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Sidequest: Jeopardy!

Photo credit: Ava Johnson

By Jack Garland, Aidan Doyle, and Aashay Ghiya

May 28, 2024 4:59 p.m.

On today’s episode, Podcasts editor Jack Garland and Podcasts contributors Aidan Doyle and Aashay Ghiya discuss their experience at a live Jeopardy! recording.

Jack Garland: Welcome to Sidequest, a miniseries by Daily Bruin podcast where we send podcast contributors on adventures around Los Angeles to experience everything the city has to offer. And each episode, the contributors come to the studio to tell us about their experiences. This is Sidequest. And I’m Jack Garland.

Aidan Doyle: I’m Aidan Doyle.

Aashay Ghiya: And I’m Aashay Ghiya.

JG: LA is the heart of the entertainment industry. So we want to see what it was like behind the scenes. And this episode, we’ll be discussing our trip to a live recording of Jeopardy. We’ll talk about how we got tickets, what the experience was like, and if we’d recommend it to others. Alright, so I’m a big Jeopardy fan. So I was really excited to finally get the opportunity to go see it live. And it’s my last quarter at UCLA. So I thought this would be a perfect time to finally check that off my bucket list.

AD: And Jack, you’re not alone. I think we all love Jeopardy. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love Jeopardy. It’s actually my favorite game show. By a lot. It was a staple of my childhood. Me and my friends watched it, my family watched it. So an opportunity to see it live felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially since I’m from the East Coast. And we don’t have any game show films over there.

AG: Yeah, so my family was never a particularly religious Jeopardy family. But whatever is on cable TV, and I would tune in for a minute or two, I was nevertheless very engaged and excited to, you know, get the answers before the contestants did so.

JG: And we were lucky because what we saw wasn’t just a typical Jeopardy show. Right now they’re filming Jeopardy masters. So that’s where they take some of the best performing Jeopardy players from the last several years, and they have them compete in a tournament. So after each game, you get a certain number of points based on how you finished in that game. So you’re seeing some of the best Jeopardy performers of all time. So it was that made the experience even better.

AD: Right. And if you thought it was hard to guess the questions and get them right, more so than the regular Jeopardy contestants, it was impossible with these guys.

JG: Yeah, I think the only questions that we got right, were usually in that easiest row questions.

AD: And the occasional, I was very proud of myself, I got the occasional 1600 or 800. But it was very, very occasional.

JG: Alright, so now we’re going to walk you through this, our whole process of getting tickets, and then going to the show, watching it and all that. So getting the tickets was actually pretty easy. I got them on a website called On Camera Audiences, which doesn’t look like the most legitimate website. But after I did some more research, I found out that that’s the only place that you can get tickets. So you find the date that works for you. And then you put in your information. So your name, email, a few other things. And then just like that, you have a ticket to Jeopardy. It’s totally free. And it’s pretty, pretty easy to get the ticket. Usually when they’re recording, they’ll do two sessions in a day. And each session has two to three episodes that they’ll record. So we got a ticket for the 9:45 a.m. session. And we saw two shows during our session. Right?

AD: So we had to be at a lot by 9:45 for taping at 11. We left at a sharp 9 a.m. And guys, it was only 17 minutes from Westwood to Culver City, the drive was uneventful. But if you really if you’re anywhere in LA Culver City is fairly central. So it’s really easy to get there. We parked in a lot really close to the studio, which is awesome. Because it was it was a short two or three minute walk from the parking lot to the studio.

JG: Yeah, so we got to the Sony lot in Culver City. And I was kind of surprised the security guards didn’t ask for our ticket ID or anything. We just said that we were there to see Jeopardy. And then he told us which parking lot to park in and the parking was free. And like he was saying we just walked down down the stairs. And then we were at the check in area.

AG: Yeah, so the check in area itself was a aisle on the side of one of the parking lot ramps. So we went there lined up, presented our tickets to the checking employees who then gave us an NDA to sign. And we then sat on some benches while we waited to be escorted to the waiting area and the studio. The actual check in area itself was outfitted with a red carpet, and a variety of posters promoting various shows and movies, which made me feel like I was in a premiere in a parking lot.

JG: And at the check in area, we were with all the other audience members. So they’re probably about 150 total, mostly couples in their 60s, I would say that was probably the mode demographic. There were a couple families and then a couple other groups of college aged students or people going on their honeymoon. Yeah, so we were able to interview two couples, and one of them was visiting from Sydney, Australia on their honeymoon.

Keiran: I’m Kieran and this is my wife Katie.

Katie: Oh yeah why am I waving?

Keiran: From Sydney, Australia.

Katie: Oh yeah Sydney, Australia.

AG: So did you like fly over here recently or have you been for some time?

Keiran: We’ve been on our honeymoon for the last month and this is our second to last day to actually get tickets for Jeopardy. So we’re very excited.

AG: Wow, congratulations. That’s awesome. So is this your first time at Jeopardy or show taping in general?

Keiran: We saw Jimmy Kimmel at the start of day. So that was our first like, sort of LA experience. But yeah, this is our first time seeing Jeopardy live. Very excited.

AG: Yeah. And so what are you most excited for today to see in Jeopardy!

Keiran: Just kind of the whole like how it all works behind the scenes, because I’ve only ever seen it on the screen. So see how everything comes together. Yeah.

Katie: It seems so seamless how it runs. So it’ll be interesting to see when the breaks are, and how much interaction there is with the audience because we have Jimmy Kimmel, it was very, like, involved, like they’re hyped up the audience. But obviously, this is very cool vibe. And I’m very excited to see the hosts can join us as well.

AG: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

JG: After we checked in, and we were probably there for about an hour, then they escorted us from the check in area to the souvenir store. And it was actually a really nice store, I think was probably recently renovated. And the whole time even before we got into the studio for the recording, it’s very clear that Jeopardy cares a lot about the audience members there. They’re very friendly, and they want to try to make it the best customer experience possible.

AG: This customer experience is definitely an exception to the rule. When I went to an America’s Got Talent show taping with the club sampling club earlier in the year, we were simply dropped off at a street where the studio warehouse was primed directly in front of us. And we were shepherded through a metal detector, and down a narrow passageway to enter the studio.

AD: When we actually got into the studio, we entered a lobby which had a whole stand, which was great for taking pictures, which we definitely took advantage of. And there’s also a cool gift shop which Jack mentioned before.

JG: So we got into the studio, and we sat on the right side of the stage. And it was kind of weird. We were a little bit behind the contestants. But you still had a good view of the rest of the stage. And they also have big screens flanking the stage that show you the questions. So the questions are easy to read. And it was actually kind of cool being behind the contestants because one of the cameras was right in front of us. So when Ken Jennings, the host, was introducing the show, he was looking right at that camera. So it’s like it was like he was looking directly at us. So Ken Jennings is the host. Now he took over for Alex Trebek, who was the long, longtime host of jeopardy, and he passed away a few years ago. So the whole time they’re talking a lot about Alex and about how so much of Jeopardy success over the years was due to Alex. But Ken Jennings did a really good job, too. I think it’s clear that the whole Jeopardy team and audience really loves Ken.

AD: One of the things that I found interesting was that Ken Jennings did do a great job. But one of the things he mentioned was that Alex Trebek never messed up. And there was almost no refilling, no reshooting throughout the whole process, because Alex Trebek was perfect was on it the whole time.

JG: Yeah, we saw can have to do some re-recordings and some pickups, they call them. And so they would do that after the breaks. So each recording is about 45 minutes long. And after each round of jeopardy, they’ll, they’ll cut to a break. And during those breaks, Ken will either do the re-recordings, or he’ll go over to the audience and the audience can ask him questions.

AG: And if you’re looking at the contestants themselves, you’ll be surprised to see some of them prancing around the room or simply lying down on the floor. This was not what I saw at the AGT show taping, where after performing, every contestant would simply go back to the green room.

AD: Right It really felt kind of made us feel at home honestly that we could see the actual contestants lying down talking to one another. Just, they felt really comfortable with one another they felt comfortable with Ken Jennings and didn’t seem to take the the experience too seriously, which made us feel a lot more comfortable.

JG: Something they talked about a lot was the community of Jeopardy contestants that forms over the years, Ken Jennings before he was the host, he was actually a Jeopardy champion. He was – he’s one of the best Jeopardy players of all time. And he had no broadcast experience before being selected as the host. But over the years, he developed his relationship with Jeopardy that they wanted to have him take over out after Alex.

AD: And he was shockingly good for somebody with no broadcasting experience.

JG: There was actually one of the contestants, she spoke about going to the wedding of one of her co-contestants on Jeopardy. So it’s cool to hear them talk about the community of Jeopardy contestants.

AG: And even so there were some Jeopardy alumns who were at this Jeopardy taping themselves, and Ken decided to point them out during one of the breaks. Now I was surprised to see that there were not one alumns, not two alumns, but at least four or five in the audience, and some of them were actually sitting together.

AD: And another thing I found interesting was that a lot of the, lot of the contestants, the former contestants that were in the audience have a lot of respect and actually even venerate Ken Jennings and the other masters who were so successful, almost as if these people are the best at their craft, and that the former contestants learn a lot from them.

JG: We got a sense of their community among the contestants. And you really get a sense of the community just among Jeopardy fans, probably about a quarter of the crowd had already been to a Jeopardy recording at some point.

AD: And actually, the emcee pointed out some of them, because some of the the members of the crowd who had never been on Jeopardy, they weren’t weren’t contestants. They were just regulars in the audience, they actually knew the stage manager. Some of them even knew Ken Jennings, which was really, really comforting to see, it was really cool.

JG: Let’s talk about the emcee for a little bit. So right when we walked into the studio, there was this hype music playing, there were lights flashing, they definitely tried to get the audience energized. And then the emcee himself was an absolute character. He’s been working for jeopardy for about 20 years. And he was giving the audience cues of when to clap, and just making sure that the audience was engaged the whole time, even during the breaks.

AD: Something interesting during the show that you don’t see at home is that in order to answer the questions, the contestants use an array of LED blue lights on either side of the screen to know when to buzzer so when the question is asked the lights turn on, when the lights turn off the contestants buzz as quickly as possible to answer. And because these guys are the masters, they’re not just any day normal Jeopardy contestants. The competition is almost more who can buzz faster, not just who knows, because these guys know pretty much every question in the book.

AG: And the real question that arises is how to play the game within the game. Some contestants chose to focus directly on the screen with the LED blue lights so that they knew exactly when to clock in. Others simply listened to the rhythm of Ken Jennings’ voice so that they knew how to time their buzz. For me, personally, when watching each round, I didn’t know where to look. I had to prioritize between looking at Ken, looking at the contestants and actually looking at the board and trying to answer the question for myself.

JG: Yeah, I was kind of surprised that when the contestants are reading the question, they’re actually reading it directly from the board. So the font is pretty small. I think they’re mostly listening for the question. But if they were to read it, it was pretty far away from them on the stage.

AD: So during the first show, we were directly behind the contestants as they looked perpendicular to our line of sight at the screen, during the second show was a little nicer because we were moved more toward the center, we could see the screen we could see the contestants faces and I could see Ken Jennings face all at once. The second show was the perfect viewing experience. Not that the first show was much worse.

JG: Yeah, I don’t think there’s really a bad seat in the studio. Also, for the second show, it was really cool, because I recognized one of the contestants. And we signed that NDA, so I can’t say who it was. But it was cool to see. So we mentioned that during some of the breaks, we were able to ask Ken questions, and all three of us were able to ask him one. So I asked him what his favorite category of Final Jeopardy was from his years competing. And he had an interesting answer. He said that his favorite category for Final Jeopardy was from his first show, because among Jeopardy contestants, many people’s favorite game was their first game that they won because it kind of proves to them that they have what it takes.

AD: So I asked him, what experience did you have that helped you with Jeopardy that you didn’t do explicitly to help you with Jeopardy. And his answer really fascinated me. And it was cool, because I did the same thing as I was when I was a kid. He said reading Greek mythology books.

AG: I had to ask him the classic question. Have you ever been on a podcast, and he said that he had been, I believe that he discussed being on a podcast with some friends and describe the situation as, quote, old white guy is talking about history or something to that effect. I wasn’t bold enough to ask him to join the show, but maybe next time.

JG: So now we’re gonna give our final rating of the experience. I think it was a 10 out of 10. Guys, I would definitely recommend it from buying the tickets to getting to the Sony lot. Watching the recordings. It was, it was easy. It was fun. Ken Jennings is a really witty guy. So he just makes the whole experience fun and engaging.

AG: I would give it a nine out of 10 I think this was a really smooth experience, really engaging and really quick. And this was in sharp contrast to my previous show taping experience. I really appreciated how everyone from the staff and even Ken himself was really friendly and really patient with us.

AD: Right so when the 8.5 rating is the lowest rating out of the three of us, I think you know, it’s a great experience. I give it an 8.5 I still loved it. I thought it was amazing. I thought it was really fun, but I did have a little run with the security when I was taking– sneakily taking pictures and they asked me to delete them and they actually had to look at my, my recently deleted in my camera roll. But I totally understood where they were coming from and ultimately the experience was still great and I would absolutely recommend anyone to go.

AG: Thanks for listening to our third episode of side quest. We hope our reviews inspire you to check out a live show taping. If you haven’t seen the first two episodes, check them out on Spotify or Apple podcasts. In our first show, we went to Erewhon and in the second episode, we did a coffee crawl through the cafes of Westwood. Thanks again for listening!

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