Queens Native Competes On ‘Jeopardy!’

BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
Staff Writer

Earlier this week, Hollis Hills native and Townsend Harris High School alum Laurie Beckoff appeared on the trivia show “Jeopardy!,” competing in the show’s annual College Championship tournament.

Beckoff, the only contestant hailing from New York, faced-off against 14 college students across the nation for a $100,000 prize and an automatic spot on the show’s Tournament of the Champions.

Hollis Hills teen, Laurie Beckoff, appeared on “Jeopardy!’s” College Championship show this week – making her the only contestant from New York. Photo by Sony Pictures

Hollis Hills teen, Laurie Beckoff, appeared on “Jeopardy!’s” College Championship show this week – making her the only contestant from New York. Photo by Sony Pictures

“I take pride in being able to represent Queens,” the University of Chicago sophomore said. “I was the only contestant from New York and I was glad to represent my Borough and my hometown – it’s exciting.”

For Beckoff, it has always been a lifelong goal to appear on the show – and she has had plenty of practice. Every evening, Beckoff and her family tune in to “Jeopardy!” to play along with contestants while eating dinner.

“Everyone I know from home who has come to my house for dinner on a weeknight knows it’s tradition,” she said. “I’ve spent my entire life watching the show.”

Though Beckoff has qualified to audition for “Teen Jeopardy!” three times previously, she never advanced further than the audition round until November, when she got the fateful call from the “Jeopardy!” staff.

“I was really speechless,” she said. “When my phone rang and they said they were from ‘Jeopardy!’ [and] my heart started to beat faster. I was in complete shock when they asked me to be on the show.”

In order to audition for “Jeopardy!,” she explained, one has to pass a 50-question test online. Individuals who pass the test are then selected at random for auditions. Those selected from the audition round must take yet another 50-question test, followed by practice games and interviews.

Preparing for the show after being selected was no easy feat either. The teen said she spent her entire winter break preparing by browsing “Jeopardy!” archive questions and working on her reflexes.

“One of the hardest things was working on my timing,” Beckoff said. “It’s very strategic. If you hit the button too early, you’re locked out. If you’re not quite fast enough, someone gets in before you. The buzzer definitely makes a huge difference.”

Though she admits being on the show was “a little nerve-wracking” at times, the ambitious teen said she had a lot of fun and is thrilled to have met her nightly virtual dinner guest, Alex Trebek.

“It was unreal to get there and see the set I’ve been seeing my whole life – meeting Alex Trebek and seeing how the show works,” she said. “I also got to meet a lot of impressive people with diverse interests and specialties and it was just really fascinating.”

Although the teen said she will likely be “hiding under the couch” when the show airs, Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), said he could not be more excited to see his former intern on television.

“I got my DVR set for tomorrow night to watch her on ‘Jeopardy!,’ Weprin said. “I bet you she knocked them dead out there because she has a unique combination of brains and personality. I think she’s going to do very well.”

Reach Natalia Kozikowska at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123 or nkozikowska@queenspress.com or @nkozikowska.