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'Oh my God, I'm on the Jeopardy! stage and I'm talking to Alex Trebek'

After years of practice yelling Jeopardy! answers at the TV, Sally Leedham of Bradford fulfilled a longtime dream to appear on her favourite game show

A Bradford West Gwillimbury woman who went from yelling Jeopardy! answers at her TV, to buzzing in to play the game opposite Alex Trebek.

Sally Leedham, a legal assistant with Dejardins in Aurora, got the opportunity recently to fulfil a longtime dream of appearing on her favourite game show, and she is still amazed by the experience.

“Frankly, it’s a bit of a blur,” she said.

Leedham, who is originally from East Gwillimbury and is a member of the Newmarket Citizens Band, completed an online test in March 2018 to be a Jeopardy! contestant and got an audition a month later.

She said she did not hear back until March this year, when she got a call from the show inviting her to Culver City, Calif. to compete.

“I nearly didn’t pick up the phone. It was a number I didn’t recognize,” said Leedham.

But when she answered and realized who was calling, she was ready to go anytime.

“Oh yeah, I’ll be there. I’ll crawl to California if I have to,” she quipped.

Leedham has watched Jeopardy! since she was a kid but got more into it six or seven years ago while living with her mother, who was a huge fan.

“My mother encouraged me (to do the online test) because I used to yell answers at the TV like a lot of home Jeopardy! watchers,” she said.

Leedham’s recent audition for the show was actually her second — the first time was in 2013 or 2014, she said, noting possible contestants go to U.S. locations to take a 50-question test.

She never heard back the first time, but she was thrilled to get a call the second time around.

Her second audition involved doing another 50-question written test, an interview, and playing a mini game of Jeopardy!, which she said was a lot of fun.

Last year, 80,000 people completed the online test, but just 3,000 people got auditions and 400 made the show, she said.

Leedham’s episode aired July 5, but she said a lot went into the production before then.

Her day began at 7:30 a.m. because the show tapes five episodes a day, she said.

She had to sign papers, get her makeup done for TV, and Jeopardy! staff members spoke to her and the other contestants about strategy and how to play the game.

The contestants sit in the audience — seated together, separate from other guests for fairness rules — and wait until their episode is ready to be taped.

Leedham said she was in the last taping of the day and did not leave until 3:30 p.m.

“I do tend to get stage fright on occasion. I was a little worried,” she said. “Thankfully (on the first question I buzzed in on) I blurted out something that they would accept” and everything was fine from there.

"(The) 'Oh my God, I'm on the Jeopardy! stage and I'm talking to (host) Alex Trebek sort of gets pushed to the back of your mind." 

Trebek, she added, was "just a delightful person" who took audience questions during every commercial break. 

Some of the toughest questions were in hyper-American categories, such as "Literary Minnesota," Leedham said, although she did brush up on some American history before the taping.

But she said she was surprised she was still able to get some answers in categories such as "2019 FIFA Men's World Cup" because she is not a soccer fan. 

"It just depends if you've got that nugget of info stowed away in your brain," Leedham said, adding timing and quickness while using the buzzer is also tricky. 

Leedham, who is a member of the Newmarket Citizens Band, said she could not buzz in fast enough to answer another question about a song she has performed with the group, and she now gets teased by bandmates for it. 

During Final Jeopardy!, Leedham had $12,400 and wagered $9,000 on a topic about a 15th-century friar. She got the answer right -- Martin Luther -- bringing her total to $21,400. But she wound up in second place, knocking her take-home winnings down to $2,000.

Leedham did some sightseeing before returning home and said the winnings, which she has yet to receive, will cover her time away. 

"It basically paid for a free week in (Los Angeles)," she said. 

Unfortunately, her mother passed away before the taping aired, but she knew her daughter was happy with the results of the game.

“She was really pleased. I was just in it for the fun of it," Leedham said. 

"I have a lot more sympathy for the contestants now. I know how hard it is to dredge up an answer. Now I can go back to yelling answers at the television." 

Jenni Dunning

About the Author: Jenni Dunning

Jenni Dunning is a community editor and reporter who covers news in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury.
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