How many times do you find yourself watching Jeopardy and yelling answers at the TV? Have you ever thought about actually taking the first step of auditioning and hitting their website? A Casper woman did recently and was called to Las Vegas for auditions.

Pat Greiner, a friend of ours and former employee at Townsquare Media, is probably one of the smartest women I know. Her education background includes a BA in English and Theatre from University of Delaware and an MA and PhD in English from Ohio State. Her time in Casper has been as a copy writer for many years and spending a lot of time on stage and behind the scenes for Stage III Theater. After a recent retirement, it came as no surprise to us that she was looking to do something, but who knew it would be this!

Pat recently returned from auditions and shared this story,

What was it like to audition for Jeopardy? Here’s the scoop. First you have to pass the online test which they give once a year. It’s 50 questions, and you have 15 seconds to answer each one. They also have a list of cities where live auditions will be held (I think there were 6 – 8 of them) and you have to say which one you would want to audition at. If you pass (and they never tell you how you score), you go into a lottery for one of the live audition slots at your chosen city. If you get picked from the lottery, they tell you when and where to show up. If you don’t hear, you never know whether it was because you didn’t pass the test or just didn’t win the lottery for a slot. (And it can be quite a wait – the online test was in late January, and I got my audition notice in mid-June.)

I was told to be in Las Vegas at 3 pm on July 14 at the Venetian Hotel. They had 3 audition sessions there (8 a.m., 11:30, and 3 … glad I didn’t have to be sharp at 8). Each session is a group one … there were just under 20 of us at the 3 p.m. session. You show up with your application already filled out, including a selection of “interesting anecdotes” that Alex might ask you about if you get on the show. (No, Alex is not at the auditions.) They take a polaroid picture of you, which you attach to your application and everybody goes into the meeting room.

There are 3 producers/contestant coordinators there (Glen, Corinna and Travis). They are very friendly and enthusiastic, and they tell you that that’s what they want you to be, too. They’re looking for people who are not only founts of useless info, but engaging and enjoyable to watch as well. They tell you a lot about the buzzer. Do you yell out the answer at home as soon as you know it? Forget that. On the show, you cannot ring in with your buzzer until Alex has finished reading the clue aloud and the yellow lights beside the board (which tv viewers never get to see) light up. If you ring in too early, your buzzer is locked out for a quarter of a second – not long, but enough to let your competition get in instead. Then they practice by asking some sample questions and having you raise your hand at the time you would press the buzzer so everyone gets used to the idea. They also review some of their special types of questions, like the “before and afters” and ones that include wordplay.

Next is the written test. Just like the online one, it’s 50 questions, but you have just 8 seconds to write down your answer (not in the form of a question) before they give the next one. When that’s done, they collect and grade the answer sheets, again never letting anyone know how they did. Then you play a mock game. They have a board that’s projected on a screen and works like the real one, except there are only 3 questions in each category, and as soon as a category is used up, that column fills in with a new category. They call you up in groups of 3, put the buzzers in your hands, and you play for a few minutes. They tell you what they’re looking for – not so much how many answers you know, but how well you use the buzzer, how loudly and confidently you answer, and how quickly you select the next question when you answer correctly. (People who politely say “May I have 19th Century European Novels for $600 please?” slow down the game – they really want you to say “Novels for 600.”)

After you’ve played for a few minutes, they do the “interview” section just like they do in the game. They ask you a little about your job and/or hobbies, and what you would do with the money if you won. They encourage you to have a more interesting use for the money than just paying bills. Most people say travel. The best one in our session was the woman who wanted to buy a fancy haunted house set-up for Halloween because she “loves to scare children.” I told them I would publish my husband’s brilliant but unpublished novel. They also say that if you’re on the show and Alex ever asks you something that’s just wrong or that you don’t want to talk about … “So, I understand you just got back from being kidnapped and probed by aliens?” … you use the code phrase “That’s right, Alex.” If you say that, Alex and the cameraman will move to the next person right away. It doesn’t happen often, but if you ever hear “That’s right, Alex,” you know what it means.

And that’s it. You are never told how well or badly you did. They just say that if you passed, your name will go into a pool and remain there for 18 months. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a phone calling giving you a few weeks’ notice to arrange to get to LA (and all expenses are your own responsibility, just like for the auditions). If you haven’t been called in 18 months, you are encouraged to try again. They tape 10 shows a week – 5 on Tuesday and 5 on Wednesday.

So how did I do? Who knows?? But it felt good. They really worked hard to make the session (which was about 2 hours and 15 minutes long) fun, so it was easy to respond with enthusiasm and smile a lot. I felt good about the written test – there were only 4 questions I know for sure that I missed, and Wikipedia says you can miss up to 15 and still pass (gotta be true from that source, right?). I seemed to do pretty well with the buzzer. So fingers crossed for the next 18 months!

Oh – they swore us to secrecy not to reveal the questions on the test, but if you want to see what the tests are like, you can go to the Jeopardy website. Under the “Be a Contestant” tab there’s an option to take a practice test – it’s similar in scope and difficulty to the ones they use for the auditions.

So Pat plays the waiting game and we will too. As we are in touch with Pat often, we will keep you up to date on her progress and hopefully will one day soon be telling you when to tune in to the show to see one of Casper's own.

By the way she went all the way to Vegas on her own dime and all she got was this pen.

Pat Greiner