‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Julia Collins Says the ‘Hardest Thing About Being on the Show’ Has Nothing to Do With Clues

It’s one thing to shout answers at the TV watching Alex Trebek deliver a clue to eager Jeopardy! contestants. However, it’s another to be standing on a podium across from the iconic game show host taping an episode.

While being on Jeopardy! means lots of studying, winner Julia Collins says the most difficult part of being a contestant has nothing to do with trivia. Keep reading to learn what she considers the toughest part of being a Jeopardy! contestant.

James Denton, Bebe Neuwirth, and Neil Patrick Harris rehearse for Celebrity 'Jeopardy!'
James Denton, Bebe Neuwirth, and Neil Patrick Harris rehearse for ‘Jeopardy!’ | Scott Wintrow/Getty Images

Julia Collins wins 20 consecutive games of ‘Jeopardy!’

Collins isn’t just a Jeopardy! winner, she’s a Jeopardy! champion. Appearing on the show in 2014, Collins won a whopping 20 games in a row before losing.

She currently holds third place in the Jeopardy! Hall of Fame for most consecutive games won behind James Holzhauer with 32 games and Ken Jennings with 74 games. Not only did she become known as one of the best Jeopardy! players ever, she walked away with a hefty prize; $478,100 in all-time winnings.

She says the hardest part is thinking of interesting facts about yourself

Collins clearly excelled as a Jeopardy! contestant. For her, knowing the answers to clues game after game isn’t necessarily the hardest part about being on the program. The most challenging aspect is thinking of interesting things about yourself to discuss during the small talk portion of the show with fellow contestants and Trebek. 

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In a Reddit Q and A following her 2014 winning streak, Collins shared that she found coming up with interesting things to talk to be the toughest part of the competition.  

“Coming up with ideas for that portion of the show is probably the hardest thing about being on the show,” she said. 

As a player who appeared on 20 games, she couldn’t just come up with a handful of anecdotes. She had to have lots.

‘Jeopardy!’ contestants prep for small talk with Alex Trebek

A trademark on Jeopardy! is the part when Trebek gets to know the contestants. They may talk about karaoke, running marathons, or a fun vacation. When it comes to which stories end up being discussed, that’s all up to Trebek. Although he gets help from Jeopardy! coordinators who send a list of questions to contestants a month prior to taping.

“We send them a huge package of documentation via email. Included is an info sheet that asks them to list five interesting facts about themselves,” Corina Nusu, a senior contestant coordinator with the show told Mental Floss

There can be up to 32 questions asked but Nusu notes contestants aren’t required to answer every single one. Armed with the questions, Nusu gets more details the day the show is taped. 

They are reminded to elaborate 

During the small talk segment, players chat with Trebek and understandably it can be a little daunting standing there having a conversation with the famous game show host. On the day an episode is taped, Nusu meets with players to review their answers to the questions in the hopes of getting another anecdote from them.

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Another big part of it is telling contestants to elaborate and stay away from one-word responses. 

“I sit and try to pretend I’m Alex and ask them a question. ‘So, you’ve been skydiving?’ You can’t just say, ‘Yes.’ Tell me you’ve been to the Galapagos Islands and met a cute girl or something. Were you in Poland? Don’t tell me yes, and you had a nice time. Remember to tell me your train got hijacked,” Nusu said. 

Once the players are prepped, they head to the stage to start taping. It’s up to them to remember Nusu’s tips when they chat with Trebek about whatever topic he decides to discuss. 

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