Noah Sheola works for Zipcar in Somerville, Mass., now, but he grew up in the Granite State and graduated from Contoocook High. He was involved in the Portsmouth theatre scene, writing and acting as well as performing in the award-winning improv comedy troupe Stranger than Fiction. Every budding thespian dreams of a moment on a national stage, to show off in front of an audience of millions, but not many plan on having to be quizzed on American History or Potent Potables to get the chance. Still, when Noah got the call to appear on the game show "Jeopardy," he was ready, willing and able. The episode featuring him will appear on March 4.
Were you a "Jeopardy" nerd growing up?
Yeah, I definitely was. I watched with mom when I was little and I always thought it was cool. By the time I was in college I didn't watch a lot of TV so I forgot about it.
Is it hard to get on the show?
Some people audition over and over and never get on. "Jeopardy" superstar Ken Jennings tried multiple times. About once a year there's a big online test. People are selected on how well they do, but to some extent it has to be random. A hundred thousand or so people take the test, so by some secret formula they select the people they invite to an in-person audition. They have a mini version of the game set up and are looking for people who can smile and project and move the game along.
You got in on your first try. Did your improv training help you out?
Yes, a lot of people with theatre or show-biz backgrounds get on for that reason.
How did you prepare?
I started studying my almanac, presidents, state and world capitals, and I watched the show more. I read books by two former "Jeopardy" champs, brushed up on sports because I consider that a weakness and read up on opera. That one comes up a lot.
What weren't you prepared for?
What I didn't appreciate and what you don't realize when watching at home is that it's such a game of reflexes. Most of the time all three players know the answer and it's just a matter of who can ring in the fastest. Also, those who have been on the show say it goes by fast and that was certainly true. They tape five shows a day and there's no commercial break time on the set, so live it's less than 20 minutes.
OK, Noah, you've chosen the category "Hot Off the Press" for $1,000 and the "Jeopardy" answer is: "This beloved publication is the essential guide to living in New Hampshire."
Uh, what is New Hampshire Magazine?
You're good. Hopefully, you won big bucks. Well, we'll find out on March 4.
This article appears in the March 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine