Jeopardy!: What it takes to be a successful contestant on the show

Jeopardy!: What it takes to be a successful contestant on the show

LOS ANGELES, Ca. – (CBS 58) James Holzhauer will be back on Jeopardy! Wednesday night looking for his 25th consecutive win.

He's currently in second place for the most wins on the show, so what does it take to be a winning contestant on America’s favorite quiz show? CBS58’s Pauleen Le recently went behind the scenes to find out.

For 35 seasons millions have tuned in every weeknight to see three contestants battle it out over 61 trivia questions. While everything looks clean and polished on TV what viewers don't know is a lot of work goes into prepping the contestants for their chance in the jeopardy spotlight.

 “We are testing these contestants like crazy,” said Maggie Speak, the show’s contestant coordinator.

Speak has worked as Jeopardy's contestant coordinator for more than 20 years. She said long gone are the days where fans would send in postcards for a chance to audition for the show.

“We offer an online test which is the first step to qualifying,” Speak said. “It's really hard. You don't want to have someone on the show and play Double Jeopardy and they can't come up with another answer.”

The ones who pass are invited to Los Angeles for yet another test.

“The following process in the audition is an in-person test,” Speak said.

For the lucky few who make it, they arrive on taping day first for a practice round and it's Jimmy McGuire's job to make sure it feels as much like real deal as possible.

“Of course there's really nothing at stake, but we want our players to get a feel for what it's like for when Alex comes out for real,” McGuire said.

Up until now contestants have probably spent hours studying but as the show's Executive Producer Harry Friedman said knowing the answer is only part of it.

“A good contestant on Jeopardy is well-read, well-informed, curious, well-traveled and fast as the dickens on the signaling button,” Friedman said.

What fans at home also don't see are the lights alongside the game board that will glow once Alex is done reading the clue. It means the contestant's signaling buttons are activated, but ring in too fast and you're locked out for a tenth of a second. Ring in too slow and the other contestants will probably have you beat.

But the most important thing to remember is to just enjoy the game.  After all, Alex will as he said his favorite part about the show was the, “half an hour I spend on stage with the contestants because I like spending time with bright intelligent people. I hate spending time with stupid people.”

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