It is hard for me to watch Jeopardy! The problem is that I’m pretty good at it. The number of answers I can easily spit out would put me above the average player, and the number of answers that are on the tip of my tongue would likely put me among the best.
Of course, Jeopardy! is not exactly a hard game. Final Jeopardy tonight was something like, “The back-to-back Tony award winning musicals in 1987 and 1988 that were set in Paris, France.” I had no idea. But then I thought, “What musicals have there been recently that took place in Paris?” Immediately, one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tuneless musicals came to mind: The Phantom of the Opera. But that’s all I could think of. For a second. And then, of course: Les Misérables.
So I spend just about every show thinking, “I should really try out for this show.” I can and do even make the case. I work well under pressure and in front of a crowd. I would probably do a lot better on the show than I do at home.
But finally sense comes to me: “Are you fucking crazy?!” The truth is that I would almost certainly not win if I went on the show. That means I would get, at most, $2000 and a lifetime’s supply of Rice-A-Roni. But even if I did win, it would be something between $10,000 (the winner tonight won $9,201) and $25,000. Is that really acceptable compensation for all the money I would be making for Sony Pictures Television?
What’s more, is that enough money to compensate for the potential that I would humiliate myself? All my family, and my more foolish friends, think that I’m smart. At this point, it is about all I’ve got. Ten grand is not enough to destroy their (And my!) illusions on this matter.
 My friend Mark Neville used to live with his grandmother who had dementia. She really liked Jeopardy!. In order to occupy her in as painless a manner as possible, he recorded 6 hours of Jeopardy! and showed her the tape every day. She couldn’t remember the day before, so she was perfectly happy. Although I thought that Mark was brilliant, I also thought there was something very wrong with what he was doing. I still can’t say what.