ALEXANDRIA, VA – Roberta Chapman is usually the one screaming out answers to television game shows. On Monday, though, the tables were turned and 30 of her closest family members and friends gathered at Charlie’s on the Avenue to watch and cheer as Chapman got to fulfill one of her lifelong dreams – to appear on Jeopardy!
“Friends, I lost, but it was awesome,” Chapman told her friends at the end of the show.
The viewing party was hilarious, as Chapman’s entourage cheered and sneered, whooped and booed as she and her fellow contestants answered questions. Chapman ended up betting nearly everything she earned that night on Final Jeopardy. Without an answer, she said goodbye to $2,990, wrote a question mark and left with $5 on the board. Regardless of the outcome, though, all contestants take home at least $1,000.
The 34-year-old tour guide at the U.S. Capitol started watching Jeopardy with her grandmother, Dorothy Howell, when she was 10 years old, and soon was calling out the answers.
“I’d always wanted to be on the show, but a couple years ago a friend badgered me into taking the online test and it worked,” Chapman said. “I was then invited to take a written version of the test in D.C. to make sure that nobody was cheating using Google. Then there was a screen test, a mock game and after that they said that in the next 18 months they would call you.”
Sure enough, Chapman received a call about 18 months later requesting that she fly down to Los Angeles. The episode taped in early February and she had to sign a nondisclosure agreement prohibiting her from talking about the questions and answers from the show and the outcome.
“Everything moved really fast and I just focused on the game and paid very little attention that there was a studio audience,” Chapman said, adding that timing the buzzer can be tricky. “You have to wait until Alex is done asking the question and then a light turns on to tell you that you can go.”
Chapman’s husband, Al Suarez, traveled with his wife to California.
“We watch the show almost every night, so this is definitely something to scratch off the bucket list,” Suarez said. “She’s always the one who knows everything. She can just read something and know it. She’s a fiend at Trivial Pursuit.”
Chapman said that Jeopardy host Alex Trebek is “very professional” and doesn’t spend time with contestants off-screen. But the crowd at Charlie’s cheered as he made his rounds to the contestants and asked them about themselves. During one of the lighter moments of the episode, Trebek asked Chapman what the hardest part of her job was at the Capitol. She replied that diplomatically answering dumb questions, such as “Where does the president sleep?” Trebek then asked if the folks asking her such a question were Americans, and she jokingly responded, “I probably shouldn’t say.”