If you have any interest at all in Jeopardy!, by now you know just how difficult it is to play as a contestant. Everyone who appears on stage admits that just knowing the correct response is about half of the battle. There’s training to be done with makeshift signaling devices at home to get the timing just right. And then there’s the nerves of competition and competing under the bright studio lights knowing that, eventually, millions of people will watch the result.
Add in filming five episodes a day if you keep winning and being a contestant becomes as much a physical and emotional battle of wills than anything. It’s, well, a lot.
Adriana E. Ramírez, a writer from Pittsburgh, penned a touching essay for The Atlantic about her appearance on the show earlier in the year. And while it didn’t go very well for her on stage, she had plenty of insight into filming and how it felt to see her episode air months after it filmed.
One of the most interesting things in the piece is the sheer improbability of even getting accepted as a contestant in the first place. On top of two different trivia tests and a practice game on Zoom, there’s a huge number of people you have to do better than to even be considered.
At our taping in March, the producers told us that more than 100,000 people had taken the initial online test in 2021. About 400 contestants compete in a regular season of Jeopardy, which means that 99.6 percent of people who took the first test last year did not make it to the Alex Trebek Studio. The same year, Harvard rejected 96.6 percent of applicants.
Unfortunately for Ramírez, she struggled during her appearance against a 16-time winner, Ryan Long. The piece is as much a reflection on Jeopardy! and trivia as it is about a singular fact about the show: eventually, everyone loses. And because of it, the anxiety she had about that airing on national television turned into a rewarding experience.
Ramírez’s piece is well worth the read for any Jeopardy! fan curious about the inner-workings of the show, including the fact that some contestants have their own group text threads. And it’s also a really nice read about how trivia can be about a lot more than just knowing random facts about things. But if you want to appear on Jeopardy! someday, you might need to be as lucky as you are good at trivia.
[via The Atlantic]