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SC grad, lawyer shares experience competing on 'Jeopardy!'

Cary Ashby • Updated Apr 7, 2017 at 1:46 AM

Question: What 2003 South Central High School graduate will be on an upcoming episode of “Jeopardy!”?

Answer: Who is Emmett Robinson.

The Cleveland-based business-law attorney will be on the April 19 episode. While he isn’t permitted to talk about the results, he spoke to the Reflector about his audition and shared his experiences leading up to and including the filming.

“Jeopardy!” officials informed Robinson in December he had been accepted as a contestant. He then flew to Culver City, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, to tape his episode a few weeks later at Sony Picture Studios.

“They had the shuttle come to the hotel,” Robinson said. “They tape a bunch of shows on one day. You get pulled at random.”

While he said the first round of questions were relatively easy, he had trouble getting the hang of using the buzzer. Robinson said there is a crew member who activates the buzzers only after host Alex Trebek is finished asking the question, but if you activate your handheld device too early, you get frozen out.

“I could not get buzzed in. Then I got the hang of it,” Robinson added. “It took a while to get used to it.”

Then when he was able to buzz in, he got his first question wrong.

“I went negative, so I was nervous about that,” Robinson said.

To be eligible to possibly appear on “Jeopardy!,” one has to take an online quiz. The first time Robinson took it was for the college competition.

“I think they only offer it once or twice a year,” Robinson said. “It’s 50 questions. You have to type in your answers.”

But, ironically, you don’t have to answer in the form of a question, as seen on the game show. After completing the quiz, the results remain unknown.

Most recently, Robinson took another online “Jeopardy!” quiz in early 2015. It took several months to learn if he would be offered an in-person audition, which arrived as an email.

“You could pick between a couple different cities. One was in California, one was in L.A. and one was in Boston. I chose the Boston (location) because it had the cheapest flights. You have to fly yourself,” Robinson said.

There were several rounds of contestants. Robinson estimated there were 50 to 60 people at the audition.

“There were people from all over. There were a couple people from Ohio if I remember correctly,” he said.

First, contestants took a written test that covers general knowledge. Following that was a shorter round of “Jeopardy!” with about 20 questions.

“They use the actual buzzers in the mini-game,” Robinson said. “They would watch your facial expressions to see if you’re good for TV.”

The South Central graduate recalled some of the crew members teased him about being an attorney.

“I figured my chances wouldn’t be very good (because of that),” he said. “I finished law school in 2011.

“They said, ‘You’ll never hear from us again unless you’re asked to be on the show,’” said Robinson, who figured as time passed, he wasn’t chosen.

During commercial breaks, Robinson said contestants could chat with crew members or even Trebek. He said there was a longer one before “Final Jeopardy!” so he and his competitors could determine how much money they wanted to wager on the final question.

“He (Trebek) was pretty nice and personable,” Robinson added. “Supposedly he does a lot of home remodeling work.

“During the commercial breaks, they would fix your makeup,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. It was one of the most fun days I’ve had.”

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