Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Jeff Lasky answers your JEOPARDY questions

Everyone LOVED Jeff Lasky’s account of being on JEOPARDY! And why not? It was AWESOME. He received lots of well-deserved kudos. And thank you readers for sending along your thanks to Jeff. This was great for me. Two of my better posts and I didn’t have to do anything.

Jeff read your comments and noted that a few of you had questions, so he graciously volunteered to answer them. How is this guy NOT an all-time champion???

Here’s his reply:

Thanks for all the nice comments on my guest blog. I'd trade all of them to have not finished in third, but oh well. A few answers for folks who brought up good questions. By the way, since it's the big topic of discussion -- it's not just hotel but also airfare that the contestants pay. So it's very possible that the third place prize won't cover your travel expenses. Since I drove up, I only had to pay for hotel and gas.

Hope you all enjoy part two! I don't like it as much- it's the one where I lose.

For Ed from SFV: For the Tuesday taping, people from out of town can be alternates because they've already planned to stay overnight and be in Los Angeles through the second tape day. However, the Wednesday alternates are always "local", which they consider to be Southern California. Unfortunately for me, that includes San Diego, which is a two-hour drive, so I put up the money for the hotel twice, once when I was an alternate and didn't get on and once when they brought me back.

Jax- it's generally about two months between tape and air, but not always. When I appeared on the show, we shot at the end of March and it aired in mid-July, so more than three months.

Wallis Lane- they do not require a hotel stay. I just decided it was easier and I wanted to get as much sleep/rest/stress avoidance as possible. If you choose to drive yourself to the Sony lot, they require you to be there by 7:30.

Tom Galloway- There are a few changes to the audition process. They don't reveal who passed the written test at the audition anymore. Everyone there participates in the full audition process. We were told that 80,000 people took the online test that I passed and that they were auditioning 2,000 of them for 400 spots on the show.

Andy Rose- correct, the producers do give the law firm some suggestions on contestant match-ups to avoid having three people from the same part of the country in one game, etc. They also let the lawyer know which players are back as alternates and that they would prefer those players be on as early as possible in the day.

MikeN- Correct, Sam had opened up a huge, unbeatable lead on second, who in turn had more than twice what I had. One of the things I did in preparing to be on the show was to study betting strategy. It's generally not complicated- almost everyone follows the same basic philosophy. If the game is competitive, the leader should always bet to beat second place by one dollar. The second place player has the most options, depending on how much they trail by. The second place player should assume the leader will bet correctly, so the only way they can win is if the leader gets the question wrong. In addition, you should be able to figure out exactly what the leader will bet (if she has 20,000 and 2nd has 15,000, second should know the leader will bet 10,001). Second place needs to bet enough to clear the third place person and beat the leader if the leader gets the answer wrong. Make sense?

Another point on betting- you're seeing the entire strategy of Jeopardy! change on the daily doubles. The strategy that has taken over is to bet big. James Holzhauer took it to an extreme, but it's not new. Austin Rodgers put up big scores with big gambles. Sam Cavanaugh did that to great effect in my game, essentially locking up the game early in Double Jeopardy. I saw it in person pre-Holzhauer. I was an alternate during 4-game champion John Presloid's run (aired in January). He did the same exact thing in his fourth win, using a true daily double to lock up the game early. Such aggressive betting is essentially a force multiplier to the "returning champion advantage". The champ has already been through that pressure cooker, so they're now trying to be really aggressive early while the new players are still trying to get their footing in the game and on the buzzer.

Thanks again to Jeff Lasky, guest blogger supreme.


daniel in cherry hill said...

this was great. you printed the answers and i guessed the questions. :-)

Toby the Wonder Horse said...

Shouldn’t Jeff give his answers in the form of a question?

Roy DeRousse said...

Once again, interesting stuff! Why don't you just take over this blog permanently? Who needs that Ken guy?!

Andrew said...

Jeff, my question is, who are three people who've never been in your kitchen?

Roger Owen Green said...

Jeff- in case you're interested, my take from 20 and a half years ago HERE and HERE.
Hint: I wrote mine down in 2005 so I wouldn't have to talk about it anymore. THAT was a fiction!

Andy Rose said...

Thanks, Jeff. Great information!

Mike Bloodworth said...

My technical problems have been corrected and I'm back.

I knew someone from one of my improv classes that got on "Jeopardy." He not only won, but was brought back for the Tournament of Champions. (So help me I can't remember his name!) His improv background really helped him because as you all know game shows look for contestants with not just knowledge, but also "personality." Even "Jeopardy."
He did NOT win the tournament, by the way.

I know I'm too late to have Jeff answer my question, yet I'll ask it anyway.
Could he tell that Alex Trebek was sick? Were there any signs of his illness? He may have looked O.K. on TV, but in person, up close you might have noticed something.
Without looking it up I can't remember exactly when Alex made the announcement of his cancer diagnoses.

Regarding Ken's movie photos, I also appreciate Quentin Tarantino's attention to detail, but that in and of itself does not make a good film. My best analogy would be when you see a cartoon, comic or editorial, where the drawings are perfect, but they're not funny or insightful.

You can take comfort in the fact that I'm not going to comment on all the blogs I've missed. ...Even though I want to very badly.

P.S. Ken, it was good to see you at Andy's the other day.

Jonny M. said...

Ken - Love the guest blog posts.

One guest post that I've always wanted (and I know this is a little dated) but I'd love it if David Isaacs could do a post dedicated to his time on Mad Men. I know he spoke about this on your podcast, but there has to be more to tell and I'm sure not everyone heard the podcast.

What I'd like to hear about is the writing process: how storylines were plotted; how they integrated the historical events of the era to match the timeline of the show (I'm thinking about how sometimes historical events were key to an episode's tone and plot); what work was done in the writer's room as a team and what did he do by himself; and really any interesting tidbits he can share about the show and the people that created it.

Paul Ciliano said...


Would you like another day off? I’m hoping Jeff might have time for a few more questions.

How often does Alex stumble on a clue? When that happens, does he restart from the beginning or do a pick up?

When a contestant makes the first selection after the interview segment, many times it seems like Alex is still far from his podium. Is this a typical edit point?

Is the theme music and applause into and out of breaks evident in the studio or is this added in production after the taping?

If ten episodes are taped over two days, it’s possible one person could begin a winning streak on the first show, correct? Are contestants advised to pack ten different outfits? Does the winner have access to a shower between tapings if his deodorant fails?

I enjoy all your blogs ;-)

Jahn Ghalt said...

Anonymous Toby the Wonder Horse WROTE:

Shouldn’t Jeff give his answers in the form of a question?

Well, why didn't Toby give his question in answer-form?

I suspect the reason that Jeopardy gets not-quite-primetime attention in local markets is that, ultimately, folks like excellence and get to "compete". Contrast with The Price is Right - where the main "entertainment" is marveling at contestants' cognition.

Speaking of cognition, Wheel of Fortune may be closer to Price than Jeopardy.

I really liked the "intelligence" on the "odds" of making a show. 200-1 against for self-selected online testers.

At first I gave a thumbs-down on the producers offering no per-diem for first-round players (though the consolation payments, at 5-to-1 odds, are a per-diem of a sort). Thinking further, this is not much different from vacation expenses - with a chance to win back many multiples of the expenses with better-than-casino odds. If playing for real isn't fun - go find a better game.

My casual observation is that men bet more on Daily Doubles than women. To a lesser extent, returning champs bet more than the challengers. There is, without doubt, at least one J-Nerd (maybe one of the SABRE-nerds) who has gathered stats on this, and other aspects of the game.

MikeN said...

Paul, wouldn't it be better strategically to not take that shower?

Jahn Ghalt said...

I'll second Jonny M's request for an Isaacs post on Weiner's Mad Men writing room.

Another way would be to include 5-10 minutes on Mad Men when he returns for another discussion of your collaborative writing career.

Brian said...

Ken Levine. Who is "Who would you like to see on Jeopardy?"

Unknown said...

If he is taking more game show questions, I always wondered what is a year's supply of Rice-a-roni? I am guessing 2 boxes

Tom Galloway said...

Guess I was unclear. It was only in the pre-online days that they told you who passed the written test and got to stay for mock game and interview. The in-person ones I've gone to since online started have all kept everyone in the room after the written "Let's catch any cheaters on the online" test and not said if anyone "passed" or scored low enough to get kicked out of the process.

Peter said...

Talk about the cosmos delivery irony this week. Danny Trejo, actor of Mexican descent, aged 75, heroically rescued a child from an overturned car after a collision.

Donald Trump, fat fuck, aged 73, has Mexican children locked in cages and laughs when a supporter at one of his Nuremberg style rallies suggests shooting Mexicans.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I enjoyed that! Can't believe Johnny Gilbert is 95 -- his voice seems ageless.

Ken, did you get to see Dick Van Dyke at the Catalina Bar & Grill? The review I read said the food was awful but Van Dyke was terrific. And he's only 93.

Andy Rose said...

@Paul Ciliano: Not sure if Jeff is still reading the comments, but I can answer a couple of your questions.

Of the episodes I've seen in person, Alex tended to stumble on about one clue per round. (1 out of 30... not bad) When the commercial break starts, the stage manager tells Alex what needs to be redone. He will re-read the entire clue to be edited in later. It's imperceptible on the air. During the first break of each episode, he will also take a moment to have his picture taken with each new contestant. Once all those duties are done, Alex answers questions from the audience.

The moment after Alex talks to the contestants is not typically edited. The set is not as large as it looks on television. From the edge of the champion's podium to Alex's desk is only about four steps. Plus he has a monitor in his desk that he can use to read the clue if for some reason he's having trouble finding it on his paper.

Everything you hear on TV is exactly what you hear in the studio, with the two exceptions that have been mentioned in previous posts and comments: On the Monday through Wednesday shows, Johnny Gilbert is not there to read the introductions, so his voice is edited in later. And at the very end of each episode, the sequence where Alex goes over to talk to the contestants is shot in a loosey-goosey way and edited together later to accommodate on-screen sponsors. For that one case only, the applause you hear at home is canned because the staff is already getting the audience ready for the next show (Q&A, door prizes, etc.)

Ed Pepper said...

Jeff went further than most of us will go, and losing with $1 gives him a story worth way more than 5K.