Back in April I did a Q&A with Jeopardy champion Pat Antle, which I really enjoyed. I’ve been a fan of the show for years and years, so it was incredibly cool to hear some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on there. One of the more informative exchanges involved the comically awkward chit chats that host Alex Trebek does with the contestant coming out of the first commercial break.
Here is the relevant excerpt:
One of my favorite parts of Jeopardy is the segment where Alex Trebek asks the contestants to tell a personal anecdote. These are almost always painfully uncomfortable, and it delights me to no end. You actually managed to tell an interesting story when you were on, about a karate-related mishap. How did you figure out which stories to tell, and what, if any guidance, did the people at the show give you?
When you are selected for the show, you are asked to send five “interesting” stories in with your paperwork. You repeatedly go over those stories with the contestant coordinators in order to flesh out what you might say on camera, improve your delivery, and decide on your preferred story. During the taping, Alex Trebek starts the conversation based on one of the five stories. I repeat — Alex Trebek decides which story will be discussed, on the spot. ON THE SPOT. That is why it is so awkward — you might not be prepared for what he asks. For example, I told two stories, neither of which were my preferred story (Which was a great one about my hairdresser mom being ashamed of my horrible early-90′s mushroom cut after a picture of me appeared in the local paper. I even had the picture — it’s AWFUL.). So you take a group of people who aren’t necessarily the most charismatic, put them in the most nerve-racking situation imaginable, surprise them with unexpected prompts, and get television magic.
I bring all that up again because (a) I am very shameless and will use any excuse I can to link back to things I’ve done, and (b) last night’s episode featured one of the darkest stories I’ve ever heard them use (although nothing will ever touch the lady who talked about running over a family of turtles — I think it was turtles, but I may be too scarred to recall it properly — on the Autobahn). Keep in mind while watching this that this is the story Trebek chose out of five options (UPDATE: Now with better video, courtesy of @bubbaprog.)
This is my impression of me listening to that story: “Uh huh… right … OK… uh huh…the car … yeah …and then … … … … um… … … …