Amanda Griggs’ (’09) Path to ‘Jeopardy!’

Now-professor emeritus Geoffrey Cocks posed a question to Amanda Griggs, ‘09, and her Honors Kubrick class: what actor played a role in both “The Shining” and “The Killing” and what linked both of them together?

When the next class came, Griggs was the only one to have the answer. The bartender of “The Shining” and the a drunk in “The Killing” were played by the same actor and both were connected by alcohol.

Cocks awarded her with a Jack Daniels shot glass. She took it as a sign from the universe to begin a shot glass collection.

This is the tale Griggs told behind the buzzer on the set of “Jeopardy!” to host Alex Trebek during her appearance on its Jan. 17 episode. A tale of trivia. 

Griggs loved trivia even as a kid. Her go-to board game? Trivial Pursuit. Her go-to computer game? You Don’t Know Jack. Griggs loved trivia so much that her parents began to threaten to quit family game time unless a non-trivia game was chosen.

At Iron Mountain (Michigan) Middle School, Griggs joined the Quiz bowl team. By her senior year of high school, she was team captain. (It was a popular spectator event for the “little old lady” demographic, she said — their competitions were filmed on the local PBS station.)

Then came college. An Albion recruiter convinced her to come down from the U.P. to the Mitten. Griggs made her college decision as soon as she saw the campus.

She loved her history and English classes at Albion, especially those taught by Cocks and English Professor Judith Lockyer, full of “southern lady sass.”

Her time in Phi Mu sorority was also memorable. She found their philanthropy work for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to be inspiring and between her and her sisters, a lifelong friendship developed.

All the while, she continued to play trivia games, whether through her sorority or through college-hosted events.

“I loved learning bits of facts,” she said. “Ever since I was a little kid my mother said I always wanted to learn something, read something, absorb something.”

After graduation, Griggs went back home to Iron Mountain and took up her job from high school while she figured out what she was going to do for a career. Within a month, she was offered a part-time job at the Dickinson County Library. She’s been there ever since, working in multiple positions. Her current job is a full-time cataloguer.

Naturally, Griggs watched “Jeopardy!” But it wasn’t until returning home from college that Griggs discovered the ease of applying to be a contestant. The first step was a simple online test. Every year after, Griggs took it. Twice, she was called for an interview. On her third interview attempt, she got a callback. On Halloween night of 2017, Griggs was riding a shuttle bus with her mother to the Sony Pictures lot in Los Angeles.

“I kept telling my mom that I was dressed as a “Jeopardy!” contestant that day,” she said.

When she got off the bus, giant posters of movies and shows greeted her. Then she saw her game show.

“Oh my God, I’m here,” she said.

Griggs waited in the audience, watching two episodes play out (five are filmed in a day). When she got onstage, she was amazed to see announcer Johnny Gilbert and Trebek standing right next to her on the small set. And in a blink of an eye, it was over. The 20-odd-minute show was filmed straight through. 

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair category was her favorite. Her most beloved book, Erik Larson’s “Devil in the White City,” just so happened to have taken place there, and she snagged the $1,000 question on it.

Although she admits she “biffed” the Final Jeopardy question, the name of the November 11 event before it was changed to Veterans Day, she was so far behind the five-day champ and the history teacher at the podiums, there would be no way she could catch up unless they biffed too. 

But Griggs is proud of her performance on the game show and happy to have her mom see it in person. She later heard that there are about as many contestants chosen each year as there are New York Times bestselling authors. A $1,000 prize for third doesn’t hurt either.

Now off of the TV, Griggs’ life is back to what it was in Iron Mountain. She walks, reads and writes. She visits her niece and nephew. And every so often, she meets with friends to play tabletop games.


Photo courtesy of Amanda Griggs

About Beau Brockett Jr. 76 Articles
Beau Brockett Jr. served on Pleiad staff from Sept. 2015 to May 2019, serving as editor-in-chief his senior year. As of 2019, Beau is continuing his journalism career as the lead reporter for Niles, Michigan, for Leader Publications.

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