As a kid, it was almost a weeknight ritual to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! with my parents after the evening news. I always had a blast playing along and contributing answers from the couch while finishing the dessert from a Kid Cuisine microwave dinner.
My mother loves to tell people about the time I solved a Wheel of Fortune puzzle before the contestants when I was four; for those wondering, it was "Winnie The Pooh And Tigger Too." It's safe to say Wheel of Fortune was one of the many things that taught me how to read (and likely why I'm still rocking a 100% Wordle score).
As I got older, I developed a deeper appreciation for Jeopardy! and started to wager guesses in the comfort of my living room. Now of course there was a lot I didn't know, and admittedly got confused about the answering in the form of a question part of the game, but I got better over time.
And that's why, come the fourth grade, my mother suggested I try out for the annual Kid's Tournament.
This was just shy of twenty years ago, and it's one of those fun facts I'll drop about myself in those icebreaker activities.
Since it's been a while since I've shared little anecdotes on the blog, here's the story of that time I tried out for Jeopardy!
The Online Test
From what I can deduce, the Jeopardy! tryout process hasn't changed drastically since the 2000s, save for the introduction of virtual interviews and adjustments made for production during Covid. It's admittedly been a bit challenging to find notes specifically pertaining to the Kid's Tournament as it was discontinued around 2014.
In other words, this is just my personal tryout experience and what I recall of it.
We registered me for the 2005 online test, which was held around January if memory serves. This consisted of fifty clues on a range of topics.
To me, it was just like playing the Jeopardy! PC game we had at the time but the answers had to be entered in a text box rather than selected from a multiple choice menu. Mom typed in my answers on my behalf to help with spelling and speed, as this was a timed exam.
I don't recall how we got the results but I assume they were sent to my mom's email since I wouldn't have had my own yet.
The main thing is that I passed the initial exam and got to move on to the in-person stage of tryouts.
The Boston Phase
My Jeopardy! tryout was before the days of the Zoom auditions they use now.
One weekend in the spring, we took a road trip up to Boston for the in-person tryouts for the Kids Tournament, as that was the city nearest to us. I got to go on a mini shopping spree beforehand to get a new, almost office professional-looking outfit for the occasion (which was a big deal since money was kind of tight) and ended up with a purple button-down and skirt combo I also wore for my fifth grade graduation/promotion ceremony.
The exam took place at a hotel. Once I was signed in, I was escorted to the conference room where were probably about twenty long tables spread out. It wasn't anything fancy, but I still felt super important.
Weirdly, I remember the hard candies, specifically the yellow one being somewhere between lemon and banana-flavored and somehow minty at the same time? Gross, frankly.
Everyone was given an official Jeopardy! pen and wristwatch, the latter of which I still have somewhere.
Once we were all settled in, there were some opening remarks from those proctoring the exam and a pre-recorded message from Alex Trebek himself (and yes, I was a bit star-struck), during which he said although he was not there in person, he thanked us all for coming out and wished us the best of luck durign the test. I'm sure this was played at every test across the country, but it was special to me.
Then came the written exam. Similar to the online test, we were to respond to the prompts presented and answer them to the best of our abilities.
Reflections, Nearly Two Decades Later
Since this post is not titled "That Time I WAS On Jeopardy!" you may have already figured out that this is where the journey ended for me. I never actually made it onto the show.
Following the scoring of the written test, they called up a handful of kids and brought them to another room, which I assume was to proceed to the interviews and mock games, sort of what happened on that episode of The Golden Girls where Dorothy tried out for Jeopardy!. Everyone remaining, myself included, was informed we were not selected to progress and sent on our way, encouraged to say we were only one question off if anyone asked how we did.
It was definitely a disappointment, especially since the Jeopardy! tryout was all I talked about since getting the invitation for Boston, but it's an experience I wouldn't trade and an interesting little anecdote I like to keep in my back pocket.
Since then, I was still overly eager to get my hand on the buzzer for classroom review games ahead of tests in school.
And we wouldn't be many questions in before I'd end up saying, "Is this a bad time to mention that I tried out for Jeopardy! as a kid?" as a way of apologizing to my peers.
When I mention trying out for Jeopardy! as a kid, I'm often asked if I would audition for the show as an adult. It has certainly crossed my mind, and it's something that others have wanted me to go for. Part of me wants to, but knowing how camera-shy I've gotten in recent years and the absence of the late Alex Trebek would potentially impact the experience.
Honestly, though, I think my current, big Jeopardy! dream would be having one of my books (or dare I say myself) be a clue. What is a full-circle moment?
That said, anything is possible. Maybe someday you'll see a follow-up to this post with "What Is 'That Time I Tried Out For Jeopardy!' Part 2."