Saturday, February 16, 2008

I'll play your game, you rogue.

I'm not good about setting or keeping track of Fred-specific life goals. I have work-related goals, and personal goals that a lot of people have (home ownership, kids someday, etc.), but really only one special goal that I keep in the back of my mind, burning like a Citronella that wards off the mosquitoes of complacency (but apparently not the fruit flies of tortured metaphors): to be a contestant on Jeopardy!(TM).*

The origins of this goal lie in high school, when I was on the Minneapolis Southwest Quiz Bowl team. I was only on the team for my junior and senior years, but that second year, I was promoted to co-captain of Team A (a Welsh shout-out to co-captain Jenny Hurrle, wherever she is), and we were totally State Quarterfinalists. Somewhere in my parents' basement there still exists a tape of our public-access TV victories, leading up to our semifinals loss to Minneapolis South, who I'm sure only succeeded because their school has no windows to distract them. Anyway, trivia and the acquisition of a broad base of general knowledge have been pursuits close to my heart since then, and at some point this coalesced into the Life Goal to be on Jeopardy!(TM).

In the meantime, I've had my flirtations with such passing fancies as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Win Ben Stein's Money, Beat the Geeks, and the dead-before-its-time MTV show, Idiot Savants.** But my youth, busy signals and/or the short lives of these shows prevented my getting a chance to be on them. So Jeopardy!(TM, ok I'll stop that now) remains the Holy Grail (or Crystal Skull, if you prefer).

When I was in college I signed up for Sony's emails on how to be a contestant. They sent me periodic updates, but it never really went anywhere, mostly because they didn't hold auditions particularly close to me. When I moved back to Minneapolis for grad school, it seemed that they only ever got as close as Chicago. Stymied. Damn you, Trebek.

But, now that I have a friend named Lacey Mamak, I am plugged in to game show audition news. Being on a game show is among her life goals, and we stood in line for seven hours one Saturday in December, half of it outside in sub-freezing Minnesota weather, to try out for Deal or No Deal, which could've been a blog post itself. She got a callback out of the experience. I got an experience. She alerted me in January to the Jeopardy online contestant test, held the last three days of the month.

So, you register at least 24 hours before the test, and sign in within the half hour before 8PM, when the test is to begin. At that time, the site starts a countdown. 30 seconds before 8, The Music begins, and once the clock hits zero, the music stops, thank God, and question-spitting begins. The test is 50 questions long, and you have 12 seconds per question. Here are the questions I was asked, and the answers (scroll down). By my count I got 37 correct. Rumor has it 35 is a passing score.

Well, 37 is a passing score at least, because on Friday I got an email from Sony, offering me an audition in Minneapolis on March 11th. Hot damn. Lacey got an audition as well, earlier that morning.

So apparently the procedure is that we'll go in and take another 50-question test, and then if we pass that (stressful!), we get to play a practice game to try our buzzer skills (if you buzz in before the question's finished, you get locked out for a crucial half second), and then talk nice with the producers. I'm excited, obviously, but nervous that the test will be harder than the one I already took. And I hope to do well in the practice game. To prepare, I've ordered the PS2 Jeopardy game off of eBay, and plan on checking a couple of Jeopardy-related books out of the library.

I will have two fears if I actually become a contestant. The first is irrational, and it's that I hope I don't slip into quoting Darrell Hammond at any point. The second is very real, that I hope I don't pull a Clavin.

Update: Go here for the story of how my audition went.

* Jeopardy!(TM) is a Merv Griffin Sony Pictures Television production.
** Idiot Savants was hosted by Greg Fitzsimmons, who would one day fill in for my friend and college roommate to open a Zach Galifianakis stand-up show, when Kumail had to pull out. Small world? No, just Kumail's awesome rise in the comedy world.