What is a Jeopardy! first? Having a contestant introduced as being from Newfoundland. Kirsten Morry of St. John’s is lucky – and smart enough – to wear that honour.
A lawyer, currently associate counsel to the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project, the 27 year-old says tuning into NTV’s Jeopardy! as she wound down in the evening was something she and her boyfriend found themselves doing more often.
“Naturally, I saw a fair bit of (the show) when my grandparents had it on in the evenings, and I always enjoyed it and was always aware of the program, and what it was,” she began.
But her interest seemed to heighten and she began doing more than just viewing, she started to actively play along. “Around last year my boyfriend and I started watching it pretty regularly together and it’s always more fun when you answer along and I felt I was doing pretty well.”
An Innocent Comment
Morry made an innocent comment one evening along the lines of; too bad Canadians can’t be on the show. That wasn’t the case, her boyfriend informed her. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Morry took an online test on March 7.
“You have seven seconds to answer each of 50 questions and they come fast, no time to look anything up. You don’t know how you did really, but then weeks later I got an email inviting me to audition in New York City so I guess I did pretty good.”
About 80,000 people take the test each year. About 3,000 get a chance to audition. From those auditions, around 300 end up on television, so it’s very selective. Morry had a month to prepare. She used her time wisely. “I did a lot of practice with a trivia book. I tried to memorize things like world capitals, state capitals and American presidents and things like that.”
The audition was very much like the online test, she explains. Groups of three answer a series of 50 questions as quickly as possible. The most intimidating part? Using the clicker, she says.
“It’s kind of scary using the signaling device, it is really a scary thing. On television you see it but it’s a lot more obvious in person. You can know many of the answers but if you are not successful at buzzing in then it can be harder, so my audition was the first taste of that.”
When that was over, Morry, who had heard some people wait years before hearing back after an audition, says she decided to forget about Jeopardy! for a little bit. “Two months later, in June, I had a phone call from a California area code and was told my taping was happening on July 24.”
Morry was beyond excited – and nervous. Still, she was ready for the experience, including meeting the show’s host, Alex Trebek. What was that like?
“You don’t get to interact with Alex a whole lot beyond what you see on the show. He’s a true professional. They keep us quite separate because he reads the questions in the morning and the set up is done the way it is to keep everything fair, so they have to keep him away from the contestants; they keep anyone who may know the questions away from the contestants. But he was really nice. “
Morry explains that five episodes are taped each day, so there’s a lot happening at once.
“There’s so much going on and he does an amazing job of meeting 15 new people each day and remembering names and being a professional host. When you see the taping in person, there’s commercial breaks and during those he answers questions from the audience which is nice. He answers them all like it’s the first time he’s been asked that particular question even though I’m sure he’s been asked each question many times,” she says with a laugh.
Being there is not the same as watching in your living room, she continues. “The vibe is very, very different. I felt an adrenaline rush like nothing else. It’s like the Olympics of bar trivia I suppose and it’s a lot of pressure in the moment and overcoming the hurdle of using the buzzer is really a very special experience.”
The coolest? “It’s really cool to hear your name being introduced after hearing the theme music that everyone knows so well. Meeting announcer Johnny Gilbert was really neat.”
While she can’t say much, she does share some behind the scene info. “You never know what the categories are going to be. You can prepare in various ways but then none of the things that you know come up or something that you do like comes up but you can’t buzz in. You are hoping for good questions or good buzzing but you don’t know until you start, which makes it so exciting.”
Morry says all the preparation in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t have the buzzer technique down. “I tried to prepare by watching many episodes and holding a click pen in my hand and using that to build my reflex. You can build that reflex but you don’t know until you get on that stage.”
She does know one thing; according to the information she has, she’s the only person who has been on Jeopardy! introduced as being from Newfoundland.
Morry’s episode will air on NTV October 2, and while she knows the outcome, it isn’t something she can share.
“I know the outcome, my boyfriend, my mom and my two sisters were in the audience so they know as well, but they are keeping the secret too. But it’s nice that there’s someone I can talk to about what happened,” she teases.
Reflecting on her experience, Morry says Jeopardy! runs like a “well-oiled machine. “Sometimes during the commercial break Alex will reread a question if he felt he stumbled over it, but as for the game play, what you see is what you get. It was cool being on the show, it was special.”
Morry still sometimes can’t believe she was actually on Jeopardy!, adding it still shocks her how quickly things happened. “I didn’t expect to get on the show so quickly. The whole process can take years, so I feel really lucky it came together really quickly.”