Fort Collins Man Shares What It’s Really Like to Be on Jeopardy
Kevin Shrum of Fort Collins had a nice run on Jeopardy. He won on Tuesday and Wednesday, but lost to Stephanie in final Jeopardy last night. We are very proud. I had a chance to chat with Kevin by e-mail over the past couple of days and he shared with me what it is really like to be on one of America's most iconic game shows.
Do contestants get to hang out with Alex Trebeck?
Alex Trebeck's interactions with contestants are minimal -- the only time he interacts with contestants is on camera. He doesn't introduce himself before the show and doesn't hang around afterward. The first time contestants see him is when Johnny Gilbert introduces him at the opening. During commercials, he talks to the audience and ignores the contestants. Then, after the final "center stage" chat while the credits roll, he immediately vanishes.
How long does it take to film the show?
They shoot five shows in a day, an entire week's worth. They shoot three shows for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then break for lunch. A new audience comes in after lunch for the shooting of the Thursday and Friday shows.
What do you wear?
Contestants are all told to bring several changes of shirts/blouses just in case they win. Every contestant comes in with a garment bag, hoping like crazy they'll have to use it. I was fortunate to be able to wear several shirts! Thursday I'll be wearing a dark blue shirt with a silver-gray tie. There is a small dressing room, about the size of a department store changing room, at the end of the green room. It has a couple of hooks and a small table, with a star on the door labeled "Champion." Every contestant looks at the door longingly during the morning briefing.
Does Alex Trebeck miss his mustache?
Trebeck and Johnny Gilbert both do a Q&A with the audience during some commercials. It was intense on stage with lots of activities, so I didn't hear a lot, but Trebeck seemed to have some stock answers to common question. He got a question during from both audiences that day about his mustache. The morning audience asked him if he missed it and the afternoon audience asked if he would ever grow it back. His answer was the same to both. He said, "I don't miss my mustache. I still have it. I keep it in a jar in my closet where I can see it every day."
What happens during commercials?
Commercials are busy! As soon as the director says, "Cut," the stage is swarmed. Makeup people come to each contestant to powder noses and do touch-ups, a stage hand brings a bottle of water to each contestant, the director briefs contestants on speaking up or not looking at the camera, the sound technician may adjust microphone clips, a stage technician has each contestant ring in several times to make sure the equipment is working, people are cleaning spots off the floor or the lecterns, the contestant coordinator comes up and does a pep talk and fist bump. Then the director announces "coming back in 30 seconds" and everybody disappears from stage.
What is something they do on the show you don't notice on TV.
When the camera pans the stage at the opening, you can sometimes see the floor behind the lecterns, and it looks like each contestant is standing on a square outlined on the floor. The squares are actually electric lifts! Before the show, they raise and lower the contestant so that all contestant eyes are even. That way, they can lock the contestant camera's tile, and just pan back and forth instead of panning and moving up and down at the same time.
Do you remember the questions you answered on the show?
It was a blast, but a total blur! It was really fun to watch the episodes, since I had very little memory of that happened. I remembered the Final Jeopardy questions for each show, but not much else. When I watched the Tuesday show and Trebeck announced categories, I thought, "William Henry Harrison???? Really? That was a category?" I had zero memories of the categories and only remembered about two or three of the clues and answers. It was long time between taping on December 7 and watching the show on March 21.
How big is the studio audience?
The studio audience isn't very big, maybe 100 people. In the photo of the audience area, the contestant and family area is to the left and the general public is to the right. They are segregated from each other in the seating area.
How do you get tickets for the show?
Audience tickets are free. They be obtained from the Jeopardy! web site. Taping dates are displayed, and people can get up to four tickets for either a morning three-show taping or an afternoon two-show taping.