If you’ve watched Jeopardy! there’s a good chance that you’ve played along at home. Clues and answers come in at a quick pace. The rhythm of the show makes it hard to resist playing along. At the same time, it’s nice to nail a question when the contestants all get it wrong. It’s like a small personal win. After all, getting on the show isn’t an easy feat. Each contestant goes through a fairly lengthy selection process. That process starts with a test which very few pass. Then come the in-person interviews. Many people who make it to that second stage of the process never get to feel the weight of the buzzer in their hand. So, outwitting them, even from thousands of miles away, can feel great.
On top of that, many Jeopardy! contestants prepare for the game for years. They’re trivia buffs who usually spend hours studying and practicing to one day compete on the show. Knowing this makes racking up points from home feel that much better. However, playing along at home and competing on the show are two completely different things. One recent contestant talked about what it was like to be on the iconic stage. Frankly, their account of being on the show is enough to make us all rethink how smug we get when we win while playing along at home. Furthermore, it sheds a whole new light on the show itself.
Keshav Shah, a graduate student from Atlanta, Georgia, competed on Jeopardy! last night. He sat down with Emory University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering newspaper to talk about his time on the show. During that interview, Shah said that the difference between being on the stage and competing at home is like night and day.
Shah Says Being on Jeopardy! Is Completely Different from Playing at Home
One of the biggest differences is the pace of the game. When we watch Jeopardy! we see a game that moves quickly. The questions come one after another with barely any pause in between. However, Shah says it isn’t like that when competing live. In fact, the game moves much more slowly.
“Jeopardy! is nerve-wracking, Shah said. “Things on TV sometimes don’t always go smoothly. The host may misspeak, or the judges may have to make a lengthy ruling on an answer. All those little things can interrupt what viewers perceive as a constant flow of the game.”
One other thing that people playing at home don’t have to deal with is the buzzer. Shah calls it “the great equalizer.” Having good control over the buzzer and knowing when to press the button are key in getting anywhere on the show. Shah pointed out that if a contestant buzzes in before the host finishes giving the clue, they get locked out for several seconds. In a game of Jeopardy! that’s all it takes to make the difference between being the next champion and going home at the end of the game.
Shah finished third on July 7th’s Jeopardy! game. He took home $1000 and memories that will last a lifetime.