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Nothing Trivial About Trivia

November 18, 2009

by Dan Evans
Nothing Trivial About Trivia

Dream of turning a hobby into cold hard cash?  Rest assured it can be done.  CMCers Riley Lewis '11 and Charles Johnson, also '11, recently auditioned for the mecca of trivia buffs: an appearance on the long-running television show Jeopardy! While the pair won't know the results of their audition until December, the experience called upon their endurance, trivia knowledge, and television persona. "The process is very drawn out," explained Johnson, who posted in-depth about his experience on his blog, the Claremont Conservative. "We took the [initial] test over the summer and we won't hear back from the Jeopardy! folks, if at all, until December."

There were several portions of the audition itself, testing candidates in a variety of fields.  First, Lewis and Johnson took a written test of 50 questions with a recording reading a different question every 8 seconds.  While they are unable to comment specifically on the material of the test, these questions were, in general, more difficult than those appearing on the show.  Following this exam, the CMCers and roughly 30 other prospective contestants were called to the front of the room three at a time to play mock rounds of the show in front of a panel of judges.  According to Lewis, the judges would call on contestants regardless of who buzzed in first, testing how well they could answer questions in a television setting.  Finally, the panel interviewed each person at the front of the room for roughly two minutes, asking questions such as "What's your major?" and "What will you do if you win the money?" to get to know each individual briefly.

"A surprising number of contestants were very smart and very boring," said Lewis.  "Everyone got to watch everyone else's interviews, and it was surprising how few people showed creativity or any personality in their answers. We heard a lot of the same answers to interview questions over and over."  Prior to the interview, the contestants were asked to submit five interesting stories or fun facts about themselves, material for Alex Trebek's banter between rounds.  The judges simulated this during the interview, asking Lewis about his mountain climbing ambitions and Johnson about a childhood memory involving the Jeopardy! theme song.

While waiting to hear back from the show's producers, Lewis and Johnson will remain regulars at CMC's very own Hub Quiz, where the teammates are a force to be reckoned with.  If their interviews are successful, the pair will join Professor John J. Pitney and Tournament of Champions winner Dan Pawson '03 in the ranks of CMC Jeopardy! contestants.

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