Alex Trebek may be the very famous face of Jeopardy! but he's not the one writing the show's perplexing questions. That job goes to a writers room that includes a team of eight writers and seven researchers who work tirelessly to craft — and fact-check — each and every question that makes it on air.
The team is also in charge of everything from making sure certain answers don't come up too often and keeping all the trivia geeks out in the audience on their toes.
Head writer Billy Wisse explained the process to Vulture, taking the site along from start to finish. Each member of the team comes up with a category, but from there, it's all about teamwork. Working together, the writers start with a fun title or one interesting fact. At that point, an entire range of questions can come out of brainstorming.
"The writers write seven clues for a category, so that gives me the flexibility to knock out one and then put the rest in an order that makes sense. Five go on the air, and one's always an extra clue in case there's a last-minute problem. There's sometimes a conflict of material," Wisse told Vulture. "You don't want to tape two clues about Benjamin Franklin on the same day, because they'll obviously air too close together. Or perhaps a long-standing contestant has already had a Benjamin Franklin clue in the past, so you knock that out. That's what the extra is for, basically, as well as any technical issues that could arise on stage."
From there, all the questions get approved by Wisse before they get sent off to fact-checkers. That team makes sure that questions don't have more than one possible answer. Then, Wisse categorizes all the questions before assembling the board for a taping. He makes sure that the questions are balanced and aren't repeating questions or answers from recently aired episodes.
If the process seems light on Trebek so far, fear not: "Alex Trebek comes in and reads over the five games, he gives his notes, and we tape the shows," Wisse says of the final step in the process. So it takes an entire village of writers, checkers, producers, librarians, and, yes, Trebek himself to fit all the pieces together. But in the end, audiences get to come away with some new knowledge and the satisfaction of knowing how to state their answers in the form of a question.
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