It’s been a long time coming, and I (finally) got a studio audience ticket for a taping of Jeopardy! For decades now, this is the one show I have consistently watched, so I guess it’s safe to say this one is my favorite. When my grandma was around, we would often watch it together. These days, my dad records every episode, and he occasionally wins gift cards out at a weekly trivia night.
While watching the show one night, they said “come join our studio audience”, so that’s just what I did. On the website, I filled out the necessary info and, to my surprise, a ticket popped up immediately in my inbox.
Getting onto the Sony lot in Culver City was fine and a breeze, and so was parking. What came as a surprise, though, was the lack of organization for the check-in process. A guard had told me “Just get parked on the 3rd level or higher, then find the audience coordinator, who is dressed in all black. You can’t miss her.” Well, various people were wearing all black. Some seemed to be visitors, but who can be sure? Wearing all black just isn’t distinct enough to be an identifier.
Next to the security office is a “visitor center” window, and there was a table nearby, staffed by three women. I asked them if they are with Jeopardy! and, whew, they were. Actually being on the studio lot, it’s surprising, for the sake of streamlining the audience wrangling process, that nothing on or around the table advertised what show these women were representing. Some people were there for the studio tour and ended up at the audience check-in table since, again, nothing was obvious.
The primary wrangler of this group seemed to enjoy the power that duty brings. It felt like these women are an effective team together, but the main one gave weird directions. “The line starts right here,” she told some people waiting to check in, pointing to a rubber strip on the ground, where two sections of the concrete parking garage came together. It wasn’t designed to be any sort of marker. And no one needed to wait 15 feet from the check-in table, either, as if pharmacy-like privacy was necessary.
The audience members were required to be on the lot and ready by 10 AM, although it seemed to be no problem for the stragglers who arrived beyond the top of the hour. Around 10:30, we finally were on-the-move and en route to the sound stage. Along the way, we passed the Wheel of Fortune and Shark Tank stages.
Jeopardy!’s “Alex Trebek Stage” is next door. At 11 AM, we started filing in. What you see first are the actual contestant podiums used from 2006-2009 on display, and you pass a hallway that’s a mini-museum filled with treasures from the show’s long run.
We climbed a flight of stairs and found our seats. Fortunately, I ended up right in the middle of the audience, which may have been 80 people or so… the number might be higher. At this point, phones have to be turned off and put away so, unfortunately, I don’t have any pics of the set.
Jimmy, originally from the Clue Crew, was the Stage Manager and hype man for the crowd. He told us some stories during downtime, like how he met Snoop Dogg once, who gave him a lanyard. While driving home after the meeting, he realized it smelled like a joint dipped in cologne. Otherwise, accounting for commercial breaks, he gave us a heads up when to clap and when that wouldn’t be necessary.
Seeing the whole set in your peripheral vision at once is fascinating. The stage is big, but not huge. From the bleacher-type seats, taking a look to the left, there are some techs just off-stage. Just to the right, attached to the set is a monitor, so the audience can see how the show is looking as it’s being recorded. Just to the right of that are the three contestant cameras, with a monitor just above, for the contestants to see the camera feed. Just above that are three digital boards showing the contestants’ totals.
From there, further to the right, is the large clue board. Then, it’s the host’s podium, the Final Jeopardy category screen, then the contestant podiums.
In front of the stage are where the Producers and Judges sit, a jib camera operator is right in the middle for those grand, sweeping shots coming back from commercials and during Final Jeopardy!, and another camera stays right on the host position the whole time. Since I couldn't take photos of the set, here's a Lego representation from the mini-museum:
During this experience (the first session of two this day), we sat for a taping of three episodes. All were hosted by Ken Jennings. During some downtime, he would make his way to the front of the stage and answer audience questions. Ken is awesome… Watching the show with my grandma, I remember his historic run as a contestant way back when. Those memories made it fun seeing him in person and learning a little more about the guy. Someone from the audience asked if there is any place he hopes the show might send him to read clues. Ken said that makes him think of Alex Trebek being in the Galapagos Islands, hanging out with lizards and turtles, and that’s where he would hope to be sent. Also, he revealed he isn’t an Elon Musk fan, so the EV he drives is a Polestar, by Volvo. Jennings answered more, but those are what stick out in my mind.
As for the taping experience, it doesn’t really take too much longer than an actual episode. The gameplay flies by and, what’s a mystery to me, is how they determine there’s just not enough time to see those final clues on the board.
The time between each segment (Single Jeopardy!, Double Jeopardy!, Final Jeopardy!) felt like just a bit longer than the commercial breaks. Sometimes, if the host flubbed reading a clue, it would get re-recorded during the time commercials would be airing.
In the bleachers, the audio sounds funky. I’m guessing there are some odd, phase-cancellation tricks happening, so that it doesn’t bleed back into the mics on stage.
Once an episode is complete, the audience gets about 10 minutes to take a break. You can take a little walk outside to the restroom facilities… or stand outside in the sun and eat a snack you brought… or browse the mini-museum in the hallway behind the bleacher seats.
This hallway is a fascinating area. Alex Trebek’s old podium is on display, and you can get a photo behind it. Displayed under plexiglass are one of his clue sheets, Final Jeopardy! cards, his glasses, and other items from his long tenure as host.
Also on display are the practically bajillion Emmys the show has won over the years.
When this break was over, we switched our phones back off, then sat for another episode… then repeated the whole routine again one more time.
At the end, before 2 PM, we all filed back to the parking garage, where new audience members were already lining up for the afternoon tapings. To make the most of this opportunity, I feel like this morning session was the way to go, since we were there for three episodes instead of two. Either way, I’m very happy to have finally made this happen… and maybe, finally, I will take the Jeopardy! contestant test.
How can I get audience tickets for the show?
Tickets are distributed by On Camera Audiences (OCA) at this link. This is the same page the jeopardy.com site sends you if you click "get tickets", so don't worry, this OCA page is the official place to get show tickets.
How much do audience tickets cost?
They're free! They can get snatched up quickly, so be sure to check out the OCA site as soon as you know you'll have some free time in L.A.
Where does the show film?
Jeopardy! tapes in The Alex Trebek Stage, located on the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City, California.
What's the taping schedule like?
The schedule varies, but the show's official site says tapings are typically on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from July to May. I went on a Thursday, so you never know... Additionally, this is unverified, but I've read there are typically 46 taping days per year, with filming taking place every other week. I do know 5 episodes tape per day (3 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon).
"This… Is… Jeopardy! What It's Like Watching a Live Taping In L.A." (2023)
Written by: Justin Kilmer
Edited by: Janine Kilmer
All images and media on this site are © by Justin Kilmer, unless otherwise noted.
The show's official website is: https://www.jeopardy.com/