Woman high-fiving with a young girl.
Executive Director Lori Goodman enjoys a light moment with a child at the Isla Vista Youth Projects. Goodman is sharing her experience as a contestant on the television game show Jeopardy! (Contributed photo)

This is the first in a series of four articles chronicling the behind-the-scenes experiences of local resident Lori Goodman’s recent appearance on the classic hit game show Jeopardy! Goodman is the executive director of Isla Vista Youth Projects and former chief development officer of CALM. In preparing for her taping, Lori says she read every blog post, book and article by former Jeopardy! contestants, and not one was written by a woman. Until now. Read Lori’s take on this top-rated show, leading up to her Sept. 11, 2018 appearance. 

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I didn’t even want to take the test. I really felt that this was an exercise in futility.

Let me back up. I am a huge Jeopardy! fan. Everyone in my family is a huge Jeopardy! fan. When we watch Jeopardy! as a family, we imagine what it would be like to be a contestant.

In fact, the number one item on my husband’s bucket list is to become a Jeopardy! contestant. Not mine.

Last year, a young man from Santa Barbara, Alan Lin, became a Jeopardy! super champion (someone who wins six or more games in a row.) It was so exciting to watch someone from Santa Barbara do so well.

Several months later, I was walking along State Street and saw someone who looked familiar. At first glance, I thought he was one of my son’s friends. Then it hit me. This was Alan Lin – Jeopardy! champion!

I debated whether to approach him. Those of us who live in the Santa Barbara area see celebrities every once in a while. We don’t bother them. We’re not star-struck.

I’ve had the good fortune to chat with Rob Lowe and with Carol Burnett. I’ve seen Jack Black and Dev Patel – no reason to approach them. I played it cool.

But this was a Jeopardy! super champion!

With considerable trepidation, I approached Alan and congratulated him on his impressive run. He thanked me and I quickly walked away. My heart was pounding. This was surely my brush with greatness, and as close to Jeopardy! as I would ever get.

It’s not easy to be selected as a Jeopardy! contestant. It takes skill, luck and personality. I think. They don’t tell you, so this is just a guess.

Twice a year, Jeopardy! offers an online test. More than 80,000 people nationwide participate.

The test consists of 50 questions in all the typical Jeopardy! categories: Literature, History, Bible, Sports, Pop Culture, Before & After, and Mythology. Test takers have just 15 seconds to answer each question.

The show doesn’t let anyone know what a passing score is, but most people assume that a score of at least 42/50 is required to make the cut.

Then, of the thousands that score high enough, the show selects approximately 3,000 people each year to audition in person. Of those who audition, approximately 300 receive “The Call” and are invited to appear on the show.

My husband had taken the test many times. Twice since we moved to Santa Barbara he has been called for an in-person audition. But he never received “The Call.”

My son took the college Jeopardy! tournament test four times. Twice he was selected for an in-person audition. But he never received “The Call.”

In June 2017, I caved to family peer pressure. I finally took the online test. Two months later I had an audition.

On Sept. 11, you will see me on Jeopardy! Historically, the most successful contestants are young (under 40) and male.

I am a 53-year old woman with a very full-time job. This is my story.

Over the next few days, I invite you to step into my world and join me on my journey from Santa Barbara County nonprofit executive to Jeopardy! contestant.

Lori Goodman is executive director of the Isla Vista Youth Projects.

Coming Saturday: Auditioning for Jeopardy — Where Are the Women?