Q: How many times did you try out for the show?
Kathy: I had always thought it would be fun to be on the show, ever since I was a teenager, but that was back in the day when you had to send in a postcard, and then go to LA to audition. It just seemed like one of those one-in-a-million things, so I never tried.Then, in 2009, I had my second go-round with breast cancer. Part of my treatment was chemotherapy, and I definitely felt the after effects of that, the so-called "chemo brain". It's very real, by the way. So, in an effort to combat my fuzzy thinking, I started watching the show again in earnest, every night. That's when I heard about the online test, which I took for the first time in 2011. I got called for the in-person audition in Seattle in August, 2011, and got "the call" in February, 2012.
Each step of the way, I thought of it as something fun to do that probably wouldn't go any further. (I'm the queen of lowered expectations.) Online test -- "Hey! That was fun!" In-person audition -- "Free Jeopardy! pen, woo-hoo!" Getting the call -- "I get to play Jeopardy! You're kidding me!" Winning -- "What the...just happened?" My friends have commented on my seemingly calm demeanor on the show, but my heart was going a mile a minute. Also, a major life-threatening disease can make a lot of other things seem less scary. I was just so happy to be there... I'm happy to be anywhere, now! (I'm done with treatment and things are looking good, fyi.) (And, Jeanie, NURSES RULE!!!)
I missed a couple of gimme questions at the Seattle mock game, and really felt mortified, plus I thought my interview was lame, so I left there thinking that was the end of it. Consequently, when I got the call I had not been studying in the interim, and I really wished I could've had those 5 months back.
Q: Did you do anything to prepare?
Kathy: I used the archive and the pavlovs before the audition, so I went back to those to prepare. I also spent a lot of time with an atlas, and the excellent series of Cartoon History books. The best thing I did was to enlist my friends' help. I asked them to tell me about things they were proficient in. My mom helped me with opera and classical music, coworkers helped with certain literary specialties, my brother (a librarian with an MFA in theater) reviewed drama with me, and I had my poet husband read me a poem aloud every night. My son, an Asperger's genius who had memorized the presidents at a very early age thanks to a giant poster in his room, helped me with that. I thought this method would help things "stick" and it did. For example, my brother went over the wives of Henry VIII with me, which got me "Anne of Cleves". One of my favorite things about playing my games was that as the "answers" on the board were revealed, I would think of the way I had learned a particular fact, or be reminded of the person who taught it to me. In that way, I felt like my friends and family were there with me on stage. It was wonderful!I will also say that there are some things you just can't study for. Like who would know to study cleaning products? And the wordplay categories, which are some of my favorites, I don't know how you would study for that.
Believe it or not, I also studied wagering . My brain, even before chemo, just does not deal with math. I remember shedding tears when trying to understand the < > symbols in elementary school. My grasp of wagering concepts, especially under pressure, was shaky. With my wager against Aaron, in the first game, I knew what I was supposed to do, but I added rather than subtracted. Or was it the other way around? I still can't get it right. But, it does seem to me that TPTB don't really care about wagering skill, or they would screen contestants for it, or spend more time teaching it. I think they just care about a well-played game, and who wins or loses is irrelevant.Q: Did you stay to watch the last episode of the day?
Kathy: I'm sorry to say I did not stay for the final show of the day. I had watched all five shows taped the previous day without being picked to play, which was very fun, but somewhat tiring. I slept ok the night before the first taping day, but after a day of sitting in the studio audience waiting to be called at any moment, and getting no exercise other than walking to Dinah's Fried Chicken near the Doubletree with my brother to get some dinner, I got almost no sleep the night before my shows taped. I thought of taking something but I thought it might slow down my reaction time. Note to future contestants: the workout room at the Doubletree is open 24 hours. I didn't notice that until the next morning, though, so I was running laps in my room at 3 am trying to tire myself out. So, after playing my three games, I was pretty wiped out. And we had an 8 pm flight back to Seattle.
Q: Did you happen to go to O'Brien's pub quiz while you were out there?
Kathy: I didn't do the pub quiz you mentioned. In fact, I've yet to attend one at all. I have some much younger co-workers who play at one in Seattle, which they mentioned when they heard I was going to be on Jeopardy! but in a way that meant, "you're too old to hang with us." I will be going to TCONA in Las Vegas in August, which I think will be a blast. I love Las Vegas!
Q: You said your grandparents lived in Victoria. Do you still visit Canada often? (Funny story about this: I'd tweeted Andy asking if he had any questions for you, and when he responded like this I thought he meant I said I have grandparents in Canada. I was like, What did I ever say that led you to think that? I puzzled over it for quite a while before I read that he intended to ask you that. )
Kathy: My grandparents ran two bookstores under the name Poor Richard's Books in Victoria BC in the 1970's. My grandfather was originally from Lethbridge, Alberta, but went to the University of Oregon and lived in the States for many years. They retired to mainland BC, and were living just over the border near White Rock when they passed away a couple of years ago. I wish they had been around to see me on Jeopardy! since they were my introduction to the show, which seems to be the case for a lot of contestants. But, if there is a heaven, I imagine they have Jeopardy! on the TV. I haven't been back to Canada since they died, but I would like to get to Victoria again some day.
Q: Is there anything else you want to say?
Kathy: I really enjoyed every moment of my Jeopardy! experience, especially meeting the other contestants and Robert, Maggie, Corina and the crew, and just getting to be on the set. I will certainly go to a taping if I'm in the area at the right time. Thanks, everyone!