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Arts & Culture

Answer: This Lansing Woman Is On Jeopardy! Tonight

Alex Trebek and Robin Miner-Swartz photo
Courtesy photo
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Jeopardy Productions, Inc.
Robin Miner-Swartz, on the set of Jeopardy! with host Alex Trebek.

Tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! features Robin Miner-Swartz of Lansing. She’s a second-generation contestant on the popular game show. Her mother, former WKAR staff member Carol Welch, played the game years ago.

WKAR’s Scott Pohl talks with Robin Miner-Swartz about getting the chance to play the game she’s loved forever.

colorful jeopardy practice buzzer
Robin Miner-Swartz made this practice buzzer out of a pencil and some duct tape.

ROBIN MINER-SWARTZ: When my mom was five months pregnant with me, she auditioned to be on the version of the show that Art Fleming hosted. Back then when they called you to be on the show, it wasn't a call; you got a telegram from them, and my dad brought it to the hospital the day after she gave birth to me. Oh my gosh, they had asked her to be on the show just a week or two later! She called them and asked for a deferment, which they granted her. When I was about 10 weeks old, she and my dad and I flew out to New York, which was where the show was taped at the time, and she was on Jeopardy!. So it's always been a goal of mine.  

SCOTT POHL: When you're playing the game, do you have to wait until that last word is read?

MINER-SWARTZ: Yes, the buzzers are locked until the last word is read. There is actually a person in the studio who unlocks the buzzer lights on the side of the board that you can't see at home. There are a lot of things you can choose to cue off of to find your rhythm with that. That for me was really overwhelming in the practice games before we played. I couldn't get the hang of it. They left me up there a lot longer than some of the other contestants.They said, “we’ll let you keep doing this to get the hang of it.” I was not getting it. I was trying to listen to too many things. But you do find your rhythm and you start to trust yourself with it.

LOOKING FORWARD TO WATCHING THE SHOW

I keep telling people I can't wait to see it because I don't remember a lot about it!
Betsy Miner-Swartz and Carol Welch photo
Credit Courtesy photo
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Courtesy photo
Robin's wife Betsy and mother Carol Welch attended the Jeopardy! taping.

POHL: Tell me about what we don't see when we're watching Jeopardy at home.

MINER-SWARTZ: Those clues are all in those little boxes on the board, so when you're sitting at home and it pops up big on your giant TV screen, it's not that big in the studio. It's on the Jeopardy board, like 30 feet across from you, in each of those little squares. Your eyes are darting all over the board to find the questions. If there's a visual component to the clue, there's another screen off to the left that you've got to look at. The scores are above the board and to the left, so when you see people look up when they get a Daily Double, they're looking at the other scores, trying to figure out what to bet. There's just a lot of visual stimulus happening in there that has to be accounted for in addition to knowing the answer and buzzing in on time.

POHL: What sorts of things can you and can’t you do on game day?

MINER-SWARTZ: You can't be on your phone, you can't be taking pictures or posting on social media. They have you supervised the whole time you're there, so you can't interact with anybody on staff. There are lawyers who come in and talk to you about what you can and can't do. What you do have to bring is extra clothing. They have you wear your TV outfit, and they ask you to bring two other outfit options. Hopefully, you get to wear them if you win, or maybe you're wearing something that they'd like you to switch out of just based on TV camera needs.

MAKING ALEX TREBEK SOUND HIS BEST

What you don't see on the air also is if he coughs when he's reading a question or they want to tweak something in pronunciation, they do a lot of re-recording of that audio during the breaks. Robin Miner-Swartz

POHL: Of course, you're not allowed to tell us whether or not you win, but one thing I know everyone's going to want to know is about meeting and spending time around Alex Trebek. Everyone is following his health issues, his battle with cancer. Tell me about being around him.

MINER-SWARTZ: What you see me interact with him on the show is the extent of our interaction with him. Literally, when he walks out on the stage and they start taping, that's the first glimpse you get him, but he does chat with contestants, obviously for the interview portion but at the end of the show as well. Very warm, friendly guy. In addition to going through chemo for pancreatic cancer for the second time, he also had a cold when we were out there. You would never know it. He was very friendly and warm and welcoming.

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