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N.L. lawyer overcomes odds with Jeopardy! appearance, but can’t beat pesky buzzer

Wednesday, December 12, 2018 @ 12:39 PM | By Donalee Moulton


Category: Jeopardy! contestants from Canada.

Answer: Who is a lawyer from Newfoundland who competed on the top-rated television show?

Kirsten Morry is the associate counsel with the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project. She was also a Jeopardy! contestant.

Kirsten Morry

Kirsten Morry, associate counsel with the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project

The path to lights, camera and action in L.A. began in 2017 when the St. John’s resident started watching more of the U.S. quiz show — and getting more and more answers correct. “I thought I did pretty well,” Morry told The Lawyer’s Daily. Bolstered by the success she was having in the comfort of her living room, Morry began researching how to actually get on the game show, ranked by TV Guide as one of the 60 greatest shows in American television history.

The first step to appearing on the program, Morry discovered, was to complete an online quiz offered over a three-day period. Along with approximately 80,000 other contestant hopefuls in March 2018 Morry answered 50 timed questions formatted to mirror the game show. Then she waited.

At the end of that month, she received a call inviting her to audition in New York City. One of roughly 3,000 people extended an invitation, Morry first answered, on paper, 50 questions that appeared on a large screen. Then the potential contestants were put in groups of three to play a mock round. “I was in the last group,” said Morry.

Waiting gave her time to practise her anecdote. Each contestant-to-be was asked to come up with five interesting stories they could share with host Alex Trebek if selected. Morry spoke about the time she was on a flight to Ottawa to work as a tour guide on Parliament Hill and failed to recognize former Prime Minister Paul Martin who was on the plane with her. “I put a lot of thought into the process,” she said. “What is interesting about yourself [that] you’re willing to share with 20 million people?”

Post-audition, the roughly 3,000 potential participants who were in New York with Morry were told they would be in the contestant pool for 18 months, but only 300 to 400 would be selected to appear on the show. Morry went back to Newfoundland, to work and to other interests. “I let it go,” she said.

The call came in June 2018. Morry was invited to a two-day taping the following month. Family in tow, the Newfoundland native few to Los Angeles in October to be part of the show’s 35th season on national television. Before her arrival she brushed up on perennial topics including American geography and U.S. presidents. “I spent a lot of time trying to study,” she said, “but success on Jeopardy! you can’t really study for.”

Another difficult thing to prepare for: using the buzzer correctly. Morry tested herself in advance of appearing on the show by clicking a pen as questions were asked on Jeopardy! episodes she watched. However, while the buzzer technique may sound simple, as Morry discovered, it isn’t. “At home, you just say the answer. On the show you can’t buzz in until Alex finishes reading the question,” Morry explained. Buzz in too quickly, and you face a quarter-second delay before you can buzz in again. “There is a science to it,” Morry noted.

It was a science that eluded the McGill University law grad. Called to compete on the second day of taping, “I had troubling buzzing in,” Morry said.

“The experience,” she added, “was such a blur. I was on stage for less than half an hour.”

In that time, Morry remembers one fun category called “Weird Al.” “There were questions I knew the answers to, but others were hard.”

At the end of the day, there was no second visit to the stage or the show for Morry, who finished third and won US$1,000. She lost to returning champion Doug Dodson, a classical singer from Boston and adroit buzzer user.

In addition to having fun and testing her knowledge of categories both creative and clever, Morry, who was called to the bar last year [2018], continues to whet her appetite for quizzes and contests. She is now part of an online trivia league and is keeping an eye out for game shows on Canadian networks.