Online Fun & Games

Laura February

I never used to watch Jeopardy! much. It was just that game show hosted by that genial Canadian guy with the silly moustache. However, ever since Jon discovered a few years ago that he liked game shows (mainly because of the sound effects, music and the host’s “ooohhh” when someone gets a question wrong), we’ve started watching it fairly regularly. (Alex Trebek shaved off his moustache years ago.)

Alex TrebekAlex, sans ‘stache

Jeopardy! has the cachet of being the brainiest of the (North American) knowledge-based shows, with somewhat less of the luck component than in the revamped Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (another game show title with a punctuation mark, as well as Jon’s favourite game show – of which he’s seen an ersatz version live at Disney World.)

Once a year Jeopardy! holds an online test that anyone is welcome to take, whether or not they want to be on the show. Since I love online quizzes (and I wanted to see how hard it would be) I signed up to take the test last year. The test consists of a timed 50-question quiz. You get 15 seconds to type the answer to each question, which speeds by pretty quickly. Unfortunately they don’t tell you how you did. I figured I did very badly; at any rate I never heard from them, and I forgot about it.

When this year’s online test rolled around in February, for kicks and giggles I took it again. (Which shows what a total nerd I am—taking a test for fun where I don’t even get to find out my score!) This time the test seemed easier—or maybe it was just that I was familiar with the process—anyway, it seemed to go better. This was all for fun, so again I didn’t think much about it.

Months pass.


It seems I did well enough. In May I received an email telling me I was selected to go on to the second-stage auditions. The email was in plain, unadorned text, with no corporate logos or other graphics; at first I almost overlooked it as spam.

Jeopardy! certainly has the most daunting sign-up process of any of the TV game shows. It’s a multi-stage application, winnowing down candidates from tens of thousands of online applicants to the few hundred contestants who appear on the show yearly. I had never seriously considered applying, putting it in the same daytime fantasy category as telling off an old boss, or winning the lottery (the one we never actually buy tickets for).

In the online test it’s mandatory that you pick one of five US cities where you would like to audition; I picked New York City, since it was the closest. Now that I was invited to NYC I had to seriously think about whether I should actually do this or not! Time to do some research on the Internet. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Of the approximately 100,000 people who take the online test, about 2.5%—2,000 to 3,000 people—get randomly picked from the top scorers to do the auditions.
  • Only 400 of those make it past the auditions to appear on TV.

Now to the serious thinking:

Why I should not do it:
I made it into the top 2.5% of scorers, so I was lucky to get this far. But would I make it any further? My chances of getting on the show seemed pretty slim. It would be a moderately large expense (airfare, hotel) just to do an audition that would most likely lead to nowhere. And even if I did eventually end up on the show, every contestant on that show is smart—and every night there are two losers. Two-thirds chance that I’d only win $2,000 or $1,000 (second and third place, respectively), which certainly wouldn’t be enough to cover total expenses.

Why I should do it:
It’d be a really cool adventure!

It was no contest.

I booked the plane.