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JeopardyPicEastern Christian alum Marcia Kuipers ’84 recently competed on ‘Jeopardy!’ The famous Merv Griffin quiz-based television gameshow where questions are stated in the form of answers has been appealing to Marcia for years. Recently, she realized her dream of appearing on the show.

JE2010_HeroHR_RGB-21Marcia’s episode will air on Tuesday, December 30th. Set those DVR’s and cheer on an EC Alum to victory! It is possible that Marcia’s “run” on Jeopardy! could continue beyond this episode (returning champions continue to compete on Jeopardy! until they are dethroned by a challenger) but she isn’t allowed to share the results of her competition.

We were so interested in this accomplishment, that we just had to sit down and ask Marcia a few questions (or is it answers?) about her Jeopardy! experience. Here’s our interview:

You just appeared on Jeopardy. How did this come about? What did you do to get on the show? In order to make you feel more at home, should I phrase every question for this interview in the form of an answer?

I think we’ll avoid the answer/question format as that only seems to work in the context of the show and anytime I’ve tried it in real life, it gave me a headache.

Appearing on Jeopardy came about as a result of years of trying.  The show came on the air during my first year of college and I was immediately a fan.  It was so exciting to find a game show that catered to my passion for trivial knowledge and random facts.  About 20 years ago, the show would run annual contestant searches in Atlantic City and I drove there twice to take the 5 question test they offered .  Let’s just say my attempts were far from successful!  The process became easier a few years ago when they started running an annual on-line test for hopeful contestants.  This was finally the year that I received that longed-for email telling me I had made it through to the next level, the audition.

In May, I traveled to Boston for my audition where I had to take yet another test, play a mock game against other hopefuls, and be interviewed by the Jeopardy contestant coordinators. Once that was done, I was told, with everyone else, that if I were selected to be on the show, I would hear within eighteen months from my audition date.  If eighteen months had come and gone without a call, I should start the process all over again!

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait eighteen months.  In October, I got the call telling me I had been selected to be on the show!  That’s when the panic set in…

Once you knew you were going to be on the show, what did you do to prepare for this experience?

It’s hard to know how to prepare for a show like Jeopardy!  The powers-that-be on the show do not give you a list of categories to study, so you basically have a month to brush up on the entire breadth of human knowledge.  I made a list of the topics I knew I was weak on and created flash cards that covered those topics.  My flash cards went with me everywhere and whenever I had downtime, I pulled them out and quizzed myself.  I also drove my family crazy, asking them to quiz me at every opportunity.

How does it feel to be a contestant on Jeopardy? What are some things that go on while the cameras are off that we might not have seen before?

For me, being a contestant was a dream come true.  It may sound trite, but the experience was even better than I had imagined.  The actual playing of the game is a bit of a blur.  I can’t wait to see the broadcast so I can relive the experience and remember the game!

During the commercial breaks, the contestant coordinators come to speak to the players.  As a contestant, if you feel you gave a correct answer and were called wrong, you can ask the coordinator at this time to research your answer and either credit you for a correct answer or let you know why your answer was wrong.  During the break between Double and Final Jeopardy, they bring the contestants paper and pencil so they can figure out what they want to wager on their final answer.  While all of this is happening, Alex Trebek is with the studio audience answering their questions.

What is it like to meet Alex Trebek?

Having watched him on the show for 31 years, it felt a bit like catching up with an old friend.  He was very gracious and friendly both on and off camera.

Did your EC education/experience play any role in preparing you for Jeopardy?

It was my EC teachers who instilled in me the love of learning, who encouraged my natural curiosity for facts and data, who challenged me to dig below the surface of basic information, all of which led me right to Jeopardy.

What would you recommend for anyone else in the EC community (or beyond) that wants to become a contestant on this famous show

Don’t be discouraged if your first try doesn’t reap any results.  And when you do eventually get on the show, enjoy the experience and don’t take yourself too seriously.  Remember that above all, Jeopardy is a game, and games should be fun!