was the key to his strategy.

    • #23
    • March 27, 2020, at 1:07 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  24. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Contesta… (View Comment):

    What I found worked well for me was to read the question on my own, and if I knew the answer lie in wait to spring on the button once Alex was through reading. You’re pretty far from the game board, but not so far that you can’t see and read what’s up there.

    I wonder if the original low-tech Jeopardy set-up of the 1960s and 70s had the same buzzer delays and warning light arrangement. Definitely fewer bells and whistles on that show….

    • #24
    • March 27, 2020, at 1:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  25. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Contesta…: kind people and it was the most fun I’ve had… probably ever.

    Other than that one Ricochet meetup with Mollie and Mark and Western Chauvinist. Heh.

    • #25
    • March 27, 2020, at 4:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Full Size Tabby Member

    My daughter and 2 others accompanied a friend during college who appeared on Jeopardy! For them it was the fun of the experience. Any winnings (of which there were minimal for that contestant) were secondary to the fun. 

    • #26
    • March 27, 2020, at 4:58 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. CurtWilson Lincoln

    I went on Jeopardy 30 years ago and had a similar great experience. There were a few differences, though. Since I live in LA, I was kind of a buffer. The first time I went for the taping, I didn’t get on at all. Frustrating, but I see why the out-of-town folks got preference.

    The next time I went in, I watched one guy win his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th games in the first three shows taped. He was head of the Yugoslav desk at the State Department, with a PhD from Stanford in Russian Studies. He was getting categories like “The Ukraine”. In between games I chatted with him — I remember him complaining about “that bastard Milosevic”.

    I was praying I wouldn’t get picked for his 5th game, so I could get in a game without a previous winner. No such luck…

    We were instructed that when Alex finished reading the question out loud, a staffer would flip a switch that lit up a bulb (a bare bulb next to the display, not part of the display). After that, we could buzz in, but we were temporarily locked out if we buzzed in earlier. So it sounds like the same basic system is in play today.

    I decided that I would read the question quickly, then look directly at the bulb, to be ready as quickly as possible. I really didn’t listen to Alex at all. In a competitive game, it mostly comes down to timing. Our game was VERY competitive. Mr. State Department was only weak on pop culture stuff, but the other guy was great in that area. I think only one question went unanswered the whole game.

    I gave the champ a run for his money, but did not beat him. Still, it was a very enjoyable experience.

    • #27
    • March 28, 2020, at 11:03 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  28. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Well, since all the Rico Jeopardy! alums are crawling out of the woodwork, I might as well leave this here. Taped in autumn 2002, aired in March 2003. I was leading going into Final Jeopardy and then discovered that “Military Aviation” is not in my wheelhouse.

     

    • #28
    • March 28, 2020, at 5:12 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  29. Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Champ! Contributor

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Shawn Buell, Jeopardy Contesta…: kind people and it was the most fun I’ve had… probably ever.

    Other than that one Ricochet meetup with Mollie and Mark and Western Chauvinist. Heh.

    At some point you reach a maximum value for fun where the fun-o-meter is pegged.

    This was very like that meetup!

    • #29
    • March 30, 2020, at 11:10 AM PDT
    • 2 likes