In 2007, in an attempt to take the contestants’ minds off their nerves, Alex Trebek opened a Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions sans pants.
“I was informed backstage a few minutes ago that our three contestants … wanted to relieve some of the tension, and they said, ‘We must do the program without trousers,’” he informed the audience. “Now can we get a camera to make sure that they have done the same as I?”
As it turned out, the contestants were, in fact, wearing pants. Trebek wasn’t ruffled. Cool as a Canadian snowstorm, he walked offstage to go put his pants back on. Trebek is just that kind of guy. It would be neat to meet him someday.
If you’re reading this, Trebek, I really mean that last part. I take the online test as often as they give it. Once, in high school, I made it as far as an audition for the teen contest, after which I never heard from them again. I told everyone who would listen that it was probably because I had “a slow buzzer thumb.” By now, enough time has passed that I’m okay admitting: It was not about the buzzer thumb. Those questions were hard.
You know what else is hard, though? Making yourself seem interesting to a national audience in 30 seconds or less. (I would imagine. Not bitter!) The Jeopardy! contestant interviews are the layover en route to the beach vacation, the dry cookie barrier to the Double Stuf creme—the thing you do your best to forget on the way to the good part. As awkward as they are to watch, one can only imagine they’re that much worse for the contestants themselves, stammering through fun facts that aren’t actually that fun. And because the world is a merciless place that takes as often as it gives, the winning contestants have to suffer through this undignified ritual up to five times per day, the number of episodes recorded in each session.