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- American game show contestant
EPHRAIM - Like in the classic "Weird Al" Yankovic song, Brigid Hogan lost on "Jeopardy!"
But the Door County resident said she nonetheless enjoyed the experience, partially because it came against one of the show's all-time champions.
Hogan appeared in the Jan. 11 episode of the hugely popular TV quiz show, which airs at 6 p.m. weekdays on WLUK Fox 11. She finished third out of the three contestants.
However, that put her in good company, as she joined 59 other "Jeopardy!" players through that episode who fell victim to Amy Schneider, who won her 30th straight game, fourth most in show history to that point.
And Hogan said the whole experience of being on the show, combined with losing to one of the best players in its 49-year history, made it more than worthwhile for her.
"If I was going to lose to someone, and if I was really going to get crunched on TV, I'm glad it was to Amy," Hogan said the morning after the episode aired. "It was an honor to lose to her. I'm really glad to have done it."
Interestingly, the 32-year-old Hogan didn't have a long-burning desire to appear on "Jeopardy!" or other quiz show. She said she's not a trivia junkie, doesn't seek out trivia contests in the area, had seen the show a few times but wasn't a regular watcher. Instead, it was a suggestion from her sister that started Hogan on the road to TV — a road she almost forgot she'd started — by taking the show's 50-question online quiz to see if she could qualify.
In June 2020, her sister was getting married, and Hogan took the opportunity to spend time with her family, who had become "Jeopardy!" fans, in northern Wisconsin.
"My sister got married during the early pandemic months," Hogan said. "Afterward, we spent a lot of time as a family, and we watched 'Jeopardy!' because that was their new habit. My sister told me I should (take the quiz)."
Hogan did take the quiz, then went on with her life, which included moving to Ephraim about a year later, leaving her job of four years in Washington, D.C., teaching English language arts to ninth and 10th grade students who were new to the U.S.
She hadn't lived on the Peninsula before but had visited a number of times over the years. Since moving to Door County, she's worked one summer at Pearl Wine Cottage, a small seasonal wine bar in Ephraim, and also worked at Heirloom Cafe and Provisions in Baileys Harbor and Wickman House in Ellison Bay.
"I looked for seasonal work, thought it was a good time to take a break," Hogan said. "Turns out I just really loved the community, even more than I expected."
Then around that time, about a year after taking the quiz, "Jeopardy!" came calling.
"I took the quiz and kinda forgot about it. It was just a thing I did on a whim," Hogan said. "Then this past June they called to ask if I'd audition online."
The audition consisted of another 50-question test and a virtual short session of simulated gameplay against two other auditionees, complete with a break where the contestants say something interesting about themselves, as on the real show.
It apparently went well, because the producers called again in October, asking if she could be in the Los Angeles area (the Sony studios in Culver City, California) for show tapings the first week of November.
Hogan said she had to take a COVID-19 test right before she left for SoCal, another test upon arriving, and was asked to not go out of her hotel except for going to the taping the next morning. She said show personnel took care of everything, calling it a "really super smooth experience, fun and enjoyable."
While some contestants might start reading, viewing and studying like mad to try and fill their brains before appearing on the show, Hogan said she didn't do anything special to get ready.
"I watched a few episodes just to get into the flow of the game — I saw all the episodes (Green Bay Packers quarterback) Aaron Rodgers hosted — but it wasn't like I binge-watched or anything like that," Hogan said.
"I feel like I'd been preparing for it all my life. I'm a big reader, a big consumer of all kinds of media, listen to a lot of podcasts, even read a lot of Wikipedia (chuckles). It was easier than cramming for a test, that's for sure."
Unfortunately for Hogan, she ran into a "Jeopardy!" buzzsaw in Schneider, an engineering manager from Oakland, California, who'd not only won 29 straight games by then but also earned $1,035,400, an average of more than $35,000 a win to make her the fourth person in show history to win more than $1 million in regular games outside its special champion's tournaments.
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Schneider's run on the show hadn't started airing on TV before Hogan's taping, so she and fellow contestant Steve Chanderbhan of Lewiston, New York, weren't aware of her dominance until they were introduced before the taping. Hogan admitted that tempered her optimism a bit.
"When they said here's our returning champion and here's our 29-day winner, the air definitely went out of the room," Hogan said with a laugh.
As has been the case during most of Schneider's streak, she built a bit of a lead during the first half of the game, called the "Jeopardy!" round, then extended it to an insurmountable lead during the "Double Jeopardy!" second half.
Hogan was in a distant second place after the "Jeopardy!" round with $1,000 to Schneider's $14,000 but fell to third during "Double Jeopardy!" at $2,600. Chanderbhan passed her into second place with $9,500, but Schneider was at $42,400 and could only be caught in the one-clue "Final Jeopardy!" round with an overly excessive bet and wrong response.
As it turned out, all three missed the final clue, and Hogan's final tally of $2,000 left her in third place for a $1,000 prize. (The winner earns whatever total they finish the game with, but second place gets $2,000 and third place $1,000 no matter how much they "made" during the game.) Schneider finished her 30th straight win with $22,400 (and stretched her streak to 31 on the Jan. 12 episode, leaving her one short of tying James Holzhauer for third on the all-time wins list).
Hogan said the main difference between playing on TV and playing along with the show at home is the buzzer contestant have to press to get permission to respond to the clues. She said she knew more than she was able to answer but wasn't able to buzz in at the right time. On the show, the time to buzz in doesn't open until the host finishes reading the clue; buzz in too early and you're locked out. On Hogan's episode, she was first on the buzzer eight times for its 57 answers, while Schneider buzzed in first 37 times.
"The biggest difference is the buzzer," Hogan said. "You just really have to be prepared and have sharp motor skills to buzz in. That's one place where Amy is so good. ... I wasn't really cognizant if I buzzed in early or buzzed in late. There's not a lot of processing time when you're on stage. It's not any cognitively different when you're on stage. It's just my buzzer skills really imploded late in the game."
Even with the loss, Hogan said she had a great time. While she can't reappear on the show because of its rules, she'd recommend others give it a shot.
"It was a really enjoyable experience," Hogan said. "They really make it a nice experience. Anyone who's interested in exploring the possibility of going on 'Jeopardy!' and taking the quiz, I'd highly recommend it."
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Door County resident talks about her appearance on 'Jeopardy!'