After 5 years of trying to get on ‘Jeopardy!,’ Idahoan gets his shot at trivia stardom

Boise State grad competes on Jeopardy!

A.J. Freeman is one of the players in an upcoming episode of the popular game show Jeopardy!
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A.J. Freeman is one of the players in an upcoming episode of the popular game show Jeopardy!

Idaho Falls native August “AJ” Freeman grew up watching the popular trivia game show “Jeopardy!” with his dad — and he finally got the chance to compete on the show in December, as his parents watched in the TV studio in Culver City, California.

The show will air at 6 p.m. on KBOI-Channel 2 on Tuesday, March 20.

Freeman, a 34-year-old who now lives in Eagle, said he did Jeopardy!’s online tests for about five years before he was invited to Seattle for an in-person audition for the show.

As many as 100,000 people take the test annually, and then 2,500 are invited to participate in the next stage, according to Freeman and published reports about the show. About 300 to 400 appear annually on the show.

In Seattle, Freeman met producers, played fake games with real buzzers and did an interview on camera.

Then, he waited.

“They kind of leave you hanging. If we like you, we may contact you within the next 18 months,” said Freeman, who works as a customer solutions adviser for Idaho Power.

Freeman was eventually summoned to be on the show in mid-December. In addition to his parents and wife, Alexis, Freeman’s brother, Mitch, traveled from Phoenix to see him compete on the show.

Freeman can’t talk specifics about what occurred in the game before it airs. Contestants aren’t provided with any information on what the categories they might face, but Freeman was hoping for sports and geography.

“Anything sports. I’ve always been good with sports trivia,” he said.

One of the highlights of being on the show was meeting iconic host Alex Trebek.

“Trebek was amazing. He is the coolest person,” Freeman said. “He is just so good at his job, first off. I’ve never seen anybody as good — no stumblings or retakes. He just stepped in and was awesome. In between, he’d step out and take questions from the studio audience. He was funny and nice in talking to audience members.”

Trebek had brain surgery in December. He was admitted to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Dec. 15 for the surgery and was released from the hospital on Dec. 18, according to The Washington Post.

“He went in two days after I was there,” Freeman said.

What surprised him most about being on the show was how much it was like watching at home.

“The board is exactly the same. They play all the music and promos. You see and hear it all,” he said. One thing that’s different is that they give contestants as much time as they need on Final Jeopardy!.

“It’s not like you only have a couple minutes,” he said. “They’re really supportive, trying to get everybody to do great. They tape five shows in one day.”

The show’s producers asked him to provide three things about himself that could be used in promotional materials.

He offered that he is a big fan of Boise’s Treefort Music Fest and a black diamond ripper at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, but the show opted to promote him as a Boise State University graduate. Freeman earned a degree in business administration from Boise State in 2013.

“It’s also kind of tough to work for and want something for so long and then achieve it, only to have it be over in the blink of an eye,” said Freeman, who is looking forward reliving his ‘Jeopardy!’ appearance when it airs on TV.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller