|Sure, I'm smiling in the photo, but did I go home in tears?|
I have some exciting news to share with all of you: tomorrow you can see me on the game show Jeopardy! I have been wanting to tell you sooner, but didn't want to post anything until I got the photo of me with Alex Trebek so you'd know that this is real. I think on of the most exciting parts of my experience was being introduced as "an abstract painter from Chicago" by the announcer, Johnny Gilbert. It sounded so official.
I'm not allowed to say what the outcome of the game was before it airs, so all I can tell you is to watch it or DVR it or tape it. If you miss it, you can also check out j-archive.com, the unofficial Jeopardy! site, to find out how I did. (The site is usually updated each day, so perhaps on Saturday the 14th you can take a look at it.)
What I can tell you, though, is how I got on the show in the first place. They held auditions here in Chicago in April, and I tried out in person. There was a written test, then a simulated game, and then they told us that we'd get a call in a few months if they wanted us to be on the show. Several months went by, and since I hadn't heard anything, I thought I wouldn't get a chance to be on the show. But then, out of the blue, at the end of August, I got the call. With a month to prepare, I devoted all my spare time to studying, reading tons of trivia books, playing Jeopardy! on my smartphone, and watching documentaries and listening to educational podcasts while I painted.
|Most of my reading materials came from the Chicago Public Library. |
But was it even worth it?
How do you study for Jeopardy? Is it even possible? Did it pay off? I can't answer that last question, obviously. But I can tell I learned a lot of interesting things from trivia books and documentaries. The Mental Floss books became my new favorite thing. This may sound funny, but I think I learned the most from "edutainment" programs for kids, like Beakman's World (I watched every episode on Netflix) and songs from Animaniacs, Histeria!, and Pinky and The Brain. If I can get a song stuck in my head, it's hard for me to forget it. I have learned so many things that way.
Here's my playlist on YouTube. Was watching it repeatedly a waste of time?
The For Beginners series is one of my favorite nonfiction series to read. Each title is a "documentary comic book," and they make learning new information interesting and entertaining. They were a great resource to me when I was in college and wanted to get introductory material on the concepts we were learning about in my humanities classes. I found them just as helpful this time around.
While I was reading The Olympics For Beginners, something amazing happened. I started reading it the weekend of the big Expo Chicago art show at Navy Pier. I like to take the bus to Navy Pier and when I take public transportation, I often read to pass the time. I had just gotten to the part about the 1968 games in Mexico City. When I arrived at Expo, I overheard a man talking about running. He had a microphone and a small audience had gathered to hear him speak. As he continued his story, he talked about winning the race but being spat upon by the audience. When he received his medal, he was angry. And so he raised his fist in the Black Power Salute. And I realized that this was the very same athlete I had just read about a few pages ago in The Olympics For Beginners, Tommie Smith!
It turned out that artist Glenn Kaino's sculptural installation modeled after Tommie Smith's fist was on view at the show, and they wanted to tell the story behind it.
After the artist talk was over, I had the opportunity to shake Tommie Smith's hand and tell him how much I admired what he did. The synchronicity of the whole experience still gives me chills. Reading trivia isn't so trivial after all.
Before I knew it, I had read most of the books in the pile and it was time to go to Sony Picture Studios in Culver City, California for the taping. Everyone working for the show was very friendly, professional, and positive, and I enjoyed meeting all of them, as well as seeing a few familiar faces from the auditions. It was nice meeting the other contestants as well. They came from all over the United States and Canada. And Alex Trebek is a very interesting man, not unlike the gentleman from the Dos Equis commercials. In between tapings and during commercial breaks, he let the audience ask him questions. He really seemed to enjoy answering them, too.
What happened there? Was reading all those books worth it? Did I forget everything I learned? Did I forget to answer in the form of a question and lose all my money? Did I make a fool of myself? Did another contestant beat me by one dollar? Are artists stupid? Like I said before, I can't tell you anything. I am sworn to secrecy. No, seriously, I had to sign a contract. But I hope you will watch the show and see what happened.