Dagnabbit. This is a lot easier when youre sprawled out on the sofa in your SpongeBob jammies, mainlining peanut butter straight from the jar and washing it down with a two-liter Diet Coke.
Thats what you realize the moment youre facing the genial inquisitors from the game show Jeopardy!
For someone whose goals in life include being able to say Ill take Shakespeare for $1,000, Alex, it was an assignment too inviting to pass up. When my editor asked for a volunteer to stroll over to the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel to see what its like to try out for the show, I rang in.
If you are as full of useless information as I, youd have given it a shot, too.
I joined about 120 people from North Carolina and surrounding states whod taken an online quiz and been invited to Raleigh on Friday and Saturday to take a mock test and be interviewed.
Funny thing, though. You dont count on your brain being impeded by flop sweat and cottonmouth each time you try to press the little clicker and provide the correct response.
Someone OK, I once said there are two types of people in the world: those who watch Jeopardy! and those who watch Wheel of Fortune.
Jeopardy!, a game show that began in 1964, allows you to exercise your brain. Its hard to say what Wheel exercises. Maybe it stokes your sense of superiority over the intellectually unexceptional contestants who struggle despite being given clues as large as the Grand Canyon?
On Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek provides the answer and you have to give the question. For instance, if Trebek says The N.C. newspaper columnist did this when taking the quiz for Jeopardy! the correct response would be What is Choked, Alex?
And I did. I mean, how do you miss a question about your favorite author? Oy!
Trust me. When you stand there and grab ahold of that clicker, you quickly realize that just because youre a genius on your couch doesnt mean diddly when youre standing in a room facing three Jeopardy! contestant coordinators from California.
Your audience during the audition consists of about 20 other contestants quizzes and interviews were split into five sessions awaiting their turn. There is also a camera recording your interview. If that makes you nervous, just imagine what its like when youre facing the intimidating Trebek, a studio audience and cameras that will beam you into millions of living rooms and youre standing between two people who probably also know the suns surface temperature What is 10 million degrees, Alex? or what year Teddy Roosevelt got his first wisdom tooth.
Aspiring contestant Robin Devereux of Durham can imagine what its like. The only part that was nerve-wracking was the interview part, she told me after trying out. I had a lot of fun actually playing the game.
So did Kathy Fitzgerald, a weaver from Oak Island. Glenn Kagan, Jeopardy! senior coordinator, had to tell Fitzgerald, Devereux and many of the bookish, soft-spoken contestants that describes many of us at the tryout to speak up, to project our voices.
For both of the North Carolina women, this is the second time trying out, but Kagan said thats nothing to worry about: some big winners had to try more than once.
Jeopardy! is the only American television show Fitzgerald and her husband watch, she said. He comes up with the more bizarre answers. Im constantly asking him How do you know that? Together, we make one good brain.
Trying out for Jeopardy! can turn even a good brain into mofongo. It is a humbling experience, one that teaches you that youre not as smart as you think you are. That doesnt mean I wont take the test to appear on the show: I will.
Only next time, Ill ask Alex whether I can wear my lucky SpongeBob jammies.