LEWISTON — A week before his “Jeopardy” taping, Ian Shin got to work, boning up on sports, pop culture and skimming 30-plus years of questions and answers.

So did it pay off?

That answer comes Tuesday night.

Shin, 33, a post-doctoral fellow and history lecturer at Bates College, started watching “Jeopardy” as a child with his grandmother, after his family moved from Hong Kong to California.

“I don’t think she spoke English, but she could see the dollar signs and dollar amounts go up or down, I think that’s what made it fun for her,” Shin said. “I was kind of a nerd — still am — so it was fun to look at the trivia, memorize the trivia. As an immigrant, it was a good way to learn a good bit about American pop culture and history and geography and literature.”

He’d long been a fan of the show but figured, “like a lot of things you see on TV, ‘Oh, I could never do that,’ and then I met a couple of friends who had been on, one person had won an episode, so they kind of demystified the whole process.”


Shin took the online contestant quiz twice — 50 quick-fire questions in 50 different categories, no multiple choice, 15 seconds to answer — and last spring got invited to New York for an in-person audition.

In July, he got the call. He was in. The last-minute studying kicked in ahead of the Aug. 30 taping.

“There’s a Jeopardy iPhone app I played, but that got really demoralizing because I was doing really poorly, so I stopped doing that,” he said. “The Amazon Alexa, you can ask to play ‘Jeopardy’ with Alexa. My husband and I would do that, five or six questions a day, get a smattering of it.”

Shin’s deep-dive through decades of show archives wasn’t so much to memorize past answers as get a feel for the format, he said. “Half the battle is knowing what they’re trying to get you to say.

“One of the things I didn’t anticipate was that they were going to air this episode in December; there are certain seasonal areas of knowledge that didn’t occur to me in late August, so some of the things caught me by surprise,” he said.

During the actual taping, there’s a trick to timing the buzzer just right, but once he had that down, Shin got into the game and had fun with the experience.


“A lot of people do say, ‘I really would love to do that,'” he said. “For me, my takeaway from this is you should try out. I didn’t think I could do it either. It’s one of those things, everything looks unreachable or impossible and you manage to get on. You’re just another average person who made it through the audition process.”

Shin plans to watch his episode at Bates on Tuesday night with colleagues and students.


Bates College history lecturer Ian Shin, here with Alex Trebek, will appear on “Jeopardy” Tuesday night. 

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