by Steven H Silver
For years, people have been telling me that I should try to get on Jeopardy! However, living in Chicagoland, it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to audition. Until recently, all “Jeopardy!” tryouts were held in Los Angeles, which would mean flying myself out on the off chance that I would qualify. If I did qualify, I would have to fly out a second time to appear on the show, all at my own expense. Of course, that wouldn’t guarantee that I would win anything.
A few years ago, Jeopardy! began taping a few shows on the road. In 1999, they announced they would be taping the College Tournament in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago in which I happened to work at the time. As long as they were in the area, they would be holding auditions for the show. My parents jotted down the phone number to call to set up an appointment and I called the number.The number dropped me into voice mail, where I had to provide some demographic information: age, address, job title, etc. I did so and waited for Jeopardy! to call back. Actually, I pretty much ignored it, figuring that if they wanted to call me, they would and there was nothing I could do about it at that point. Then one evening, I was sitting at home with my wife when the phone rang. Elaine picked it up and got a rather strange look on her face. She held to phone out to me and explained, "It’s for you. It’s Louis. From the Jeopardy! show." Louis asked me if I was interested in trying out for “Jeopardy!”, a question I thought was rather silly since I wouldn’t have called their number if I hadn’t wanted to try out. He confirmed the information I had given over the phone on my initial phone call and we set an appointment for April 14, 1999. Louis told me I would receive a confirmation package in the mail. And I waited. Meanwhile, my mother had begun filling out forms to enter the family in the raffle to win tickets for the College Tournament tapings. Each entry would be entered in a raffle to win up to four tickets for one of four tapings to be held the weekend prior to my audition. By the time she was finished, she had sent in 35 requests for tickets. Eventually, we received word that we had won four tickets in the raffle. Only one of the requests had be selected.
By the time the taping had rolled around, I still hadn’t received a confirmation letter from Louis and I was a little concerned. When we arrived at the taping, I decided that during one of the breaks I would corner one of the Jeopardy! people and find out how I could get a confirmation, or if one was actually necessary
During the first game taped, one of the contestants was a fellow named Stephen James, whose family was sitting next to me. I talked to them a little during the show, trying to get some idea about what would be in store for me the following Wednesday. As it happened, Stephen won his game and a camera zoomed in on his mother during the credits. If you look at the left side of the screen, you can see me applauding, although the letter V (for Volvo) was superimposed over my face. Even if I flubbed the audition, I could be seen on Jeopardy!.On Monday, I called Jeopardy! and arranged to have a FAX of my confirmation sent out to me. It arrived on Tuesday, and I’m really glad I made that call.