Pittsburgh literary artist to compete on Jeopardy! | Community Profile | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh literary artist to compete on Jeopardy!

click to enlarge Pittsburgh literary artist to compete on Jeopardy!
Photo: Courtesy of Jeopardy!
Pittsburgher Adriana Ramirez on Jeopardy!
“One of my party tricks is that I can pull out a map of the world and name all 197 countries,” says Adriana E. Ramírez, Pittsburgh-based nonfiction writer, storyteller, and performance poet, who will soon become the latest Pittsburgher to compete on Jeopardy! on Wed., May 18 at 7 p.m.

Although she’s loved the show since childhood, and it’s been a long-time dream of hers to compete, her journey to the Jeopardy! stage actually started unintentionally. In February 2021, she tells Pittsburgh City Paper in a phone interview, the ball began rolling on a tipsy pandemic evening in with her husband.

“We’ve always been games people,” Ramírez says. “Like, we have a game night. We play board games … we love playing Trivial Pursuit.” After a couple of drinks, they decided to watch Jeopardy!

“My husband's always like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you know like 75% of the answers every time,’ and I'm always like, ‘Yeah …’ I’m very reticent about it.”

That night, they competed against each other on the online test, which is the first step to auditioning for the show. They both got callbacks based on their scores, and Ramírez made it onto the show. In the callback round, hopefuls take another 50-question test with a proctor, and she says the round after that is a mock game played on Zoom.

“It just seemed like such a long shot,” she says. “You think you're smart, and you think you know things. But once you get there, you realize you know nothing. So I'm really glad that it wasn't something I worked actively toward because I think if I had been working toward it my whole life, the pressure would have been too much,” she says.

Before going to film the show, Ramírez says she studied subjects like British succession and opera, which she thought might be among her weak spots. Although she’s not allowed to share any information about the questions or results of her appearance, she says her studying “did not help at all.”

“There’s really nothing you can study to prepare,” she says. “It’s sort of a lifetime of accumulated knowledge.” Ramírez says that growing up as an immigrant, she accumulated information about the world around her as a way to learn about American culture.

“My dad will call me and he'll be like, ‘What's that movie with blah, blah, blah, blah?’” and even if she hasn’t seen the movie in question, Ramírez says she can usually name it. She has a wide-ranging “knowledge of things that I haven't necessarily engaged with personally. Like the amount of like rock bands I can name without being a rock band person.”

For the actual filming, Ramírez says she picked an outfit that was “completely comfortable,” unlike a lot of her formal clothes. “Credit to the good people at Torrid for having cute clothes for chubby girls,” she says. She chose the most practical shoes possible, knock-off Vans from Target, and it turned out to be the right choice since she says the Jeopardy! podiums have lifts that adjust to make all contestants the same height.

She says she’s still in touch with the other contestants from her filming, with whom she was “delightfully traumatized” by the experience.

“It was really great to make friends and to form a community and to just get to be on the Sony lot and see the giant Jeopardy! logo painted on the side of the building,” she says. “My heart just got swollen thinking about it.”