Want To Be on ‘Jeopardy!’? Alex Trebek’s Tips for Aspiring Contestants

Maybe you’ve had the itch to be a contestant on Jeopardy! and have wondered what it takes to join the ranks of Ken Jennings, James Holzhauer, and Julia Collins.

If so, the classic quiz show’s host, Alex Trebek, has advice that will get that buzzer in your hand sooner than you think.

Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings on an episode of 'Jeopardy!'
Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings on an episode of ‘Jeopardy!’ | Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

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Trebek hates when contestants do this

The Canadian-born host has seen it all on the quiz show and says there’s one habit of players that distresses him. It’s not when players become giddy or too talkative during his interview with them after the first commercial break. It’s something more strategic that he feels undercuts the way the game has been designed.

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“What bothers me is when contestants jump all over the board even after the Daily Doubles have been dealt with,” Trebek told Vulture in 2018. “Why are they doing that? They’re doing themselves a disservice.”

“When the show’s writers construct categories, they do it so that there’s a flow in terms of difficulty, and if you jump to the bottom of the category you may get a clue that would be easier to understand if you’d begun at the top of the category and saw how the clues worked,” he continued. “I like there to be order on the show, but as the impartial host I accept disorder.”

Trebek opens up about difficult contestants

Appearing remotely on the podcast, Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone, the 79-year-old game-show professional was asked if he’s ever run into a “difficult” contestant.

“You mean, throwing knives at me?,” Trebek joked. “No, no, by now, keep in mind we’ve been on thirty-six years and the people know there’s a certain formality, if you will, to Jeopardy! so they abide by that, they’re very polite.”

“They can be funny, they know that. But if they’re going to challenge a clue, for instance, they’re instructed to do so during a commercial break.”

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Trebek’s tips for those wanting to be on the show

Alex Trebek is the ultimate authority for prospective candidates of the game show. He knows what it takes to get on the show and succeed.

The father of three was asked by the Television Academy Foundation in 2007 about the advice he would offer to future players.

“Read,” said Trebek simply. “Read up on knowledge, learn as much as you can, preferably by reading; you’re not going to get it off a computer, and nowadays, you’re not going to get it from television. Although if you know where to look on television, you can do yourself an immense world of good by paying attention to some of the great shows that are out there.”

Trebek went on to say it’s not necessary to memorize every single item of trivia one finds. Jeopardy! is wide, not deep.

“Pick a famous person in history and explore that. The important thing about knowledge, the important thing about learning, is that you don’t have to know everything. But if you know where to find it, you’re ok.”

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