What Do Contestants Do During ‘Jeopardy!’ Commercial Breaks?

Chances are you don’t know the answer to one of the most basic questions about the game show, no matter how often you watch it.

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No matter how smart you are and how regularly you watch Jeopardy!, chances are you don’t know the answer to one of the most basic questions about the show.

What Do Contestants Do During Jeopardy Commercial Breaks?

Fortunately for all parties involved, we have the answer for you. Claire McNear presents it in her book Answers in the Form of Questions: A Definitive History and Insider’s Guide to Jeopardy!

Published in November 2020, McNear’s book says commercial breaks usually find employees of the game show counseling contestants.

As CheatSheet.com notes, longtime Jeopardy! producer Maggie Speak helped established employee precedent during breaks. Select employees use the breaks to make sure contestants are comfortable and on pace with the show.

Speak, also considered to be Alex Trebek’s “right-hand woman,” retired in April 2020. However, she left an indelible mark on the show, according to the book.

Speak was “Fast-talking, razor-sharp, and quick to cut the tension with a laugh,” the book said. She also the primary decision-maker, according to her book. 

Contestants often referred to her as “Aunt Maggie.”

“On tape days, she and the other members of the contestant department not only read players in on the show but also counsel them during and after their games,” McNear wrote. “When Jeopardy! goes to commercial, a small pack of people can often be seen in the telecast descending on the contestants.”

McNear continued: “Speak is usually among them, and she spends the duration of the break carpet-bombing them with pleasantries to keep them loose and counseling those who may have run into some sort of trouble: ‘You’re a little early on the buzzer,’ maybe, or ‘Try holding it this way,’ or perhaps a plain old, ‘Take a deep breath, hon’—everyone is ‘hon’ to Speak—’You’ve got this.’”

Jeopardy! will reflect on its legacy with a Nov. 8 tribute to Trebek.

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