Celebrity | Television

Contestants Share 13 Things About 'Jeopardy' You Don't See On TV

If you're one of the 25 million viewers who tune in to Jeopardy every week, you know why the fast-paced game show is one of America's favorites.

But what you don't see on TV are the hours of practice, weird techniques, and hectic schedules that make every episode special.

Here are 13 secrets about the show, as revealed by former contestants.

1. The Audition

A local 'Jeopardy' tryout. Jon Bowman / YouTube

Every contestant's journey to Jeopardy begins with a 50-question online quiz that is only available certain times of the year.

If you ace that test, you get invited to the auditions at a nearby city. There, you take another pop quiz, play a mock game, and get interviewed to see if you have the personality for TV.

Personality is a big part of the audition.NBC

From that moment you're officially on the waiting list, and could be called to compete on the show any time in the next 18 months.

If you don't get the call, you're free to try again. It's not unheard of for contestants to try more than 10 times before giving up (or finally making the grade).

2. Your Stay

Contestants get discounts at LA's Doubletree Hilton hotel.Agoda

If you do get called to compete on the show, you have about a month's notice to plan for your appearance (and do some extra studying).

Your airfare and accommodations are not covered by the show, so aim to at least win the second place prize ($2,000 before taxes). One contestant said that was just enough to cover the cost of her trip.

3. The Schedule


Jeopardy tapes a week's worth of episodes in one day, so be prepared to play five games back-to-back if you manage a winning streak.

Each game is a lot faster than watching the show at home: you blitz through all the questions in just 15 minutes.

4. Your Wardrobe

LV Weekly

The show expects you to bring your own clothes and style your own hair, but they will give you makeup for the TV lights.

The producers advise contestants to bring at least two outfits, in case you manage to win a game. But make it easy to put on, you only have about 10 minutes to get changed between episodes.

5. The Host


Don't get any ideas: Alex Trebek is just doing his job, and he's not known for chatting with the contestants during commercial breaks.

Trebek will pose for a photo with you during the first round, and answers questions from the audience, but mainly he's only interested in hosting the show.

6. The Study Guide


Somehow, fans got the idea in their heads that contestants on the show get a "study guide" that tells them what to brush up on. Actual contestants say that's not true at all.

In fact, the show's writers make six sets of questions each week, which are randomly chosen by a separate company before the games.

7. The Podium

Jeopardy / Twitter

There's no height requirement for the show, but have you noticed the three contestants are always at the same level?

The podium actually has hydraulic lifts to even out the contestants. Wheel of Fortune also uses these.

8. The Board

Some of Ken Jennings's signatures.Patriarchysell

The writing board that displays a contestant's name and Final Jeopardy answer aren't exactly user-friendly. There's no way to erase your screen, which means you need to be careful to write legibly.

That's also why contestants have to scratch out their Final Jeopardy answers to change them.

9. The Buzzer

Contestants reveal that one of the toughest parts of the game is the buzzer - or the "signaling device," as Trebek calls it.

After each question, a light flashes to signal you can buzz in and answer. Beat the light by even a tenth of a second and you're "locked out" for the whole question.

It's pretty nerve-wracking, and contestants come up with some creative ways to get the edge with their buzzer:

10. The Betting

After the buzzer (and the tough questions) contestants struggle most with betting. It turns out Jeopardy champions are made and broken by smart betting.

Fans have devoted entire websites to discussing betting on Daily Doubles and Final Jeopardy, and digital tools to help you figure out the smartest bet.  

Pay attention, or else you could end up like this memorable loser:

11. The Director's Booth

This behind-the-scenes video from Jeopardy's control room shows how hectic producing the show can be.

From now on we'll spare a thought for these poor producers during Final Jeopardy.

12. The Prize Money


If you do win big money on Jeopardy, don't spend it all at once. You'll have to wait at least 120 days before your check arrives.

Taxes also take a big bite out of your winnings: California withholds 7% of your prize money and federal taxes take another 30%.

You also have to file your taxes in two states, which is a pain.

13. The Post-Game Chat

Ever wonder what Trebek and the contestants talk about during the credits? Not much, it turns out.

The show shared this clip of what you don't hear during the broadcast: the host shooting the breeze with the contestants.

Do you watch Jeopardy every day?

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com