The Jeopardy! Experience: A Story Told in Media
The week of November 2nd, 2020 was a whirlwind of conflict: a confluence of history, lifetime-long narratives, glory and heartbreak. As a long-time viewer and aficionado of all things trivia and game-shows, appearing as a contestant on "Jeopardy!" was the big bucket-list item. When the call came in early August, I had no idea exactly how impactful the experience would be. Not only would tapings occur under the specter of COVID-19, but the airdates fell during the most contentious and anxiety-driven presidential elections in U.S. history. In addition, the passing of Alex Trebek at the end of the week added an additional layer of significance to the experience, as I finally shared my moments on set with friends, colleagues, and families around the world.
This post is an attempt to create a thorough reference to the entire experience from my first online test all the way through to the media reports of my appearance in the days following the loss of Mr. Trebek.
January: The online test. 50 questions, 15 seconds each to type in a response.
4 months later, I hear from the contestant coordinators. I did well enough to pass the online test, and they wanted to schedule a one-on-one interview... via Zoom. After struggling to connect, I reached out to see when they would join, only to learn they were wondering the same about me. Classic Zoom experience!
The next month, I was invited to be a part of a group audition. This clip from KBAK covered the experience pretty well ( I make a brief appearance to discuss the technical aspects of "buzzing in" via Zoom.
At the start of August, I got the call. I taped on August 25th and had to stay quiet on my performance. As the airdates got closer, I began to interview with local and national media to discuss the experience.
KBAK Eyewitness News Mornings
As the airdate of my initial appearance drew near, it became clear that viewing options may be... complicated by Election Day.
Overall, my time as a contestant was...productive.
Some of the lighter moments of my episodes picked up plenty of traction and social media buzz, like my shoutout to NXT's Adam Cole:
...and got the attention of foes...
It was especially meaningful to see my prior academic institutions celebrate my success on the show. Staten Island Academy 100% gets the credit for me hitting a Hamlet-themed Daily Double, as does Northeastern University for sports and music.
My final episode had two significant moments that caught the public's attention. The first one raised some eyebrows in the Philadelphia area...
This clip touched many hearts. Being present to witness this was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever experienced. At the end of a wonderfully competitive game, I was honored to have my run conclude on this note. It meant a lot to know my precedent of joy spread and carried over to other contestants, and that Mr. Trebek continued to remark on it after I had left the set.
Once my run had end, the DMs, texts, and calls began to slow down, but just 2 days after the airing of my last appearance, the world learned of the passing of Alex Trebek. Media outlets reached out for my perspective:
The evening before news of Trebek's passing broke, I wanted to make sure I had a record of appreciation for everyone who helped boost this dream and make the week a powerful experience.
I recognize how fortunate I was to have had the chance to share the set as a contestant with Alex Trebek for one of his final tapings. It was humbling to be a part of those brief interactions where he'd draw special attention to the little things I hadn't noticed: the way I drew my name on the podium, the thoughtfulness with which I approached clues, the joy I expressed without restraint, and the impact I'd had on those I competed with.
I walked onto the set in Culver City in August with nothing to lose and everything to gain, and the experience through the lens of this unique moment in history ended up being more valuable than I could have possibly endeavored.