While watching “Jeopardy!” on Friday, those who frequent the Shop will see a familiar face as baker and barista Melissa Stewart is set to compete on “America’s Favorite Quiz Show.”
Stewart’s appearance on “Jeopardy!” has been a long time coming.
Stewart, who is also involved with the South Perry Farmers Market and sells gourmet granola and handmade snacks through her own Sister Bees Kitchen, grew up watching the show with her mother.
She took the college test as a history and anthropology student at Eastern Washington University and passed the online test eight times in the last dozen years.
“They said 70,000 people actually take the test and of that, they only choose the top 5,000, I think, people across the country,” Stewart said. “You have to be in the top percentage of people that passes the test.”
She’s been invited to eight auditions over the years but only made it to five, most recently an audition in Seattle where she had to take another test then compete in a mock show with other potential contestants.
After that, she had to meet with show producers, who wanted to make sure contestants could tell an amusing anecdote in 30 seconds without getting too nervous.
“Once you do that process, your name goes into a pool because they only have X amount of spots,” Stewart said. “Once you do the audition, it’s basically luck of the draw at that point.”
Stewart auditioned in Seattle in July and learned she made it onto the show in October.
“One of those ‘Finally! After all these years, after all the tries, I finally made it,’ ” she said. “I was really excited. I pretty much jumped up and down all day long.”
Stewart estimates she spent about 20 hours studying but noted that the show, by nature, makes studying difficult.
“The categories are random, and it’s total luck so it’s hard to study for it,” she said. “You pretty much have to go in (knowing) you know what you know.”
Customers at the Shop pitched in with donations to send Stewart to Los Angeles and she filmed in November.
Stewart said everyone on set, from fellow contestants to show producers to host Alex Trebek and announcer Johnny Gilbert, was very supportive, as they all knew the work it takes to appear on “Jeopardy!”
Since returning to Spokane, Stewart has had a hard time keeping the results of her appearance a secret, with customers trying to pry information out of her.
“I hear from my regular customers ‘So, how many outfits did you have to change into?’ ” Stewart said. “They try to ask me funny questions to try to get me to give it away and I keep telling them ‘I can’t tell you. Just going to have to watch.’ ”
Stewart is set to compete against Jennifer Tomassi, a freelance writer from Los Angeles, and the returning champion from Thursday’s game.
Stewart’s episode will air Friday at 7 p.m. on KHQ-TV. She is having a watching party at The Shop, 924 S. Perry St.
“Some people take it really seriously, but you have to keep reminding yourself it’s a game show,” she said. “It’s supposed to be fun and engaging. It was a really good time, and I’m very glad that I did it.”
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