16 Fascinating Facts About What It’s Like To Be A Contestant On Jeopardy

Ever wonder what being on Jeopardy! is like? Of course you do; it’s America’s favorite quiz show for a reason! Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner watch it together every day, for Pete’s sake. How adorable is that? Or should we say, “What is how adorable is that?”

Being on Jeopardy! means that you’re the best of the best. The smartest of the smartest. The master of answers-in-the-form-of-a-question. Sadly, we can’t all make the cut. The truth of the matter is, most of us will never know what being a Jeopardy! contestant is like. But hey, that doesn't mean we can’t live vicariously through people who do!

How do you get on Jeopardy!? What secrets happen behind the scenes? Is Alex Trebek dreamy in person? These are the questions that need answering. Sure, what it's like to be on Jeopardy! may vary from contestant to contestant, but here’s the gist!

Photo: flickr / CC0

  • Congratulations, You Passed An Extensive Audition Process

    You scored high enough on the 50-question Jeopardy! online test to be asked to do an in-person audition. There, you completed another 50-question test, answered some personal anecdote questions, and played a mock game. They tested you for your brains and your personality, so it’s a good thing you have both!

    Then you played the waiting game, where it might've taken up to 18 months for them to ask you to be on the show. If you didn't hear back in 18 months, you tried the whole thing all over again

  • Even If You're A Super Smarty, The Odds Of Making It Onto The Show Are Extremely Slim

    Even If You're A Super Smarty, The Odds Of Making It Onto The Show Are Extremely Slim
    Photo: CBS

    If you make it onto an your very own episode of Jeopardy!, then you've made it through a veritable gauntlet of slim odds and lucky chances. Because, although your trivia skills and general intelligence matter, they're only a small part of the up-hill battle of making it onto the show. According to the show's producers, "out of the 100,000 people who take the test, only 3,000 make it to in-person auditions, and only about 300 of those make it on the show."

    So, your chance at 22-26 minutes of single-episode trivia fame comes only if the both smarts and the odds are in your favor.

  • There’s A Special Protocol For Your Guests

    There’s A Special Protocol For Your Guests
    Photo: CBS

    Since being on Jeopardy! is a big freakin’ deal, you’re allowed to bring your squad! There’s a special section in the studio audience for your family and friends to sit in, but there’s a catch. You’re forbidden from talking to them (or even looking at them). This is to prevent anyone from cheating.

  • You Have To Cover Your Own Travel Expenses

    You Have To Cover Your Own Travel Expenses
    Photo: CBS

    You better be in it for the love of the game and not the glamor... because there is no glamor. Jeopardy! doesn't cover the cost of your flight or your hotel. They do give all 2nd place and 3rd place winners $2,000 and $1,000 respectively, so at the very least, you’ll break even.

    However, if you’re lucky enough to be a returning champion, then they’ll pay for your trip. So there you go, just be Ken Jennings!

  • They Film A Whole Week’s Worth Of Episodes In One Day

    The first three episodes are filmed in the morning, followed by a lunch break. Then they bring in a whole new studio audience to watch the final two episodes. After every episode, Trebek and the returning champion have to change outfits so that the next episode looks like a brand new “day.”

    In other words, Alex Trebek pretty much always has five ties in his vicinity at all times.

  • You Have To Hug The Other Audition Contestants

    You Have To Hug The Other Audition Contestants
    Photo: CBS

    At the beginning of every in-person Jeopardy! audition, show producers encourage hopeful contestants to participate in some ice-breaking and trust exercises. Among these exercises is the "hugging" ice breaker, in which you, potential Jeopardy! winner, must hug your competition.

    The idea is to get nervous folks to laugh and calm down before they start ruthlessly competing against one another for the chance to appear on TV. Sounds great!