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Published March 08, 2009
“I’ll take ‘deeply humbling experiences’ for $200, Alex.”

Everyone is a world champ at home.

Face it. You watch the TV during dinner, and you yell at the screen. We’ve all done it. Food halfway to our mouths; ramen or Lean Cuisine or Stouffer’s “noodles n’ something sauce” falling from the fork back onto the plate, or our face, or our baby’s face. And we scream.

“Lisbon!” “What is geometry!” “Anne of Green Gables! Fer Chrissakes, how did these people get on this show? I should totally go on Jeopardy. I would kill this if I was there!”

That’s what I thought too, when they called on the phone. I’m the winningest Jeopardy champ of all time, in my living room. Why not be champ in the studio? I like to read. I’m internet savvy. I check out wikipedia occasionally. How hard can it be?

“What is ‘my meager college degree is useless to me now,’ Alex.”

First of all, knowing crap really has nothing to do with it. Really. It is important to know stuff. For sure. But there is absolutely no way you can learn all the stuff you need to know in the amount of time between when you find out you’re doing the show and the day you tape it (in my case it was a little over two months). No way. Unless you can jack into the Matrix like Neo and wake up knowing Kung Fu, if you don’t know it already, you’re screwed. Trust me. 67 frantic days spent studying the internet (which is huge, by the way — I mean, really massive. And lousy with porn, which unfortunately was useless to me in this particular case) and manically poring over stacks of coffee-stained flashcards only proved one thing: how much crap I still didn’t know.

“I’ll take ‘I’m pulling a Jan Brady’ for $600, Alex.”

Secondly, even if you know a bunch of stuff, it doesn’t matter. You’ll forget it all the instant you step into that studio. Imagine your worst nightmare, the one where you go to your big Chemistry exam or business presentation or middle school graduation, and you suddenly feel exposed and all goosebumpy cold, and when you look down you’re naked and everyone’s laughing at you. Now, imagine that happening in real life. That is what it feels like to step up to that podium and pick up that buzzer. Like standing in front of your eighth grade class with nothing on but a graduation cap and a crooked smile. With a buzzer in your hand. You’re gonna forget pretty much everything. Possibly even your own name.

“What is ‘insane manual frustration,’ Alex”

And now, that buzzer. That effing buzzer. The essence of Jeopardy is not knowing the answers. It is mastering the goddamned stinking butthead of a little buzzer. And no matter how ambidextrous and zippy you feel, you can never hit that thing fast enough. Or, you hit it too fast, and you get locked out. Either way, you watch in fury as one of your competitors answers something as mind-jolting as “what is butter, Alex;” or “what is the color red?” And just for good measure, you pound on that thing a few hundred more times, just to show it that no matter what it thinks, you are the one who is boss.

But you are not. The buzzer is boss. And you will do what it says.

(Just watch a week of Jeopardy and see how many contestants keep wailing on that buzzer like it owes them money long after someone’s already rung in with the answer. It’s hilarious. It should be a drinking game: do a shot each time someone gets carpal tunnel while crazily buzzing in.)

“What is ‘I have been stymied by a tiny piece of plastic, Alex.”

That being said, I had an awesome time on Celebrity Jeopardy. It was in Vegas (yeah, baby!), I got to kick it with Alex Trebek, it was all for charity, and at the end of the night I had a martini the size of my head and a steak the size of an engine block for my effort. It was an insane amount of fun, and it was even funny at times. I can’t tell you how it turned out (contractual obligations) — you’ll have to watch for yourself. It airs this Tuesday, March 10. You know the drill — check your local listings for times, etc.

I can tell you that everyone who went on got money for their charity, and so everybody wins. And I can tell you that shiznit is much harder than it looks. Much harder.

For advice from actual all-time Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings on how to study for, and win, Jeopardy, click here..
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