In 2001, Sarah beat out thousands of hopeful contestants to win a nationwide search for the Jeopardy! Clue Crew. What was supposed to be a one-year gig turned into the career of a lifetime—18 seasons and counting! During that time she’s traveled to all seven continents, over 40 countries, has been on 10 Lindblad expeditions, and delivered more than 200 clues in some of the world’s most thrilling locations—from the ice floes of Antarctica to the undersea in Alaska. She took a break between trips to share some behind-the-scenes stories.
How did you land such an incredible job?
I had just started working as a news anchor in Traverse City, Michigan when I heard a co-worker mention that Jeopardy! was looking for a team of correspondents to travel the world and get paid for it. I knew I shouldn’t already be looking for a new job but it was too intriguing to pass up. To apply you needed to submit a three-minute video of yourself presenting some clues. Since I had access to this television station I used the green screen for the meteorologist’s weather wall to transport myself to the different locations—for the question about the Champs-Élysées I wore a beret and had a backdrop of Paris and for the one about static electricity I stood in front of a science lab backdrop, put on my lab coat, and used balloons to give my hair static electricity. I guess that did the trick because I moved on to the regional callbacks and then several more rounds until I was finally selected as one of the four members of the Clue Crew.
You’ve been all over the world and have had some unforgettable experiences. Is it possible to pick a favorite destination?
I’ve been to some amazing places like Alaska, Easter Island, the Baltics, and Baja but for me it’s definitely Antarctica. I was so enamored by the wildlife and the way it had no inhibitions. I had this one moment I will never forget—I was sitting on a rock taking in the scenery when this penguin waddled over, looked me in the eye, started nibbling at my boot, then decided I wasn’t very tasty and moved on! In addition to the wildlife there’s the indescribable beauty, the serenity, the stillness of the water, and the reflections of the icebergs. It’s not like any place I’d ever been before and it just surpassed all of my expectations.
Is there one memorable clue you’ve filmed that stands out?
That would have to be the one I did about leopard seals in Antarctica. I was really curious about them so I read up a lot on these seals before my trip, not knowing if we would ever have the opportunity to see one. I was out on a Zodiac ride one afternoon and out of nowhere we came across one lounging on the ice. My team jumped into action, we wrote a clue on the fly, I quickly memorized it, and then delivered it right there. It always makes me smile when I see it because I know it was such an unexpected moment and I love that we were successfully able to pull it off. Plus, I didn’t really know how close I was to the leopard seal—the only seal that eats other mammals!—until I watched the footage back later.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Expedition travel is one of the hardest things to do as a Clue Crew member. I need to have all of my material perfectly memorized since we never know what we’re going to see at any given moment. In Baja, for example, we had a whole category about whales and whale behavior. Well, all of a sudden we’d see a breaching whale and I had to quickly recall and present my breaching clue, and then just as fast there’s a whale doing tail slapping so I had to remember and deliver that clue. And there’s no second take—you don’t know if you’re going to see that behavior again so they’re counting on me to get it right the first time.
The Jeopardy! All-Star Games Fantasy League and Sweepstakes is starting soon. Any tips for viewers who want to enter?
For the first-ever All-Star games 18 elite contestants are returning to the show to play the game in teams. We’re going to have statistics of each contestant on the website and you’ll be able to see things like how often they get a Daily Double correct. So you’re really going to get to know all of them and can base your picks for your dream team on that. But I’d say any of them will be a great pick. Have fun with it, pick your favorites, and regardless you’ll end up with several entries in the sweepstakes since you get one entry for every response they get correct.
Starting December 3, draft your own three-person fantasy team in the Jeopardy! All-Star Fantasy League and you’ll be part of the Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip anywhere Lindblad Expeditions travels. Stay tuned here for more details.