Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Once Again, I Am Hoping That Having Memorized Vast Amounts Of Useless Trivia Will Not Have Been In Vain

[Portions of this appeared elsewhere, in three separate past entries. Those bits are pertinent to the overall subject matter today, though, so I'm weaving them into this narrative. If you think you've read some of this before, you aren't necessarily going insane.]

It is 7:37pm on Tuesday. I am waiting to take the on-line test to qualify for Jeopardy. It is supposed to start at 8 o'clock. I logged in to the test site at 7:32, and since I have nothing better to do while waiting, I'm writing.

This will be my third attempt to become a Jeopardy contestant.

Usually, in order to be picked for a regional qualifier, you go to their website and enter your name into a lottery of sorts. They only have so many spots and they usually get way more applications for those spots than they have room for. I had registered a number of times before, but had never been lucky enough to be chosen. This particular time, perhaps eight years ago, I got a call telling me that I was invited.

I was stoked! I really am quite good at the game; better than most anyone I'm acquainted with. I know that if I get onto the show, I won't embarrass myself. I may not win, but I won't self-destruct in front of a national audience. I have some holes in my game, but I also have specialized knowledge of some fairly arcane trivia. I think I might have a better than average shot at winning a game or two.

I know that the pressure won't get to me for two very good reasons:

1) Unlike the great majority of human beings, I actually like speaking in public. My job is, to some degree, made up of spoken performance. I don't fear a microphone.

2) I was on a game show once before and I did OK. I didn't win, but it was because of a lack of knowledge concerning one particular category, not because of overall dumbness or stage fright. The name of the show was Think Twice and it was a production of PBS. Yes, a PBS game show. I actually found a picture of it on-line (fortunately for you, not one with me in it) and it is below.

I have a tape of that show, but I can't bear to watch it. I don't like watching myself on film. I never look as good as I think I look in my mind.

The show ran for thirteen weeks, so you probably never heard of it. Most people didn't hear of it; that's why it ran only thirteen weeks. It aired about twelve years ago.

The premise, and thus the title, was that every part of the show either took two answers or had to be completed by two people in tandem. I had a partner (a former losing Jeopardy contestant, by the way) and she was about on the same level as myself. She was assigned to me on the date of taping.

I'll give you an example of the format. The host, Monteria Ivey, would ask a question like "What two federal holidays occur during the month of January?", and then the first person to ring in would say, perhaps, "Martin Luther King Day". Then, it would be up to that person's partner to supply the second half of the answer, New Years Day. If the partner could not supply the answer, the other team had a chance to steal the points by answering it.

Now, that was pretty straightforward and fun, and I think if the show had ONLY done that, it might have been a success. However, for some ungodly reason, the producers decided to have three different types of rounds in the show, and the other two rounds were much harder for the audience to grasp. I won't go into them here. Suffice to say that my team led throughout the show, until the final question on the final round, which concerned country music.

I knew dick about country music. I still don't know much. However, I know who Kitty Wells was. I had never heard of her then. I'll never forget her now.

(MY WIFE was in the studio audience. When they announced the category as country music, she turned to her friend, with a crestfallen look, and said, "Jim doesn't know anything about country music...", and she was right.)

So, we finished second. I received a whole bunch of neat gift certificates, most of which we used to do our Christmas shopping that year.

Getting back to the other show...

I took that Jeopardy test and it was hard but not overwhelming. They give you 50 questions and you need (if memory serves) 38 correct to qualify for the "personality" interview. That's where they make sure you aren't a psycho, have a face that won't traumatize little children, and you will be able to talk in more than a mumble when Alex Trebek asks you to tell him why you were married on February 29th.

By my best estimate, I had either 37 or 38 correct. They don't tell you your score, by the way. They just tell you whether you passed or failed. I failed, but I'm almost positive I missed it by one damned answer. And it was a fairly easy answer, too. I thought about this particular question afterward and I realized that I probably out-thought myself on it. I thought the obvious answer was too obvious, you know? So I put down something else that sounded reasonable, but looking back I'm sure the obvious answer was the right one.


Fast forward to about two years ago now. I registered for, and took, the on-line version of the test. If you pass (again, they don't tell you if you passed or failed) then you might get called up to take part in a live version of the test. I never got called, so I don't know if I passed or failed. I think I was on the borderline again.

Now, I'm taking the test again - in about 5 minutes, if the clock here is correct. It should take about 10 minutes, after which I'll let you know how I think I did. Wish me luck.


While you're waiting, I can tell you that I passed the test for another game show altogether, but never got on the show. That was Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

The audition itself was a simple process. We were checked in by staff and then handed a sealed envelope containing the written test. After being seated, we were given some simple instructions concerning the filling out of the answers on a separate form and then we were allowed to open the envelopes and begin the test.

The test consisted of thirty questions, multiple choice, and we were given ten minutes to complete it. In the interest of fairness to ABC, as well as future contestants, I won’t give you any of the actual questions. However, they were mostly of this caliber:

Which of the following states was the last to join the union?

A – North Carolina
B – Vermont
C – Alaska
D – Utah

I don’t think it was a tremendously hard test. There were a couple of questions I had to take a wild stab at, but I knew for sure, by the time we had to turn in the papers, that I had at least 25 out of 30 correct. Of course, I assume the tests change from day to day, so perhaps I lucked into one that matched my strengths.

The tests were very quickly graded and then we were told which of us should stay for an interview and which should go home. We had been given numbers with our tests. I was number 12. They called out the numbers of those who passed the test:

“193... 137... 126... 12...”

Yes! I passed the written test!

Now it was on to the personality interview, wherein someone would decide if I was pleasingly personable enough to make a national television audience root for me. Or perhaps decide that I was a blowhard psychopath.

Turns out they thought I might have been a blowhard psychopath. I received this postcard from the production staff about two weeks after my trip to New York.

I don’t know for sure what happened. Here's some conjecture.

I dressed nicely. The instructions I received from ABC, concerning the testing, called for casual dress. So, I wore a nice pink taffeta – nothing too fancy. No, I wore a navy polo, off-white chinos, black belt – casual, but not I'm-a-meth-freak-in-my-spare-time casual. I got a haircut about a week before the test, so I’d be neat but not look like I just came from the barbershop. I shaved that morning and trimmed my beard and sideburns. I cleaned my fingernails. I brushed my teeth and used mouthwash and checked my nose for hanging boogers just before going to the test site. In other words, I know I was presentable. That wasn’t the problem.

As I said, I passed the written exam. It was thirty questions, multiple choice, with a ten-minute time limit. Nothing too hard. The general tenor of the questions was as follows:

What do you use to drain your spaghetti after cooking?

A – A Colander

B – A Calendar

C – A Tennis Racket

D – Your Hands

Well, OK, it wasn’t quite that stupid, but it wasn’t MENSA stuff, either. A particularly bright ten-year-old would have had a decent shot at it. And – getting back to the personality thing - I didn’t stand up in the middle of the test and shout, “I came all the way to New York to take this fucking idiotic test? Why didn’t you just grab all the people off of the first short bus you saw passing by and save me the trouble?” I filled out the test paper as instructed and, in the approximately six minutes I had remaining after doing so, I re-checked my answers, making sure I hadn’t drooled on the form or anything else which might have been off-putting to the judges.

After being informed that I'd passed – I’d estimate that 1 in 8 of those tested did so – I had my picture taken. I smiled nicely. I was very pleased with the photo, too. I don’t think I photograph particularly well, but this one came out nicely. I looked reasonably intelligent, somewhat friendly, and I still had no hanging boogers. So, the picture wasn’t the problem.

Then it was on to the personality interview. From the results, you might think I had answered the interviewer’s questions in the following manner:

Interviewer: Hi, Jim! I’m Debbie.

Me: Debbie? Hah! Are you the one who did Dallas? Hah-hah!

Interviewer: What do you do for a living, Jim?

Me: I disembowel rabid weasels.

Interviewer: That must be interesting.

Me: Not if you’re the rabid weasel.

Interviewer: What’s the first thing you’ll do if you win a million dollars?

Me: Give it to Al-Qeada. Either that or I’ll rent out a roomful of whores and snort massive amounts of cocaine off of their asses until I die.

Interviewer: What sorts of hobbies do you enjoy, Jim?

Me: I thought I made that clear with my previous answer. Wow, you’re really thick!

Interviewer: Well, it’s been nice talking to you, Jim. We’ll let you know in a few weeks whether or not you’ll be placed in the contestant pool.

Me: Like I give a shit, sister. Hey, what are you doing later tonight? Would you mind if I snorted some cocaine off of your ass?

The interviewer’s questions really were like those above, but I didn’t give hideously inappropriate answers. I was nice. I was unthreatening. I thought I was at least fairly interesting.

Apparently, the producers thought otherwise. I don’t know. Maybe the swastika I painted on my forehead was a bit too much. I thought it was a nice homey touch, but you never can tell what’s going to turn some people off these days.

I’ve talked to a few other people who passed the written exam and who also were not invited to appear on the show. They are all nice people and they are all possessed of a higher-than-average intelligence. And I hope this isn’t too self-serving, but I think that’s the problem. I think the producers aren’t looking for the highly intelligent. I have a feeling that what they’re looking for are the reasonably intelligent – those who know how much two plus two is, but not necessarily what someone might do with that information - combined with the type of perky which I, unfortunately, am not.

Hey, it’s a TV show. I know that what they’re trying to do is appeal to the widest possible audience and just because they decided not to use me, I don’t need to feel like it’s some sort of personal insult. Luckily for me, as a voice-over talent, I work in a subjective business, so I know what it’s like to be rejected for no reason having to do with intelligence or talent or personality. Sometimes what you’ve got just isn’t what someone else is looking for. I’ve had ample opportunity to get used to being passed over and I know how to deal with it like an adult.

Stupid Poopy-Heads.


I think I did well on this latest go-round at qualifying for Jeopardy. I'd estimate I got 41 or 42 correct out of 50, and that should be good enough to qualify. We'll see if they call me for a live test. Until then, say a quiz-show-related prayer for me, please.

Soon, with more better stuff.


T said...

Ah, I hope you get on, then you will have to let us all know when it will be aired so we can see Suldog The Magnificent in action.:))

Karen said...

I'll be waiting to hear! Good luck :)

Saz said...

I'm in stitches is my 14 yr old...he appreciated your humour too!!

I shall print this off for a colleague at work he has been a mastermind contestant 3 times and has been in the final -twice l think ( do you have that) ?? he has a mischievous sense of humour...

My cheeks hurt form smiling...

no not them...!

Anonymous said...

The test questions and personal interview system have somehow missed you in the past. Keep us posted. This audience would love to see you there!

Though, I think you are perhaps more suited to your own sitcom with YOUR WIFE!

Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

If you are too intelligent, which you obviously are, and potentially witty, good looking, and even entertaining, they might feel you you will win too much money, or steal the show from the star! Or perhaps you don;t fit the required demographic of age/gender/race/ they are looking for this year....decade, century.

The 1957 vintage might be too old .. and I say that as a fellow 1957 batch, November model....
a very special year.

We don't get Jeopardy over here... but good luck this time!

lime said...

well good luck. i do think you're right. they want bright people but not folks who they think might actually break the bank.

GreenJello said...

Ooh. I want to see you on tv. Good luck!!!

GreenJello said...

Oh, and I'm pretty sure the reason you didn't make it on WWTBAM was because you're too smart. Can you imagine if Ken Jennings was a contestant? He wouldn't even bother to use a lifeline.

Maybe you should try out for "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader". :)

Carolina said...

So sorry that we cannot get that over here, but I will keep my fingers crossed for you. I would say a prayer, but I'm a non-believer and afraid it might work against you :-) Good Luck/ Break a Leg (whatever you showbizzpeople prefer).

Suldog said...

Prayers from non-believers are appreciated most of all. He's not used to hearing from you, so it will be memorable.

Hilary said...

Good luck! I know all your bloggie buddies will be watching when you do get on (notice I didn't say "if"). And please make it soon as I'll likely hear the Jeopardy theme in my head for the duration!

i beati said...

let me know the date- do you play the online version of who wants to be a millionarie i like to win all that hypothetical money- i thought my word verification was uncringe??

it was worse.I won't apply it to you or me for that matter.

Buck said...

Good luck, Jim. I'd have never pegged you as the quiz show type (if there is such a thing), but you most certainly DO have a way with words and an encyclopedic sorta mind... coupled with a wicked-good sense of humor. Hmmm. Now that I think on it... that means you're dangerous.

@FF&F: "Mastermnd" was one of my absolute FAVE teevee shows when I lived in Ol' Blighty. Talk about esoteric subject matter... and DIFFICULT, too. ;-)

SandraRee said...

I think you'd be great on a quiz show. I'd love to see you on the tube. As animated as you are in your posts I think you would be a star in front of the camera in no time! :)

Got 2 Trot Librarian said...

Good luck with Jeoprady! I also took (and passed) the Millionaire written test for the college version. I remember waiting for hours in some hotel in Cambridge to be interviewed by a staff member. Must have flunked the personality portion though, because I never got the call.

Jinksy said...

Great, now I know what we'll be doing through the cell wall... What a shame, nobody will know what I'm talking about...

You might enjoy my word verification... "ritiria"...if you speak French, possibly...

Betty said...

I may have a clue as to what you need to do to get on the show...squeal like a 13-year-old female seeing her 'fav' in person. At least, that's what I usually hear when quiz shows are on...someone squealing at the top of his/her lungs (yes, I have heard men do it)...give it a try! Oh, yeah, you might want to jump up and down a little, also. Good luck! I'll be watching.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Dear Bob Eubanks and Bob Barker (wait, are they still with us?): Please pull some game show strings for Suldawg. Amen.

Next time, if they wanna know anything about your audience appeal, please direct them to this blog!

Anonymous said...

I love Jeopardy. I hope you get on. I took that online test recently and I SUCKED on it. I don't know why, because I do well when I watch on TV and play along.

Jeni said...

My late aunt used to always tell me I should apply to be on the Millionaire quiz show -she had a whole lot of faith in me, for sure -but I knew I couldn't do it as sure as shooting they'd ask me questions about movies or art or opera or sports -things I have next to no knowledge in those areas! Or they'd ask about how much 2 plus 2 is and I'd flub that up too, ya know!
But anyway -here's hoping the stars all align for you and you get that big call! When you do, please let us know the time the show will air so I can stock in some beer to chug while watching one of my favorite bloggers become a high winner on Jeopardy!

Chris Stone said...

good luck! hope you make it and show those poopy heads!

and then i'll watch jeopardy. i've never seen it.

i like betty's advice on squealing and jumping up and down. yes. do that. lol!

Unknown said...

Boston Boy! Good to hear from another person who understands the need for serious sugar during snow storms. She says as she looks out the window... It can be wicked hard at times, but would you live anywhere else?
Loved the story, I think you'll make us wicked proud when you get on the show.
Boston Girl

Chris Stone said...

you know, i've decided. i'll make a pact. i will never watch jeopardy unless you become a contestant.


Unknown said...

It is perfectly understandable that you'd be trying out for Jeopardy after reading your Q&A, or rather A&Q, from the last post! I know you will give an intelligent, witty and perfect response to that smarmy, condescending Alex Trebek when he asks you some random, sometimes meant to be embarassing, question about your life like he does with everyone. I love the concept of the show, it is Trebek that makes me mental. You can do it though Jim, go win a billiondy dollars and show off your ninja trivia skills.

And screw Millionaire if they can't handle you on their stupid show. :-P (Me sticking my tongue out at the producers).

Anonymous said...

That would be the funniest show,Suldog, imagine if you gave the same kinds of questions that you gave to our answers? Loved Jeapardy when we were on that side of the pond-it was tried here but didn't take. If you are accepted copy it and we will all buy it and make you very rich.

Janet said...

Obviously should have gone with the pink tafetta.
My brother got as far as you did on "Millionaire." I think you're right - they didn't want anyone TOO smart - you might win! I was supposed to be one of his lifelines. I am excellent at Jeopardy, but I would crash and burn in most spectacular fashion if I was actually on the show.
The Mountain Man was on some kind of college board academic team thingy with 4 other guys. All four of the others have been on Jeopardy. And won. Not real big (well one of them did), but they won money. I find this bizarre.
Good luck - if you get on a show I'll get my mom to tape it for me.

Stu said...

"Stupid Poopy-Heads."

As compared to the smart poopy-heads on Meet The Press.

Sully, in your heart, you're a rock musician, and therefore, a duck. And we all know that ducks never get on game shows of any sort, no matter the temperature of the water.

SoSock said...

Best of luck
I've always wanted to try that but have taken the initiative.
Maybe now...
I'm not so sure I'd cut the mustard on Jeopardy. I have my categories I can run the table, but there's usually 1 or 2 on the board I'm lost in.
On the other hand, like some others have mentioned, I think I wouldn't get on Are You Smarter? because I usually know every answer all the way to and including the point where the contestant drops out.
Who knows, I'm sure it's different when you're standing on that stage, but it sounds like you've got that handled better than a lot would.
Again, BEST of luck!

Christina RN LMT said...

Good luck! I'll be rooting for you.

Jazz said...

For some reason, I never thought of people trying to get on game shows. Which is dumb, since obviously, they have to get their contestants somewhere.

Nana Net said...

Here is wishing you the best of luck this go round! Please let me know if you get on the show. That way I can definelty watch you!
BTW my niece tried out for "Wheel of Fortune" last year and made it to the part where they would let her know if she would be invited to California. Which is the next to the last step. Of course she did not hear from them. Guess they did not want a school teacher. LOL Oh well, I will be saying lots and lots of prayers for you to get on there. If not them try out for "Wheel of Fortune!"

Harris said...

Bon chance! Are you sure they're not, in fact, looking for weasel-disembowelers? That would make for some entertaining television.

Cath said...

I hate those things because they are so unfair. It just isn't right to ask people to jump through so many hoops to get x and then in the end say they didn't want you anyway!

Hope you get on Jim, but I reckon you're too intelligent, or good looking. One or the other....

kuanyin333 said...

I'm praying 4 ya, so I can lmao when I watch you on tv! This I wanna see! Great writing bring a big smile to my face.

Peter N said...

Amazing stuff, Sul. I did the Jeopardy tryouts in '89 before the web-based part of the process. It was at the urging of my then girlfriend, who thought she had found a match in me. But that's another story. A too long one. P.S. She didn't.

Have a great Super Sunday, with BRUCE at the half.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Dear Suldog...I've left you a well-deserved (but cutesy-looking)award over at my place.

Melinda said...

Good luck Sully! You would be fantastic on TV - hope we get to see you there!

Chuck said...

Good luck! I recommend reading Bob Harris' book "Prisoner of Trebekistan" about his experiences on's a very entertaining read even if (like me) you have no intention of actually ever going on the show.