A hallmark of every Jeopardy! game is when contestants share a fun fact about themselves. Following the first commercial break, fans of the quiz show get an inside look at the players’ personal lives.
If you’re a fan of the show, you probably know that each contestant has about 30 seconds to share an interesting anecdote about themselves. But do you know how they end up choosing which story they end up sharing?
When asked how the producers choose which story a player will tell, the show’s contestant producer Corina Nusu told Mental Floss, “We send [the contestants] a huge package of documentation via email. Included is an info sheet that asks them to list five interesting facts about themselves.”
The questions are surprisingly open and serve as ways to make both big and small happenings interesting enough for the show. They include: What’s your most treasured possession? What’s your secret ambition? Any brushes with greatness?
With a total of 32 questions to choose from, the players’ answers help producers choose which stories will best connect with the audience. After the contestants respond, Nusu then writes a list of up to five stories for the fun fact portion of the show. Before his passing, Alex Trebek chose which story each player would share during taping.
Then on show day, Nusu preps the players to ensure that they are ready to share more about their fun facts with the host. “I sit and try to pretend I’m [the host] 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…Were you in Poland? Don’t tell me yes, and you had a nice time. Remember to tell me your train got hijacked.”
Although topics vary, only grossly inappropriate or morbid subjects are off limits. Even so, Nusu shared that she tells players, “You probably shouldn’t talk about breaking the law.”
While it may be easy to come up with a handful of interesting facts, it can be difficult for players to come up with several stories especially when they win multiple games. After winning 20 games, Julia Collins admitted on Reddit that figuring out her fun fact each episode was far from fun for her. According to the Jeopardy! champion, “Coming up with ideas for that portion of the show is probably the hardest thing about being on the show.”
Although coming up with several personal fun facts may be challenging for players, we’re glad they make the effort. After all, it’s one of the best segments of the show.