Who is ‘Thompson?’

January 26, 2011

by Haley Kraemer, COPY EDITOR

Elaine Thompson, intrigued with trivia as a child, was selected as a “Jeopardy!” contestant this season to battle it out alongside two other contestants in an episode, which aired Monday at 4:30 p.m.

Thompson, an assistant professor of history, said she was one out of about 550 individuals selected as “Jeopardy!” contestants this year in the United States. There are three contestants per day, five shows per week and 15 of the contestants per year are returning champions. She took the online trivia test, the first step in the audition process, in the early ‘90s as a college junior and was not selected for the college tournament. 

“My mom encouraged me to take the online test again,” she said. “I registered the day before the test.”

This time around she not only played the game but won second place $7,601 in winnings. However, as a second place winner, she took home $2,000, minus tax.

Thompson said she believes the online test, which includes 50 categories and one question for each category, has about a 10 percent passing rate.

She said if you pass this portion, you get called for an audition, and if they pick you, your name goes into a database for 18 months.

“I got called on the 14th month, and I was overjoyed,” she said.

Thompson said her strengths were potent potables and 19th century Southern U.S. history, among other trivia, and she researched a list of African countries and the U.N. Secretary Generals before the show because they are common topics in the popular game show.

“Actually, knowledge is half of the problem, but ringing in is the other half,” she said. “It is really frustrating when you know the answer but you could not ring in fast enough.”

Thompson had an idea of what the stage and the audience were going to look like in her head.

“The stage was much larger than I expected, and the audience was much smaller,” she said.

Thompson also said she had three goals regarding her appearance on the show.

“It always drives me crazy when contestants say ‘uh…’ before they ask for a category,” she said. “I made it my goal to avoid that.”

She said her other goals were to not embarrass herself and to get into and win Final Jeopardy!

“My mom and I compete in Final Jeopardy! watching the television,” she said. “We call each other and say, ‘Did you get Final Jeopardy!? I did and the people on the show didn’t.'” 

The Final Jeopardy! Category on her show was 19th Century People and the question asked who Nathaniel Hawthorne spoke of in a quote pulled from one of his works. 

Even though she answered the Final Jeopardy! question correctly, her opponent had more money in the end. 

“Going on the show was an absolute blast,” she said. “It was scary but so much fun.”

E-mail comments to hek002@latech.edu.