The big call
On January 4th (I know because it was my daughter's birthday), I received a phone call asking if I would be an alternate. On Jeopardy!, they have two local people come to the tapings so that if something happens, if somebody can't make it or is disqualified, there's an extra person on hand to play. I came in as an alternate, but did not wind up playing. But I spent a whole day there. I was not feeling great, so I was very happy that I was not chosen to play that time. Todd Giese won four games -- Jeopardy! tapes five shows in one day, so winning four of those five is pretty incredible.
A week later, a contestant coordinator called me. "We'd like you to come back, and you'll definitely play this time." Guaranteed. That tape date was March 7th, a couple days after my birthday. My sister and my brother-in-law flew in because they're big fans of the show. I spoke little about this, but throughout my life I have struggled a lot with depression, especially recently. Over the last year it's been something that I've dealt with more acutely. I remember feeling pretty low going into that tape day. That's part of the reason that, when I was an alternate, I didn't want to play. I think it was all kind of part and parcel of this thing that I deal with.
You have to be at Sony Studios in Culver City at 7:45 a.m. in the morning. I am definitely not a morning person. I set three alarms. It was a challenge. Everyone's said, "Oh, what'd you do? Your hair is so perfectly coiffed." I only shoved my hand into some pomade and ran my fingers through my hair. I was so out of it.
I showed up to set, and everyone else is milling around. I remember there was one fellow who was cramming with flashcards. I was like, "Buddy… it's a little late." Everyone's got their own thing. They do a briefing -- you can't swear, you can't plug your business unless Alex Trebek asks -- which I had already been through as an alternate, so I was pretty comfortable.