Screen: Sony

Don't Be A Jeopardy! Jerk

Important do's and don'ts for future contestants.

Dear Jeopardy! Contestant,

Congratulations on your upcoming appearance on America's favorite quiz show! While you're memorizing the names of African rivers and reminding yourself that Queen Victoria is the answer to every one of our clues, I want to highlight the importance of your comportment behind the podium. To prepare you, I've assembled the following list of "onstage dos and don’ts." I trust you'll study it as closely as you're studying the history of potent potables.

All best,
Sandra Ossany-McCoy
Director, Contestant Style & Hygiene
Jeopardy!

Grooming

  • Do run a comb through your hair before you step onstage. I realize that as the kind of person who has a competitive knowledge of insect parts and tractor varieties, there's at least a 45% certainty that your social life doesn't involve seeing other people in non-avatar-based environments. But trust me: if you stroll out on national television with half your hair tucked in a sloppy bun and the other half floating pendulously around your face, then you are going to look the fool.
  • Do not wear something you just dragged out of a cedar chest. For Christ's sake, even if you finish in third place, we still give you $1,000, so why don't you preemptively spend some of that money on a new shirt? Gentlemen, you're only clothing the top half of your body, so surely you can wear your "lucky dungarees" and still find a nice jacket that fits you properly. And I do mean jacket. Unless you're on your fourth or fifth game, there is no excuse for wearing a sweater or (heaven forbid) a short-sleeved shirt. This is the only game show in the country that even pretends to have class, so the least you can do is play along. And ladies: there has never been a more important time to find the right bra. If you're unsure of the fit, then model it for your friends or neighbors or local Belk cashiers. When people hear you're going to be on TV, they're going to be very honest with you about the fact that your breasts are pointing in two different directions. Heed their words!

Buzzer Technique

  • Do remember that if you jut out your hand every time you ring in or hold it at a weird 45-degree angle, then you are begging us to hate you. Low and to the side is really the only acceptable buzzer position, unless you are one of the few people intimidating enough to carry off the "crossed arm technique."
  • Do not, when trying to ring in, hold the buzzer aloft and furiously press it as a means of venting your frustration that the other contestants keep answering before you. It makes you look like a whiny baby, and everyone knows it just locks you out of the system anyway.

Game Play

  • Do request your next clue immediately after providing a correct answer. There are a LOT of clues on the board, and since Alex is getting chattier and chattier these days, there's almost never enough time to get through them all. You're making things worse if you take five seconds to "um um um" yourself into choosing "That's What 'A' Say" for $400. Map out your strategy in advance!
  • Do not avoid theatre and pop culture questions until the last possible minute. Some of us do very well with these categories when we play from home, and we get really irritated when contestants choose all the stupid sports or science categories first, thus meaning we never hear the $600 clue for "Broadway Song And Dance."

Daily Doubles

  • Do let yourself find the Daily Doubles naturally. Though fishing around in the middle of the board may marginally increase your chances of finding them, it's frustrating for home viewers who appreciate the narrative cohesion of traveling through a category from top to bottom.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, tell Alex that you've "always" wanted to say "Let's make it a true Daily Double." Because you haven't always wanted to say that. Because even in the lexicon of American game shows, "Let's make it a true Daily Double" is not an iconic phrase. It's possible that you've always wanted to say "No whammies!" or hear someone ask you to "Come on down!," because those phrases have actually entered the casual usage of everyday Americans. When you try to elevate "Let's make it a true Daily Double" to the same stature, you are belittling us all.

Penmanship and Signature

  • Do write your Final Jeopardy answer in a legible hand. We need to quickly assess if you both guessed "Virginia Woolf" AND spelled her name correctly.
  • Do not write your name on the podium screen in giant letters or super-tiny letters or with a little butterfly dotting the "i." You will get the opportunity to reveal your beautiful individuality when you answer questions. Meanwhile, since the rest of us have to stare at your damn name for the entire show, do us a favor and spare us the calligraphic theatrics.

Returning Champions

  • Do figure out how to calmly face the camera while Johnny Gilbert reads out your name and previous winnings. Yes, it's awkward to have stand there for a few seconds, but if you plan ahead, you can avoid twitching like a serial killer or frantically smiling as though someone just below the podium were spraying your crotch with a water gun.
  • Do not mouth the words "wow" or "oh my god!" when Johnny says how much you've won. It's tacky.

Interview With Alex

  • Do remember that this interview is about Alex. He's not really listening to you, and he doesn't give a shit about your baseball card collection or that time you hiked six miles to rescue an oriole. When he asks you a question, keep your answer short and let him do the rest.
  • Do not, please Lord, DO NOT treat this interview as your opportunity to audition for a headlining gig at Caroline's Comedy Club. In roughly 10 billion episodes, no one has ever, EVER been able to tell a funny story from behind one of our podiums. I know it seems possible, but it isn't. Even if your story just kills in the green room, our stage will turn it into an embarrassing, awkwardly paced mess that Alex will feel professionally obliged to save you from. Please spare him (and us) the pain and just stick to a quick little anecdote about enjoying player pianos.