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BEHIND THE FAME – JEOPARDY! – JONATHAN CORBBLAH

4 May

Interview with Jonathan Corbblah, a young Ghanaian man who appeared on JEOPARDY! in winter 2010:

Amy : Jonathan, can you please tell me about your upbringing. Where did you grow up and go to school. How many brothers and sisters do you have?
Jonathan: I grew up in Brooklyn in the 1980s which was interesting. My neighborhood was not great,(drugs, violence, etc.), but I was able to stay away from all of that because my parents instilled in me values. I went to local schools and in high school I got the knack for chess. I went to SUNY in New York and after that I lived in Los Angeles for some time. I have an older brother and sister.

Amy: How are you connected to the Country of Ghana? Are both of your parents from Ghana?
Jonathan: My father is Ghanaian and my mother is Jamaican. My older siblings were born in Ghana but I was born in the United States. I love Ghana. I have been there and enjoyed visiting, eating, and most of all seeing my extended family.

Amy: What subjects were you good at in school?
Jonathan: History, Social Studies, and Geography were always my strongest subjects. I have always hated writing papers or essays, but I loved tests. They were like games to me. Tests suited my memory and those subjects required less critical thinking or calculations. Applying what I learned hasn’t really been my strong suit — I have gained alot of knowledge in my life– but converting that into intelligence has been tricky. That is why I enjoy game shows.

Amy: What after school activities were you involved in?
Jonathan: I was active in the debate team, as well as the chess club. I played scrabble in high school as well. I never joined a single athletic team although I was recruited heavily. Being 6’6 and 260lbs in high school, it seemed like a peculiar thing to be into such nebbishy activities.

Amy: How did you get involved with chess. Who taught you how to play chess and what do you find so interesting about it?
Jonathan: I learned the game at the age of 7. I competed in tournaments at school and the library. It wasn’t until high school that I started taking the game seriously. I devoted hours and hours to learning and improving. By the time I was out of college I was an expert strength player.

Amy: Do you get to go to Ghana often? When is the last time you were in Ghana?
Jonathan: I have not been to Ghana as often as I would like – I have only been there twice. I have been to Cape Coast, Tema, and all over Accra. I was last there in 2009. It is so amazing and I hope to return soon. I actually got married in Osu. When I visit Ghana, I stay in Labadi or Teshi. Last time I was there we stayed in Madina, at a church mission. Everyone was so welcoming and I learned alot from conversations with local people.

Amy: Would you ever consider going to Ghana to host a national televised game show there?
Jonathan: It was funny, to flip through the channels one night in Ghana and I saw a college geography bowl being played between a team from Ghana and another from Nigeria. It would be an honor to become a Ghanaian t.v star.

 
JEOPARDY:
Amy: How many times did you try out for Jeopardy?
Jonathan: I tried out for Jeopardy 11 times. When I was fourteen I tried out for Teen JEOPARDY. I have been trying to get on Jeopardy my whole life, starting with kids, then teen , then college. I even wanted to become a celebrity so that I could go on Celebrity JEOPARDY!
In my lifetime, I passed the test three times and finally made it on the last time. The test is given in Los Angeles. It is a long hard process to get on the show. Out of 20,000 people, 600 people make the show. These are the steps I had to go through to appear on JEOPARDY: 1)Take the online test which has approximately 50 questions- I got 43 questions right; 2)Take the in-person test – which includes 50 questions; 3)Interview/meet with the show producers and participate in a buzzer game with other people; 4)Wait to see if you have been picked to appear on the show. In my case, I took the first test in January 2010, I found out that I passed in March, I auditioned in April, got the call in August, taped the show in September 15th 2010, and the show aired on television on December 13th,2010.

Amy: How did you prepare for the show?
Jonathan: I read all the books I could get my hands on. I studied everything because they do not tell you what categories you will be faced with, so you have to study everything.

Amy: How is the audience?
Jonathan: show is taped at the Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City before a live studio audience, and the audience is quite big. The lights are bright and you are face to face with Alex Trebek. The rehearsals take place in the morning.

Amy: Is Alex Trebek as intimidating in person as he looks on TV?
Jonathan: Not intimidating at all. He, as well as all of the production crew and staff, make it as relaxing and comfortable of an atmosphere as it can possibly be considering the circumstances. Alex told jokes and had an overall avuncular demeanor. But, not to take any credit away from him, because he is whip smart.

Amy: How long is the actual taping?
Jonathan: When you view the show, you view it for 30 minutes because commercials are included. The show only takes 22 minutes to tape. When you take the 22 minutes and subtract out the time that Alex spends talking to contestants, the competition is only about 15 minutes. I’m not sure how long the taping truly is, but it only felt like 5 minutes. JEOPARDY tapes one week’s worth of shows in one day. When I won the show on the “first” day, I only had a few minutes to change and get ready for the second taping.

Amy: Why is everyone the same height on JEOPARDY?
Jonathan: They use boxes for people to stand on. The ladies that I competed against were 5’4 and 5’2 and I am 6’6 so they put both of them on pedestals.

Amy: What is behind the JEOPARDY Podium that you stand behind?
Jonathan: There is a Final JEOPARDY light pen, a pencil and paper for making calculations, a bottle of water, napkins, and pedestals to stand on.

Amy: You appeared on JEOPARDY twice. Tell us about the first appearance?
Jonathan: I appeared on the first show and won $13,000.

Amy: Yes, you won the first night, even though you missed the Final jeopardy question? The answer was
“What is Niger and Nigeria?” Why did you miss that question?
Jonathan: I do not know why I missed it. I just did not write it down because I did not know it at the time. It really is pointless to think about it, because I am not entirely over it.

Amy: Well either way, you won that day’s show. Tell us about your next day’s appearance on the show.
Jonathan: Since I won the first time I appeared on the show, winning $13,000, I automatically appeared on the next day’s show. When I won the first night, I was content, and relieved but I never really was super happy because I knew I could have done better. On the Tuesday show, I was leading, I answered more questions , but a lot of my answers were wrong. I got the Final JEOPARDY question right- the answer had something to do with the Olympics, something about North and South Korea being banned. But due to the fact that I finished third, I got the complimentary $2,000.00.

Amy: What do your parents and wife think about your appearance on JEOPARDY?
Jonathan: They are proud of me, but it was never anything that changed who I was, and they have not treated me any different. It truly was just another day in the life.

Amy: Perhaps it is because JEOPARDY is not the only game show you have been on. Please tell us all the game shows you have appeared on?
Jonathan: I appeared on WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE in 2005. I got to the 125,000 question and missed the question. I appeared on CASH CAB in 2008 and won $1,600.When I was a kid I appeared on WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMEN SAN DIEGO.
I am trying to set a record for the most game show appearances. Right now I have appeared on 4 game shows, and the record is 8, so I am well on my way.

Amy: How has being on JEOPARDY changed your life?
Jonathan: I am a little bit richer. I have been able to pay off some debts. Due to my appearances on game shows, I get recognized a lot, especially due to my appearance on the CASH CAB show. I was on a Jet Blue flight and CASH CAB was on the T.V monitor. When I got off the plane, people in the terminal were like, “I saw you on T.V.“ – the show re-airs plenty of times. It is good to have recognition because it allows you to organically do something else. Also, due to my appearance on JEOPARDY, I get to do awesome interviews for AfrikanPost and people are recognizing me on the street. It is awesome.

Amy: Would it be accurate if I said that you may be the first Ghanaian to have ever appeared on
JEOPARDY?
Jonathan: It might not be accurate, but I am going to say it anyway-yes.

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