Day-Of Jeopardy! Taping Thoughts & Reactions

The Morning Of:

Holy crap, this day was just surreal.  Ended up spending last night with Larry trying to figure out what my 3 outfits would be, as you are instructed to bring that many outfits in case you end up winning.  That proved to be surprisingly more of a task than I had expected.  Happily, Larry & I came to a decision and found 3 good shirts and tie combos, along with some sweater options just in case.  I ended up not trying to study too much more last night after a certain point, as it’s kind of like, well, you better know it or not.  The other thing with that whole situation was, I still didn’t know if I would even get on the damn show today.  I knew I was an alternate and that I had a 50/50 shot of getting on the last show.  We ended up getting to sleep around 10:30 (which is kind of early for us), and I decided against any Z-Quil as it leaves you pretty fucking groggy even if you get the full 8 hours, and I wasn’t looking to get more than 7.  Happily, I ended up sleeping pretty okay, as I think part of me was still thinking I wasn’t getting on the show today and I had more time.

So, flash forward to early this morning, as we had to get up at 5 in order to be out the door by 6:15.   The contestants have to be at the Sony Culver City lot by 7:30, and LA traffic is notoriously shitty, so yeah, you need to give yourself at least an hour if you’re trying to get to the West Side from Glendale.  We pretty much got there in an hour, happily.  Larry, as my guest, came with me as one car is a lot easier to deal with, but guests and audience members aren’t allowed into the studio until 10:15.  So I had to drop him off in the parking garage, and then he left the lot and killed time at a local cafe.

Arrival at the Jeopardy! Studio & Various Green Room Stuff:

After parking my car, and calming my nerves a bit, I headed down to the first floor of the lot where the guard had told us to wait.  Well, it was just me, or so it seemed, when I got there.  I did see another guy hanging out there, but wasn’t sure if he was like me, as I was schlepping around a garment bag and it didn’t seem like he was.  But when I walked out towards the studios a bit and then looked back at him, I saw his garment bag and knew he was also one of the chosen few.   🙂  We introduced ourselves and I immediately put on my game face, making sure he knew he better not fuck with me.   Hahhahahahhaa, I really didn’t do that.   In fact, one thing that I was happy to find out was that it’s a very chill atmosphere in the green room with all the contestants.  Everyone’s very supportive, nervous, etc, and you kind of become a cohesive unit.

Another guy came up with a garment bag and we met, and I found out he was also an alternate like me.  In fact, he was in the same Audition group as I was a month or so ago, which I remembered as he was cute.  😉  Anyway, at that time one of the producers, Glenn, came to meet us and began escorting us deeper into the lot.  He was a very fun and easygoing guy who has DECADES of gameshow experience.  Laurie also came up at around the same time as the shuttle bus came with the remainder of the contestants who had stayed at the local hotels, as they had flown in from out of town.

Once we all got through the security procedures, we were immediately taken into the Jeopardy! studio’s green room in order to get down to business, as there are lots of forms to fill in and sign away.  Kind of the reason this journal entry will stay as a Draft until my episode airs on November 28 (or thereabouts).

There were then rapid processions through all 12 of us by Corina in order to review our stories that Alex would use as the basis for our meet-cute after the first commercial break.  We then practiced saying “Who is Hobie Barnes?  That’s me!” as that is actually something we ended up filming….but I have no idea when that actually is broadcast or displayed!   Finally, the Queen of Personality herself, Maggie, came in and began to talk us through all the various things we should be thinking about while playing, while going off in endless tangents, which were absolutely wonderful.  Case in point, I did sing a lyric of Tina Turner’s Thunderdome song (“We Don’t Need Another Hero…”, in perfect pitch no less) in response to Maggie requesting someone sing Tina Turner due to the fact that Ryan and I, as the two alternates, would be narrowed down to one in order to play today.  Then there was her rendition of Mock-ing-bird and I came in to sing the alternate verses.  Maggie and Laurie loved me, and it’s very much likewise.  They really are a lot of fun.  While Maggie was going through the extensive spiel, we all then were rotating through the makeup chairs.  So, something else new happened today:  I got makeup put on for the first time!  It’s kind of awesome – as it didn’t look like it had been applied by a makeup gun set to Whore, it actually just kept my face from being greasy and smoothed out the colors.  Lisa, the makeup artist, was brilliant.  Although it was kind of crazy to see how much shit I had to wash off my face when I got home.  So I guess that’s what those makeup remover pads are for???

So it was during this green room time where we also got to get a chance to chat with the other contestants, which was a lot of fun.  I met Vicki, who honestly felt like me in another body.  No joke.  She’s even married to a Larry.  Her episode comes on 2 after mine.  Then of course there was Ryan, who was very charming and funny, but I have no idea how he did as he ended up being in one of the 2 episodes filmed after lunch.  There was also an Asian girl who was very quiet and seemed reserved, and I tried to engage in conversation but it really wasn’t going anywhere.  I was frankly surprised that she had been chosen based on this kind of personality as it seemed like they wanted you to really be out there and give it your all.  But hey, what do I know?  When she talked with Maggie & Laurie, she did seem a bit more with it.  We also all got to meet the returning champion, who had a runaway game the episode before.   So yeah, no pressure!  But he was nice, as was pretty much everyone!

Rehearsal on the Stage:

After we got the runthrough from Maggie, it was time to have some rehearsal time on the actual stage!!!!   Yeah, this was when things got kind of intense and surreal as holy shit, this is the actual Jeopardy! stage, and I’m standing on it, and there’s the game board, and there are the contestant podiums, there’s Alex’s podium, there’s where the audience sits, there’s the judges, look, there’s cameras!

Not much time to gawk though, as you first get shown the interaction screens where you sign your name and play Final Jeopardy!.  You then get schooled on where the cameras are going to be, reminded about the lights around the board that indicate when you can click in, and then you also see the lifts that exist in order to keep the contestants at a somewhat equal height.

After that introduction, it’s time to film each person’s little spiel that we practiced earlier (“Who is Hobie Barnes? That’s me!”), get our picture/video taken, then have makeup touch-ups as needed.   Once that was finished, then we actually got to play some Jeopardy!!  Laurie & Maggie selected contestants and we actually did get to play through a whole session of the show, all the way through to Final Jeopardy.  Well, the whole session was played, but we were all rotated through as this was not only for us to get used to the clicker, microphone, and reading the clues, but for the ladies to make sure we were speaking with enthusiasm and volume.  It seemed once you had met their approval, you were taken down and replaced with someone else.  We got to do this twice, and that was when it was really REALLY like I realized, holy shit, I’m playing Jeopardy! on the actual Jeopardy! stage.  But I still didn’t really think it was going to happen for me until the very end of the day, at the earliest.

A Twist of Fate:

So get this, while we’re all doing this, that Asian girl I mentioned is actually noticeably not there anymore.  I then hear various other contestants mentioning the fact that she’s with Maggie in the green room and it sounds like she’s sick.  THAT SUCKS, for her.  As you can imagine, flying out here and then getting sick is probably the crappiest situation to run into, as I know she was from NYC.  Wasn’t sure if she was just needing someone to calm her nerves down or full-out sick, but we kept doing our rehearsal regardless.  During the rehearsal is when we started seeing audience members and contestant guests getting seated, and sure enough, there was Larry!  He didn’t see me for a second or two until I was like glaring at him and he was like, OH!  Corina, one of the coordinators, insisted we not look at the guests and I’m still not sure how serious she was, although I know she was.

It was time to head back into the green room now, as the first show was about to begin.   But before that was going to happen, we got some news from Maggie:  the Asian girl dropped out.  What does that mean?  Ryan and I are no longer alternates!  We’re IN.  HOLEEE SHIT!!!  Maggie asked us if we wanted to call anybody so they could come in for a taping, and as I was thinking about who to call and who could come on such short notice, they announce who the first 2 new contestants are going to be:  Allison and……. HOBIE.  The room erupted in cheers (no lie, I swear, it did), although I don’t think it was for anybody in particular, just to celebrate that it was beginning and that they were off the hook!  😉  I know everybody laughed when they saw my face as I was in absolute shock….and HORROR.  How did I go from being 50/50 on the last show today to going on FIRST?  My heart still races thinking about that moment.  It was exhilarating, exciting, and bowel-cleansing all at once.

Guess Who Gets to Be on Jeopardy!?

With this being the direction my future decided to take, I was given a sound pack, a much more thorough makeup job (gun was still not set to Whore), and a last chance to go to the bathroom.  Laurie & Maggie were encouraging and thrilled for us all, and I even got a nice comment about my ass as who doesn’t love that?  I was wearing my Bonobos which are quite flattering.  She even went and found Larry in the audience and happily told him about it.  It’s a crazy world.  And then?  Then….it was time to walk to the studio as a FUCKING JEOPARDY! CONTESTANT!!!!!!

I started the walk of disbelief from the green room to the studio, and as I walked out I caught Larry’s eye and we both exchanged a HOLY SHIT THIS IS HAPPENING look, which made me feel better to be honest.  It was honestly fucking crazy and hilarious that this was happening so unexpectedly.  I had drawn the #2 spot (how appropriate, in hindsight) (actually, I was a gentleman and deferred to Allison who drew #3, giving me the #2) and went on up to my destiny…it’s kind of overwhelming when you get there.  Like, REALLY overwhelming.  This isn’t practice or rehearsal – those easy questions were to get you warmed up, but not a representative of what’s coming your way.  It’s Jeopardy!, folks.  Shit’s about to get hard.

Let the Games Begin!

You’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Alex Trebek’s name at all in this verbal vomitorium I’ve called a post.  That’s because you don’t see him at all until the moment the show begins.  Yep, the audience sees Alex just as much as the contestants do, and it’s kind of thrilling to see him enter and realize yet again, this is REALLY HAPPENING.  Then there’s the whole part of you getting introduced by Johnny Gilbert and he says your name correctly and you’re smiling goofily at the camera and it’s just like, please don’t let me make an ass out of myself on national television!

And then it begins!  Alex says hello, wishes us luck, the cameras are on, and the Jeopardy categories are revealed!  Frankly, I’m unable to really remember much of what happens at this point, so I guess it’s good that there’s a fucking recording of it we’ll all see later this year.  But let me say this – I kept my eyes off the scoreboard and focused on playing the game, just as Maggie advised.  And sports fans, that’s the way to play this game.  Just play the game and worry about the scores once you have to.  I had the lead by a brief margin by the first commercial break (take THAT, returning champion!) which I realized only after the fact.  That’s when it hit me, uh, I’m kind of doing great??  Yeah, I was doing great.

Returning from the 1st Commercial Break / The Chat:

As any Jeopardy! viewer knows, after coming back from that first break (during which Alex talks to the studio audience), you then have your fireside chat with Alex.  I have been simply dreading this moment and have dreaded it even BEFORE I knew I was going to be a contestant.  What the hell do you talk about with him???  But you know what, in this case, I think I had a really good story and had a blast talking with him. As Larry was telling me later, he thought I was very personable and had energy and personality for days.  And if you know me, that’s not always the case.  But when I put my mind to things, see?  Cliffs Notes on my chat:  I talked with him about Sound of Music Sing-a-long at the Hollywood Bowl and the mini-Baroness who won the costume contest, along with the awesome Edelweiss moment. Nailed it.

Game Back On During Single Jeopardy!

After we finished the chats, it was game back on.  During the remainder of the first round, I ended up finding the Daily Double!  Woot!!!!!   It was in the category of Organizations which had been kind of a little sketchy for me (I had just answered what RNC stood for and had a split-second answer change as I had said Republican National Convention and I had even been telling myself to NOT say Convention before saying Convention as that’s what the pressure will do to you, but I IMMEDIATELY corrected myself, saying Committee, and I got it in before the judges could rule against me, which Maggie had told us to do as it was a valid move – WHEW);  the scores were still fairly close to each other and I was in the lead by about $1000, so I bet $1400.   I could have gone for it, but I just wasn’t confident in that category, and of course, I get it right – Greenpeace.  And guess what – I end up leading after the first round, with the champ close behind me and Allison not much further back.  It was a strong game, let me just say that.  We were all going for it.  I even had to spell the Philippines as an answer as the category was Spelling Bee.

Double Jeopardy Commences:

Double Jeopardy time.  It’s again really hard to remember what was going on in my head during this time, as the categories really did get harder.  But I held my own quite well, owning the categories and clues that I definitely could, such as popular culture ones.  I even got some random ass ones that I still can’t believe I got right:  Uncle Vanya, anyone???  I ended up missing the Daily Doubles this time, and in fact, all three of us ended up getting one, although mine just wasn’t in the Double Jeopardy round.  I found that I was getting the rhythm right for ringing in, but not being overly aggressive when it came to ringing in.  What I’m trying to say is that when I was 25% or less sure that I had an answer, I didn’t go for it.  That may have been conservative, but I ended up not getting any answers wrong that I went for.  Honestly, I don’t think any of us playing that game got answers wrong.  I can kind of confidently say that as we all had scores over $10k.  YES, MOTHERFUCKERS, OVER $10K!!   In fact, right near the very end of the round, the champ had come roaring back but when all was said and done, I kept up with him, as he had $17k and I had $16,600.  Allison had $13,200, I think.  Regardless, our scores were fucking awesome.  No runaway here, buddy.

Final Jeopardy / This Is It:

So now we come to Final Jeopardy.  My tone here may indicate that yeah, I didn’t end up winning.  Am I disappointed?  Yes….?  But also, not.  As you’ll see on the show and what I write here, it was a fucking tough clue and none of us got it right.  Where I stumbled here, as I did have an opportunity, was that I didn’t wager conservatively (or correctly, possibly).  I wagered quite aggressively, as I was playing to win and I wanted to make the champ have to earn it.  Sometimes Final Jeopardy isn’t really all that hard and you had better bet aggressively.  I honestly think I’d be far more disappointed if we had all answered correctly but because I hadn’t bet enough, I lost.  I went to just now to see what the best bet would have been for my situation, and it says I was definitely in the zone for making a big choice, which was to bet to try to cover either the champ or Allison, or bet minimally and hope everyone loses.  I really didn’t do either, nor had I studied or put much thought into wagering.  In hindsight, which of course is a beautiful, terrible thing, yeah, I shouldn’t have bet $16k.  I thought I was being clever not betting nearly everything.  But yeah, I probably should have just done $10k and called it a day.

The category was World Flags, and when I saw that, my heart dropped, as literally, I’d been studying them and was doing awful.  But I also know that most others are fucking great with flags.  That’s a big reason why I did bet so aggressively, as I figured okay, everybody else is probably going to get this right and wager aggressively.  I have to keep up.  And with World Flags, I don’t feel completely stupid, but also not super confident.  Just enough leeway where I’m like, I could get lucky and know it!  If it had been something like Old English Literature from the 1600s, I’d have definitely bet like $2.  So that’s the situation I was living in, and where I found myself when the clue came up about Russia’s Peter the Great went to this nation to learn shipbuilding / and there’s something about the tricolor flag.  I immediately locked on to shipbuilding, and I had just seen a Civilization 6 video about the English and their special unit is Shipbuilding.  Probably not the best place to grab some memories, but it was what I went to.  So England was my choice.

Turns out, it’s not England (Update from the next day after finally looking at Russia’s, the Netherlands’, and England’s flags:  I fucking can’t believe I wrote England and not the UK – for some reason I didn’t think UK was right and that the Union Jack was England’s flag…WRONG WRONG WRONG.  I really did mess that last question up!!!).  Nor was it Italy (Allison’s answer) or France (the champ’s answer).  In fact, it was the fucking Netherlands.  I’m never going to that stupid country now.  😉  We all got it wrong, and we all thought we would know something about flags, as we all bet a fucking lot.  Allison bet and lost enough to take her down to $400, I bet enough to take me down to $600, and the champ bet enough to take him down to $1,175.  So yeah, a really stupidly close game that could have been won by smarter wagers.  Whaddya gonna do?

Parting Thoughts:

To make a long story short, I had a fucking blast.  I’m thrilled with how it all played out, even the dramatic stuff that caused my heart to nearly explode.   Coming in 2nd place isn’t terrible and I’ll get $2k sometime in the far future (seriously, I don’t get paid until 120 days AFTER my air date).  Funnily enough, my $2k in winnings was actually more than what the champ won that game, so I can technically say I won the most money on my episode!  Typing this all out has also been very therapeutic as it does solidify the 90% of me that is fine with not winning against the 10% that keeps thinking, dammit, why didn’t I bet less??  You never know!

Larry & I watched the next two episodes from the audience and the champ kept winning, with no one else really giving him a run for his money like I did.  I’m proud of that.  It was cool to hear him remark that it was a really tough game, and hell, even Alex kept mentioning it in those later episodes.  I have a feeling they don’t like when such a strong game gets derailed by a very hard Final Jeopardy as the payout was absolutely minimal.

It’s still quite a thrill to think that this all happened, and I’m excited to get to watch what it looked like when it airs in late November.  I didn’t completely go stupid as previously feared, it was a whole lot of fun, and man, what a ride.  Thanks to the wonderful people of Jeopardy!, to the other contestants I met today, and to Larry for getting through this with me.  I think he might have been more nervous than I was during the game, as even Maggie & Laurie told me that Larry was curling up into a ball while watching.

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