You’ll see a familiar face — and hear a familiar voice — as a local man competes in the popular game show.
Local musician, director of the Center for Academic Achievement at East Tennessee State University and former congressional candidate Rob Russell takes the stage on “Jeopardy!” Thursday evening.
Russell’s former group, Rob Russell and the Sore Losers, developed a sizable following in East Tennessee; an occasional sticker saluting the band can still be seen on local car windows. Currently he plays guitar for the JV Squad.
That background offered a healthy dose of practice time, something that likely came in handy for Russell: It took about six years and going through the application process three times before he got his chance to share the stage with Alex Trebek.
Russell said he’d always been fond of trivia and recalls watching the show with his aunt and grandmother.
He got the idea to apply to be a contestant about 10 years ago when he learned of local auditions, and his friends urged him to give it a shot.
“I never really considered being on the show until they came to the Bristol Mall,” he said. “That's really where it began, really wanting to do it.”
With the idea in his head, Russell first applied to go on the show in 2009 after applications moved online.
The applications, he said, consists of a 50-question timed test. Those who score well enough get invited to another audition in a major city.
Then the 18-month wait begins for a call to come on to the show. During that waiting time, potential candidates are barred from sending in more applications.
After auditions in Charlotte, Nashville and Atlanta, the third try was a charm for Russell, and he flew to California in September to record the episode.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “All the people that work there have worked there for a long time and they're great about keeping the contestants from getting too nervous. It was a pleasurable experience from the get-go.”
Russell said that the competition on Jeopardy doesn’t necessarily come from brains, but performance. After reviewing a few of his rustier categories before the show, his main concerns were just on playing the game.
“It just comes down to the performance,” he said. “How well can you play the game? Can you buzz in fast enough? Can you bet enough or bet the right way?”
And how did Russell do on the show?
His lips are sealed.
The rest of the world will have to tune in to WCYB at 7:30 on Thanksgiving to find out.
Email Jessica Fuller at [email protected]. Follow Jessica on Twitter @fullerjf91. Like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jfullerJCP.